By Adofo Minka

It Was Only a Matter of Time: St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and the Killing of “Our People.”

It Was Only a Matter of Time: St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and the Killing of “Our People.”

It was only a matter of time before Mayor Tishaura Jones’s charade of being a criminal justice reformer and opponent of systemic racism would be exposed before the world. So many stood with this misty-eyed personality as she was sworn in as the first Black woman mayor of St. Louis in 2021. Now, with the killings of two Black men in St. Louis in less than a week, it is laid bare. It has been revealed before (in Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta, Jackson, Baton Rouge, etc.) what it means to rule above society — if you are a Black person. You must preside over the destruction and death of other Black and oppressed people while ensuring the status quo of the state and capital remains intact. Mayor Jones has joined that special club; not the one documented in Essence and People magazines. She is now an executive of killing “our people.”

The Tears of a Clown

The blood of the two people killed by the police is on her hands as she rocks back and forth mumbling about how as a Black mother, she understands the pain of the family involved. If she actually cried, these can only be tears of a clown.

As the city’s top administrator is this all she can muster for understanding when Black people are killed? As mayor, is she not a top official of the Black-led police state? What type of fighter against systemic racism won’t publicly condemn police state murder? The kind who subscribes to a counterfeit anti-racism that finds friends and benefactors among one-half of the ruling class who upholds business as usual with a glossy finish of progressivism.

Two Killings in One Week

On September 10, 2022, 16-year-old Darryl Ross was gunned down by two St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) officers at a gas station in north St. Louis city. The officers have yet to be identified by name, but it has been reported that one of the officers involved was Black and the other white. This is an institutional outcome of post-civil rights multi-racial unity. Those who kill the oppressed are more diverse in their hierarchies and domination.

The officers were detectives who were a part of drug enforcement detail who allege that they saw individuals armed with guns on the parking lot of the gas station and went to investigate when Ross began to evade them. The “official” report given by police claims that Ross tripped and fell while trying to run away from officers and dropped a pistol. As they approached Ross, he attempted to retrieve the gun prompting officers to open fire, killing the 16-year-old. Now, Mayor Jones has also tripped and fallen.

On September 7, 2022, 61-year-old Sudanese refugee, Bada Ali, who reportedly immigrated to the U.S. five years ago with his family was killed at his home by SLMPD officers there to serve a felony warrant for assault, resisting arrest, and weapons charges, official reports claim. It is not clear if the warrants were for Ali’s arrest or someone else who resided there. It does not matter who or what the police were there for, merely having a warrant issued for alleged offenses should not result in a person’s death.

The police’s insistence on serving the warrant at Ali’s home resulted in a stand-off that lasted for hours as the man barricaded himself inside his residence. During the time police unsuccessfully attempted to bombard their way into the man’s residence, they employed tasers, tear gas, and robots to get the man to surrender. These tactics were characterized as non-lethal, but they certainly can’t be described as non-violent.

Police have used robots for surveillance, but also in the killings of Christopher Dorner, a Black former LAPD officer who targeted police officers after being fired, and Micah X. Johnson who ambushed police officers in Dallas, TX in retaliation after the 2016 killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Castile’s death foreshadowed the killing of George Floyd in the same city. The killing of Floyd was the spark for multi-racial uprisings in every city across the country in 2020 including St. Louis.

It has been reported that Ali suffered from mental illness. If this is the case, the violent onslaught of the SLMPD only served to escalate the situation. Tragically, the stand-off ended when police claim the aging man lunged at them with a knife and was killed in a fusillade of bullets.

Mayor Tishaura Jones: Talks Loud but Says Nothing

After the story of Darryl Ross’s killing by her police department broke national news, Mayor Tishaura Jones, who ran for mayor on a platform that emphasized criminal justice reform and combating systemic racism, spoke to the media the day after Ross’s killing and said nothing of substance. Jones stated when addressing the media, “Reflecting on the circumstances that led up to this young man’s death breaks my heart, both as a mayor and as a mother of a teenage son.” These comments by Mayor Jones were nothing more than her wielding her identity as a mother to cover up the fact that she now presides over systemic racism and the killing of Black and poor people by the police state of which she is the leader.

Mayor Jones’s appeals to being a Black mother should not obscure the fact that she can be a mother, a woman of color, and preside over domination and death at the same time. This is exactly what she is doing. Furthermore, that is why she is talking about her feelings through her social identities. Her political strategy is to paralyze the instincts of ordinary people, regardless of race and gender, in St. Louis, who know who is in charge, and what she has done for their empowerment. It has done absolutely nothing but place us in a new kind of jeopardy. These new terms of terror force us, if we are ethical people, to reflect on mistaken notions of politics we have held in the past, that brought such a degenerate personality to power. Let us be clear. Mayor Jones’s rise to power, and any Black people killed under her watch (it may be one of us next), are not just her responsibility, but our own.

Police Reform and the State

No matter how much Mayor Jones publicly proclaims to want to reform the police and ensure they are accountable to the community, the reality of the matter is that the police are paid to conquer and kill those who are deemed a threat to capital and the state. The police will never be accountable to the community because their loyalties are to private property and the dominant social order.

