On August 1, Baltimore County police shot Korryn Gaines during a standoff while she was holding her 5-year old son. She was shot and killed and her son was shot and injured. Gaines was outspoken about the injustices against Black people at the hands of the police. She was an activist, poet, social media vlogger, and advocate for a more just society. She taught her son not to fear the police and had said during the most recent upsurge in civilian murder by police around the country that she knew she would die at their hands too.
Korryn Gaines was legally armed with a shotgun and barricaded herself in her home when police came to issue an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court following a traffic violation in March. She recorded the encounter using her social media account. Shortly before Gaines’ murder, police officials used a “law enforcement portal” open to law enforcement agencies to shut down her Facebook and Instagram accounts. Baltimore county police claim that these officers had not yet been issued body cameras so her social media video is critical to understanding what happened in the minutes leading to her killing.
The videos clearly show the intimidation and aggression that the police brought that Monday morning. Video of the “negotiation” in her home shows police just watching her, without saying a word, in full SWAT gear. Accounts by her son and court documents verify that they kicked in the door. In a previous video of a traffic stop Gaines’ children watched and recorded as she was handcuffed.
When she questioned their authority in these videos, officers were sarcastic and demeaning. Video after video shows a pattern of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of the police. This abuse is the same seen in every poor city across the country where men are stopped and searched as a “precaution” to “keep neighborhoods safe.”
What is most upsetting about the Baltimore County police narrative is the claim that they were forced to shoot because she was armed and threatened to shoot them. Essentially, they claim that it is her fault that she was killed. Police often use “I feared for my life” to legitimize taking the lives of Brown and Black people.
That fear is rarely part of the narrative the police use when a white person is arrested. White people are consistently disarmed, deescalated, and arrested without the use of deadly force. E.J. Watson, Jed Frazier, Joseph Houseman, Jesse Deflorio, Julia Shields, Steven Whitlock, and others have been armed with guns or knives, sometimes actively shooting at police or others and are brought in alive and often uninjured.
Brown and Black people are killed by police at a disproportionate rate compared to white people regardless of the perceived risk to their lives. Tamir Rice, Andy Lopez, John Crawford, Tiano Menton, Ernesto Flores, and 23 others were killed in 2015 for carrying a BB or toy gun. Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin, Delrawn Small and countless others have been killed because they were perceived as possibly having a weapon or being threatening in some other way. Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr, Philando Castille and countless more have been killed even when the police know there is no immediate danger. The sad reality is, to law enforcement in the United States, Black and Brown lives don’t matter and are disposable.
None of the families of the people murdered by the police ever saw justice. All of those killings were “justified” in the eyes of the state, just as Korryn Gaines’ murder is now being called “justified.” We must continue to hold her killers accountable. We must organize and fight. In the cases of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, investigations of these murders only happened because of the massive outpouring of outrage and nationwide protests. Collective outrage can make the difference in forcing the government to take some measure of accountability.
Socialists believe in fighting against racist injustice because we believe in a society that would provide real equality and legal protection. We believe that those who violate the rights of people to live without racist oppression should be punished. We know that only a socialist revolution could smash this system that benefits from racist terror and needs the police to protect the interests of capital.
Join us in that fight to demand justice for Korryn Gaines. Demand an end to racist police repression. Together, we can fight for a better, safer society.