Posted December 23, 2008
On day eight of the unrest triggered by the police killing of 15-year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, police officers in Augusta, Georgia fatally shot 23-year old Justin Elmore at point blank range. (Meanwhile, the rioting in Greece continues to spread, but that’s another story.)
On Sunday, November 14, Jose Rivera Ortiz and Michael Hodge answered a call that apparently reported a stolen vehicle with drugs and weapons in their area. They falsely believed Elmore, a drug dealer, to be driving the stolen vehicle. After pulling him over, they claimed he “turned the SUV into a weapon” by making motions to run them over. So they shot him in the head.
Missing from many subsequent news reports (but not this one) is a clear picture of what happened that night. In fact, both officers were in their cars. Elmore rammed one of the police cruisers – not somebody on foot; rather than shooting out his tires or otherwise immobilizing the vehicle, police opened fire on Justin himself. Another discrepancy I’ve discovered is that some articles say the police video “appears to show that [police] acted appropriately” – while the first article I linked cites an FBI agent report the “recording will not show details of the shooting… The camera was faced toward an apartment at Cherry Tree Crossing.”
Cherry Tree Crossing is the public housing project in downtown Augusta where Elmore’s three-year-old child lives. The census data for the area is reminiscent of South Africa under apartheid: out of 16,000 residents in the neighborhood, nearly 90% claim African ancestry; 80% of households have incomes under $35,000. Over one thousand people in Georgia prisons call zip code 30901 home (Georgia’s prison system is a state-wide outrage which locks up Black men at a rate 200% their share of the population.)
The night that Elmore was shot, community members threw rocks and bottles at cops. The following night, two hundred people held vigil after his death was announced – watched over by ninety riot police. Unbelievably, the editors of Augusta’s main paper argued that the residents’ “knee-jerk reaction that says police are always wrong and every ne’er-do-well who runs afoul of them is an innocent who’s had his civil rights violated just won’t play anymore. And it’s going to create an unlivable city if it’s allowed to continue.” Civil Rights?! Which part of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are they missing? A twenty-three year old father was shot in cold blood. That’s a pretty fucking serious “violation of civil rights”… And they conveniently ignore that police murder literally made Augusta unlivable for Justin Elmore!
Further searching on the internet reveals attitudes of area whites that mirror those of militant Afrikaners or zionist settlers. A nearby neighborhood has a community organization called HONGKONG: “Harrisburg Organization Networking for Gentrification to Keep Our Neighborhood from becoming a Ghetto.” The group’s website explains, “a modern ghetto does not necessarily refer to dilapidated housing stock but the class of individuals who reside within it.” A YouTube video of the riots was posted with commentary: “unruly parasite types throwing rocks and bottles at the cops… I didn’t hang around or try to get any closer. I had my 5 year old with me and only a M&P 9mm compact with only 13 available rounds with me. I guess I’ll keep a rifle with me tomorrow with about 15 extra 30 rd. mags.” This kind of incendiary, violent language provides the beginnings of a background for why the people of Cherry Tree Crossing feel embattled.
This week, a two hundred people – apparently including armed members of the New Black Panther Party – marched after Elmore’s funeral. Kendrick Brinson, a news photographer, has shared moving photographs from the funeral at his website.
In Athens and in Augusta, police protect and serve the interests of rulers – by violence and intimidation. In the United States, police enforces the oppression of communities of color, especially African Americans. This broader context is practically always missing from mainstream news coverage. While a single shot may spark community outrage, the injustice of the system provides the kindling.
By the way… merry Christmas…