Mayor Jones has the same allegiances. She is on the side of the permanent slaughter. She just hopes that her brand, rooted in her social identity as a Black mother will let her skate, as the SLMPD piles up the bodies of Black people in the streets. Will those who oppose police sit idly by and count the number of Black people like the Count from Sesame Street? Or will they take to the streets like they did in Ferguson despite Mayor Jones’s maudlin claims of understanding and compassion?

One of the things that Mayor Jones touted as a way to “defund” the police was to employ social workers and psychologists to respond to certain calls when a person’s mental health is in question. There has been no mention of social workers being dispatched to address Ali’s mental health issues. No one was sent to de-escalate the situation with Ross in a peaceful and non-violent manner. Instead, a militaristic force was sent in to deal with them. That is what the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), and special drug enforcement units means: a military force controlled by the municipality primed with all of the weaponry and technology to seek, kill, and destroy.

Who will be sent out to check the mayor’s mental health and that of the police force?

Once we find that they are given a clean bill of mental health, will we grasp that whoever works and is adjusted to the logic of hierarchy and domination, always are seen as competent, and of a sound mind?

Mayor Jones’ Division of Civilian Oversight

On August 3, 2022, Mayor Jones signed a bill that created another layer of bureaucracy between ordinary people and those who police them called the Division of Civilian Oversight. Mayor Jones’s claims that the creation of this division will strengthen the civilian review board that had been previously established. She says that the division will help create trust between the police and the community. Despite Mayor Jones’s efforts to obscure the inherent antagonistic relationship between police and Black and poor people, commoners cannot be reconciled with the police state that occupy their communities and kill and abuse them with impunity. No board controlled by the State can or will change this reality.

It is not clear whether the creation of this new division will do away with the previously established civilian oversight board. What is clear is that under the new division a Force Investigation Unit that will be under the direction Circuit Attorney Kim Gardener has been created. It appears that The Force Investigation Unit will be responsible for investigating use of force incidents involving the police. This is akin to having the police investigate themselves. The Circuit Attorney’s office depends on the same officers to testify in their cases against the overwhelming Black and poor people who are incarcerated and charged with crimes.

Kim Gardner initially made a big show about having a “bad cops list” of officers that they would not use in prosecutions. But those who have paid attention to her tenure can see that she has proven to be a bad cop herself. She is a part of the police state and has never fought against it despite her claims of fighting against racist police. That’s like fighting slavery by getting rid of “bad” overseers or slave masters. Isn’t the entire plantation system evil? Isn’t the system of policing rotten to the core? There is no such thing as “bad apple” cops.

Participation is not Power

To truly understand how farcical this division of oversight is, one must understand what is a civilian. A civilian is someone who belongs to civil society at large as opposed to those rulers within the state who actually govern. When presidents, mayors and other elected officials leave office, they say “I am returning to civilian life.” In essence, I am returning to being a private citizen who does not have power to govern and hold sway in the arena of elite representative government.

A civilian oversight process is a passive participatory method where government officials hold all the power and sway and even those who are appointed to the board don’t have power to make decisions. Ordinary people don’t get to choose who is on the board. They don’t get to decide what the punishment for officers who kill and maim people will be. All they get to do is come and talk and express their feelings and opinions. The way Mayor Jones is going through tissues one would think this was also the only power she has.

One feature of such boards that many have made a big to do about throughout the country is subpoena power. The board in St. Louis has been given this legal lasso to rope people into to this beauracratic process of elite representative government. This basically means that if the board deems it necessary, they can have individuals come before them for questioning and have legal backing to do so. This does not guarantee that any information will be forthcoming because police or any other witnesses summoned before the members of the board can simply have a lawyer present and plead the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment basically gives a witness a legal basis to evade testifying to anything if they believe that such testimony can later be used to incriminate them. I can’t see why a police officer would not be able to assert their Fifth Amendment rights against incrimination and thereby circumvent the passive fact-finding process of the civilian review board.

Such a process is not ordinary people arriving on their own authority by any stretch of the imagination. It should not be welcomed as equivalent to community control of the police as it has been mystified in the past. The person who is the commissioner over the division is Matthew Brummund, a former FBI agent. I know education is in decline in our society. But who does not know the historical relationship of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program to those Black people, as embodied by the Black Panthers, who stood up to the police? Who but a chump or a traitor would place such a person who worked for an institution that repressed and killed our freedom fighters in charge of oversight of the policing of Black people?

Mr. Brummund will be responsible for determining disciplinary actions of those officers who are determined to have engaged in some misconduct. This oversight division and civilian review board is not the self-directed liberating activity of ordinary people organizing their own judicial affairs from below. It is a top-down process that blurs the lines between the authority of ordinary people and the imperial and degrading municipal government.

Time is Running Out

The jig is up for Mayor Jones and the trajectory of police killing in St. Louis shows that it is only a matter of time before there is another explosion of rebellions in the streets in response to police state killing of Black people. The spirit of Ferguson still looms over the city and cannot be suppressed forever through the machinations of identity and a fraudulent anti-racism that walks hand-in-hand with the police state as it subjugates those who have been pushed to the margins of society. No manner of press statements extending sympathies and expressing how she feels the pain as a mother of a Black son will hold “our people” down when they decide enough is enough. The only answer to stop the police killing is if ordinary people organize themselves into popular militias to police the police and public safety committees organized from below, that will ensure the safety and security of those people who have been under siege for far too long.

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