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This Time It’s Chicago-Once Again–Cops Murder Unarmed Black Youth
“I looked up the block and there was a truck and an arm was out the window with a big gun and it was firing. I took off running.... because that’s what you do. Bullets have no name on them.”
2009 started off with the New Year’s Day police murder of Oscar Grant—shot in the back as he lay face down on a train platform in Oakland. This year, many more have been murdered by the police. Recently, on August 24 in Rockford, Illinois, two white cops shot and killed 23-year-old Mark Anthony Barmore. You might have already guessed before you read this sentence, that Barmore was a Black man.
Now, another unarmed Black youth has been murdered in cold blood. This time it’s Chicago with the latest case in the nationwide epidemic of police murder.
Friday, September 11 marked the end of the first week of school in Chicago. Seventeen-year-old Corey Harris got out of class at 2:56 pm. Around 3:30 he was at the corner of 69th and King Drive where an altercation broke out among some youth. After one young man was shot in the leg, people started running in all directions.
On that same corner was a man in a truck with a gun. That man was an off-duty Chicago cop. According to witnesses, the truck screeched through the intersection chasing down Corey Harris, one of the youth who started running after the shooting on the corner.
Eyewitnesses said a few minutes later, in an alley a block and a half away, Corey Harris fell to the ground, tried to get up, and then collapsed and died. He had been shot by the off-duty cop. Corey Harris died from a gunshot to the back, according to the coroner’s report. Eyewitnesses and the police themselves say that Harris was unarmed when he was killed. As of this writing, the name of the killer cop has not been released.
The Stolen Life of Corey Harris
Corey Harris was a junior at Dyett High School. He was captain of the baseball team and a star small forward on the basketball team. College scouts had attended his sophomore year basketball games. Corey Harris was a young man who had a lot of hopes and dreams. He had his whole adult life ahead of him and was looking forward to a bright future. He had an 8-month-old daughter who now will never know her father.
In TV interviews the principal at Dyett High School spoke highly of Corey Harris. The varsity basketball coach said, “He had natural leadership abilities and we had high accolades for the kid. We thought he was going to be a tremendous asset for us, not only on the team but in the school as a whole.” The basketball team is devoting their upcoming season to Corey Harris.
Corey Harris’ family wants to fight for justice and has exposed and denounced the police justification for the shooting and called the killing out for what it is: cold blooded murder.
There was a huge outpouring of hundreds of people at the wake and funeral for Corey Harris, including youth from many different high schools. This was a statement of how much Corey Harris was loved and respected. Hundreds of youth had T-shirts with Corey’s face and personal messages on them. People testified to how much Corey Harris was liked—by teachers, coaches, the principal, and all kinds of kids from many different neighborhoods.
Reaction and Response
Some who actually witnessed the murder of Corey Harris have been especially outraged. One man said he never heard anyone identify themselves as police. He saw the murderer, who turned out to be an off-duty cop, come and stand over Corey after he shot him. The cop was wearing a black bulletproof vest and there was no indication of “police” any where on it—no badge, no “police” written on the back, no name tag, nothing. Another witness said Corey Harris did not have a gun when he was shot and that there was never any gun pointed at the cop.
Another eyewitness described how the police cordoned off a large area and wouldn’t let Corey Harris’ family in to see his body. This witness felt that this was because they were trying to cover up evidence and get their story straight. He also said there was no gun near Corey and described how, as people began to push their way back into the alley and get “unruly,” someone from the police said, “Cover it up, cover it up,” referring to Corey’s body. This witness was outraged that the police didn’t even talk about Corey Harris as a human being.
Monday morning, the first day back to school after Corey Harris was murdered, students expressed shock and grief. Revolutionaries came to the school with the special high school issue of Revolution, black armbands of protest and a flyer with Corey’s picture with these words, “The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world…when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness…those days must be GONE. And they CAN be.” (From the statement, “The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have,” Revolution #170, July 19, 2009)
Students took up black armbands as a way to protest the murder, and some took them into school to get to other students. Students also took newspapers, with many focusing on the back page poster for the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Some students cut Corey Harris’ photo and name out of the flyer and put it on their backpacks. Students from nearby schools who passed by also took armbands and flyers. In the school students filled a 30-foot banner with messages about Corey Harris.
