2018 saw officer-related shootings skyrocket in the Phoenix region with about 82 people shot in Maricopa County and more than 40 in Phoenix alone. Phoenix police shootings were the highest in the country in 2018 and triple the number of the previous year. This spike of police violence rolled on into the new year on Jan. 7 when police shot eighteen-year old Ismail Hamed, who just before being shot had disarmed himself.
Within less than a week after this first shooting, Maricopa County police shot yet another teen by the name of Jacob Michael Harris. Police allege that Harris reached for a gun as he was confronted. Shortly after, Harris was rushed to the hospital where he died. He was only nineteen-years old.
On Jan. 14, again just a few short days after the previous incident, police shot and wounded a seventeen-year old.
The next day on Jan. 15, the youngest victim, fourteen-year old Anthony Gonzalez, was killed by Tempe police in Maricopa County. This young man was chased and cornered in an alley where he was shot in the back. He was carrying an airsoft pistol, a nonlethal toy, that many teenage boys play with.
Gonzalez was the fourth teenager killed by racist police in just a few short weeks. We should remember that these four victims are teenagers either still in high school or just beginning their lives in the adult world.
When 40 percent of cops are involved in domestic abuse cases, much higher than the general population, it is no surprise that cops murder so carelessly for relatively minor crimes committed by marginalized people. Often times, as these cases show, there is not even a crime committed. In both cases of wanton murder and domestic abuse by officers, it is not uncommon for them to get away with their cruelty due to sympathetic investigators and courts.
It is also important to note that owning and carrying a firearm is not illegal in the state of Arizona. Far-right groups such as the Minutemen, Nazis, and new groups such as Patriot Movement AZ carry firearms to intimidate immigrants, Muslims, and poor people on a regular basis. A survey of terrorist acts in the United States showed that white supremacist forces like these groups are more likely to carry out violence than any other group in society. The police have never shot any of these people for owning and carrying a gun. That violence is apparently reserved for Black and brown people.
These types of tragic events will continue to occur unless resistance grows and strengthens. Until the police and the interests they are set out to protect realize that a peoples movement is unified in direct, organized action against them — until it is no longer a crime to be young, Black, Brown, Chicanx, Indigenous, or poor — only then will we stop seeing the systematic murder of marginalized people. It is clear that we are not being protected by police when it is our own families, friends, and neighbors being shot down.
Anthony’s and the death of every victim of police brutality should be recognized as murder. Neither Anthony or his loved ones should ever have to suffer at the hands of a force that claims to “protect and serve” them.
We demand justice and the imprisonment of cops that continue to kill throughout Maricopa County. In response to these events the Party for Socialism and Liberation, along with local activist groups and individuals willing to fight for justice, will be holding a protest on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Tempe Police Department near Arizona State University.