From Athens, Greece to Augusta, Georgia, police murder provokes riots

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.”

Augusta Apartheid

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…


3 responses to “From Athens, Greece to Augusta, Georgia, police murder provokes riots”

  1. Justin Elmore is me Avatar
    Justin Elmore is me

    Some of the cops patroling these neighborhoods are afraid and should not be in there. You know a person with a gun that is afraid of you will be quick to shoot and think that this is their only form of self defense. Any us could pull over to the side of the road and let the officers past with lights flashing and then pull out to go only to see another officer coming. Back up out the way on this narrow road with a car parked directly in front of you only to bump into the officer car that had just past you and hooked around behind you.And then be shot at by a scary officer that triggers another young officer to shoot. They could even shoot to kill as they did with justin jed elmore. The windows of his truck were tinted so dark they could not see in the truck when they opened up. Let’s pray that the truth comes out in this case and all others happening around the world like it.

  2. RH Avatar

    Thanks for the thoughtful article, Isaac!

  3. Dianne Avatar

    I strongly support laws that prevent police from high-speed chases or being armed with guns. So many preventable murders occur when the police are routinely able to do so.