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Justice for Sammy, jail the police

Jesse McLaren

July 29, 2013

Thousands marched through the streets of Toronto demanding justice for 18-year old Sammy Yatim, the latest victim of police brutality.

As the youtube clip clearly shows, Sammy was alone in a Toronto streetcar as a half dozen police drew their guns. After shooting him three times, the police fired another six rounds and then electrocuted his body with a taser. This requires no special investigation, the killers should be thrown in jail and Toronto police chief Bill Blair should resign.

Blair is trying to hide behind the Special Investigations Unit, a supposedly arms-length mechanism to investigate police violence. Protests against police racism and violence was required to set up the SIU in the first place—in an attempt to hold police accountable—but it’s clear that it’s role is to rubber stamp police brutality. As one analysis revealed, of 3,400 investigations the SIU has only laid criminal charges in 95, of which only 16 officers were convicted, and only three went to jail. One of the most recent was the 2010 killing of 18-year old Junion Manon, a black youth stopped for a minor traffic violation and then asphyxiated to death. The SIU absurdly concluded that “the force used to arrest him was not excessive.”

In addition to applying their monopoly of force to racism, the police also promote attacks on civil liberties, on people with disabilities and on women. In 2010 the Toronto police orchestrated the biggest mass arrest in Canadian history to justify the billion dollars wasted on “security” at the G20 summit. Toronto police have killed a number of people with mental health issues, including the 2012 killing of Michael Eligon who was wearing a hospital gown near a hospital. In 2011 a Toronto police officer said that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Meanwhile there has been no inquiry into the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The state

This is not simply a problem of police being corrupt or not educated, but actually indicates the role they play in society, and the priorities of the system. As the austerity agenda is increasingly revealing, capitalism is divided between the 99% who produce all the wealth in society, and the 1% who control and profit from it—and who use the state’s repression and its illusion of neutrality to maintain power.

As Friedrich Engels, Marx's life-long collaborator described, “in order that these antagonisms and classes with conflicting economic interests might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power seemingly standing above society that would alleviate the conflict, and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state.”

The state, composed of “special bodies of armed men”, attacks indigenous blockades, worker strikes, and young racialized youth on streetcars. Meanwhile there’s no punishment for the Canadian state founded on breaking and entering indigenous land, corporations who make a profit by stealing wages, or police killers.

Everyone should support Sammy's fightback for justice, and demand the individual police officer as well as the police chief be held accountable. This mobilization is part of the broader struggle of the 99% to expose and challenge the 1% and its violent state.


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