The Execution of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, and the Urgency of Putting this Revolution and Its Leadership on the Map
This was posted at revcom.us as a letter from a reader to Revolution Newspaper:
Bob Avakian, the leader of the movement for revolution that we are building, begins his talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About by recounting the history of lynching in the United States. As Avakian describes a few especially horrific instances of the lynching of Black men and women at the hands of white supremacist mobs...as he unfolds the details of atrocities that are unbearable and infuriating almost beyond words, he returns to this refrain: "AND THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT."
This is exactly how I have felt during the past several days, as details and reaction surrounding the execution of Aiyana Stanley-Jones continue to emerge. For those who have still not heard, Aiyana Stanley-Jones is a 7-year-old girl who was shot and killed by Detroit police during a raid carried out in the early-morning hours of May 16. You read that correctly—7 years old.
Around 12:40 am on the morning of May 16, Aiyana Stanley-Jones was sleeping on the couch next to her grandmother, Mertilla Jones, when cops swarmed their home. During the raid that followed, Joseph Weekley, a member of the Detroit Police Department's Special Response Team, shot Stanley-Jones in the neck and head, killing her.
In the aftermath of Aiyana's murder, Detroit police—led by assistant police chief Roger Goodbee—have claimed that Weekley's gun went off accidentally after he entered the home, during a struggle with Mertilla Jones; as if, even if that were true, this would excuse the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old child.
But Aiyana's family, and their lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, say the police are lying through their teeth. They have filed lawsuits charging violation of civil rights, gross negligence, and a conspiracy to cover up the actual circumstances of Aiyana's death.
During a news conference announcing the lawsuits, Fieger—surrounded by Aiyana's grieving family—said that somebody stopped by his law office to show him a videotape that very clearly shows what actually happened during the raid. Fieger said that he is not currently in the possession of the video, and he urged the person who does have it to come forward.
As Fieger described it, here are the actual circumstances of the raid:
Multiple hooded police officers converge on the residence. They encounter a male outside whom they throw to the ground, proceeding to step on his back. He pleads with the officers, "There are children in the house."
Indeed, there were several small children in the house, which police had every basis to know before even conducting the raid; there were toys scattered on the front lawn, and a police surveillance van had been watching the residence earlier in the day.
Police then throw a flash bang grenade through a window, and it lands "either onto Aiyana, or close enough to her to burn her severely," as Fieger put it.
"BUT THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT."
Almost immediately after throwing in the flash bang grenade, an officer fires a shot from the porch outside the house, clearly exposing as a lie the police's claim that the shot was fired accidentally from inside the home during a struggle with Mertilla Jones. The bullet kills 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
"I seen the light leave outta her eyes," Mertilla Jones recounted, sobbing uncontrollably, during the news conference. "I knew she was dead. She had blood coming out of her mouth. Lord Jesus, I ain't never seen nothing like that in my life. My 7-year-old grandbaby—my beautiful, beautiful gorgeous granddaughter. My goodness, what type of people?! ... what type of people?! You can't trust the police. You can't trust Detroit police."
"BUT THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT."
How do officers respond to the crime against humanity that they have just perpetrated—supposedly "by accident?" By carrying Aiyana's dead body out of her home "like a rag doll," in Fieger's words.
"BUT THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT."
After they have just murdered her 7-year-old granddaughter right in front of her, the cops put Mertilla Jones in chains and lock her up for several hours, testing her for drugs and gunpowder in the process.
And on top of all of this, it appears that the police did not even have the right address.
"What's being reported in the press is, well the fugitive or the suspect was found upstairs. He wasn't found upstairs in this home!" Fieger said during the news conference. "I don't know why you keep reporting that. This home is a lower flat. There is no upstairs in this home. There's an upstairs flat...which is a separate home, which they did not have a warrant for; they went in there and they subsequently got it and that's where he lived."
"BUT THAT'S STILL NOT THE WORST OF IT."
While Chauncey Owens, the man whom Detroit police were looking for, has already been arrested and charged with murder... Not only has Joseph Weekley not been arrested and charged with Aiyana's murder... Not only has he not been fired from the police force... He is on paid administrative leave.
And how has Dave Bing, Detroit's mayor, reacted to this atrocity? By calling Aiyana's death a horrific crime and demanding Weekley immediately be arrested and charged with murder? NO. In fact, he has urged people not to fault the police!
"Too many people are pointing to the police department," Bing said. "I don't think they are the problem. They have to be the solution."
On the other hand, Bing has been more than happy to blame Fieger, the lawyer for Aiyana's family.
"He's taking advantage of a terrible situation," Bing said, "and it's about money as far as he's concerned."
And Bing has also, somehow, found a way to blame the masses of Detroit. Like many other politicians and reporters in the days since Aiyana's death, Bing has sought to lump the murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones together with recent violence in Detroit among the masses, which is also a product of this system—more specifically, of the severe desperation and misery and hopelessness into which this system has forced tens of millions of African-Americans and Latinos—though of course, Bing does not say that.