Students walking by from the nearby college prep high schools said, “You need to come to our school and talk about this, all they talk about there is going to college. They never talk about what we face in our lives.” We opened up the paper and looked at the centerfold that features the “Imagine” section from the Revolution Talk by Bob Avakian (Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About), where he talks about what things would be like in a revolutionary society, including how the schools will be transformed.
We took out the special middle school/high school issue of Revolution (#176, September 13, 2009) and the flyer about Corey Harris to several other high schools. At one alternative school several school security guards inserted themselves—uninvited—into a conversation we were having about police brutality and revolution with a number of young women. The security guards tried to lie to people, telling them that the revolutionaries were “taking advantage of their ignorance.” There were some young women there whose friend was killed by the police and they had marched with us in protests around it. They got into the faces of the security guards saying, “Fuck the police.” One security guard responded by quoting from the Bible that “there is a time to live and a time to die” and that this was “Corey’s time to die.” This infuriated the students and one shouted back at the guards as she walked away, “God didn’t kill these people, the fuck-assed police killed them!”
At another alternative school on the north side, where some students had gotten the special middle school/high school issue of Revolution, what started out as a 20-minute discussion about the murder of Corey Harris and police brutality turned into a two hour intense engagement. Students spoke of their bitter experience with the police and their outrage at the murder of Corey Harris and widespread police brutality. Many felt that society and older people are against them. They described how they are criminalized, and not just by the police. They got into the violence that is perpetuated on and among the youth, how this is their reality. And there was big debate over what is the cause and solution of all this. Is it racism and white people? Or, as the revolutionaries argued, is there something built into the foundation of this capitalist system—a system that cannot do without national oppression and a police force that enforces that with brutality? People debated revolution and communism and whether that is what’s needed or can we solve these problems with just things like better education.
There was struggle at another school about whether or not students are going to stand up and act against the police murder of Corey Harris and others. Some students said: “Yes, I know what they did to Corey Harris was wrong. I know about police brutality. But I don’t know if I’m going to do anything about it.”
The revolutionaries challenged them, saying, “What is your life going to be about?” and read the quote from Bob Avakian’s memoir that says: “If you have had a chance to see the world as it really is, there are profoundly different roads you can take with your life. You can just get into the dog-eat-dog, and most likely get swallowed up by that while trying to get ahead in it. You can put your snout into the trough and try to scarf up as much as you can, while scrambling desperately to get more than others. Or you can try to do something that would change the whole direction of society and the whole way the world is….”
Before Corey Harris’ funeral, revolutionaries had a discussion with a representative of the family about how what happens at the funeral could be a powerful statement of their call for justice. Family representatives welcomed the idea of forming an “honor guard” lining the sidewalk outside the funeral home.
As people arrived for the wake and funeral they passed this silent “honor guard” made up of posters of the faces of people whose lives have been stolen by the police in cities all across this country, interspersed with posters of Corey Harris. This visual indictment of the police murder of Corey Harris and for the whole epidemic of police murder was widely appreciated. Many people shook hands down the line and said, “thank you for doing this, this needed to be done.” Family members took some of the posters of Corey Harris inside, others put them on the back of parked cars, where they could be seen from the street. There was a markedly positive response to the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
The police who serve this system of capitalism-imperialism use their armed power to maintain and enforce this whole oppressive setup—that offers the masses of youth no kind of future. In a revolutionary, socialist society—with the goal of communism and the emancipation of all of humanity—the youth would be valued for their lives and contributions, and the security forces would do everything possible to solve a situation, including risking their own lives before they would take the life of the people.
We cannot tolerate the unacceptable. We cannot accept the epidemic of police murder of Black youth in cities all across this country. We cannot accept a situation where there is no future for the youth. We need to “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, For Revolution.” As we wrote in an article about the protests by the people against the murder of Oscar Grant in Oakland, “Powerful resistance can change the equation in society where too many people accept the unacceptable. It can give heart to those put under a constant death sentence by this verdict. It can call forth many more people to join in taking this on. And it can be a powerful force in building a revolutionary movement aimed at getting rid of this murderous system.” (“People Demand Justice for Oscar Grant!,” Revolution #153, January 18, 2009).
We say NO MORE! No More Stolen Lives!
Justice for Corey Harris!
Stand up and Resist!
Indict, Convict and Jail the Killer Cop!
The Whole System is Guilty!