"It's a behavior problem, it's a cultural problem," Mayor Cosby—oh, sorry, Mayor Bing—said. "When people don't have jobs, they get frustrated and angry and people are making bad decisions."
Pardon me, Mayor Bing, but one brief follow-up question: Besides everything else that is wrong with what you just said, what the hell does any of that have to do with the police burning and then gunning down a 7-year-old girl in cold blood, as she slept next to her grandmother? What, pray tell, was the "bad decision" that Aiyana Stanley-Jones made?
To the reader: Pause for a second and think about these questions...
- What does it say that when I first heard about the police murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, I didn't even have to ask whether or not she were Black? And that, in reading this article so far, you probably weren't wondering about her race, even though I did not mention it until just now?
- What does it say when this crime against humanity, like the stopping-and-frisking of hundreds of thousands of innocent Black and Latino men every year in New York City alone... like the federal government's decision not to prosecute the cops who killed Sean Bell... is happening even though we have a Black president and a Black attorney general? And despite the fact that the mayor, police Chief, and assistant police chief in Detroit are all Black?
- What does it say about the value that this system, its political representatives, and its media mouthpieces put on the life of a young Black girl that her brutal murder—while receiving extensive coverage in Detroit and some sporadic mention in the national media—has, as I write this nearly a week after Aiyana's death, still not become a major national news story? That pundits and politicians across the country are not calling for the cop who killed her to even be fired, let alone jailed? That, as of roughly 2 pm ET on Thursday May 20—more than 5 days after Aiyana's murder—there was no mention of this story on the front page of CNN.com, but there was apparently enough room to include items such as "Apple agrees to take cash for iPads" and "Warrant out for Lindsay Lohan"?
- Why is it that this raid, and Aiyana's subsequent murder, were documented by a film crew for A&E—the "Arts and Entertainment" channel?
- Why does the following quote from General Stanley McChrystal, the senior commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, seem eerily and terribly relevant to the murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones: "We have shot an amazing number of people," McChrystal told the New York Times in March, "but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat."
- When are people broadly, in this society and throughout the world, going to make the connections between what happened to Aiyana Stanley-Jones and children in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan who are orphaned, or who are themselves killed, by U.S. guns, airstrikes or drone attacks? ... or little children in India working 15-hour days to make soccer balls for people in the United States?
- When are people going to realize that all of these atrocities are not only horrific, not only criminal, but completely unnecessary—that the system of capitalism-imperialism that has spawned all of these nightmares has no right to rule humanity, and that there is a basis to bring a completely different communist world into being?
This is a leader who has an unmatched understanding of, and visceral hatred for, this capitalist-imperialist system, the countless horrors it produces, and the ways in which those horrors are linked. He also has a firm, scientific grasp of the fact that, as he put it in the title of a recent talk, "THERE IS NO 'PERMANENT NECESSITY' FOR THINGS TO BE THIS WAY—A RADICALLY DIFFERENT AND BETTER WORLD CAN BE BROUGHT INTO BEING THROUGH REVOLUTION."
As "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have: A Message and a Call from the Revolutionary Communist Party" puts it: "Bob Avakian has developed the scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need, and he is leading our Party as an advanced force of this revolution."
Bob Avakian has also developed a radical new synthesis of communism, based on a vision of a vibrant socialist society that is organized in order to meet human need, overcome all exploitative relations and ideas, and draw the masses of people increasingly into running society. In this socialist society, which is a transition to the final goal of communism, security forces will be enforcing a system that is based on overcoming the exploitation and oppression of the masses, not enforcing it. Consequently, a member of these security forces would sooner give up his or her own life than steal an innocent one like that of Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
One of the defining features of Bob Avakian's leadership is his understanding of the centrality of the oppression of Black people to the functioning of this system, and the related centrality of the fight against that oppression to the process of making revolution. This is a particular aspect of who Bob Avakian is as a revolutionary leader that must become much more broadly known in the days, weeks, and months to come: There is a reason that he opens his "Revolution...." talk by speaking at length about the horrors this system has, and continues to, inflict on Black people. And there is a reason that he has said:
"There will never be a revolutionary movement in this country that doesn't fully unleash and give expression to the sometimes openly expressed, sometimes expressed in partial ways, sometimes expressed in wrong ways, but deeply, deeply felt desire to be rid of these long centuries of oppression [of Black people]. There's never gonna be a revolution in this country, and there never should be, that doesn't make that one key foundation of what it's all about."
So, in closing, let me just say: If there were anyone with any doubt—or any need for a reminder of—the need for revolution... of the urgency and stakes of the campaign we are building to make this revolution and its leader known to millions in this society... or of the crucial importance of the upcoming conferences in terms of taking that campaign to another level...
Just think of the name: Aiyana Stanley-Jones.