There was no justice for Manuel Ellis

Manuel Ellis. PHOTO: Ellis family
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Manuel Ellis was a 33-year-old African American man killed by cops in Tacoma, Washington. His ethnicity alone was enough to make him a target.

Manny, as he was known to family and friends, was a part-time church musician and a father of two. On March 3, 2020, he was killed by three Tacoma cops. His preventable death occurred just months before the world erupted in protest over the killing of George Floyd.

Unlike Derek Chauvin, the cop convicted of murdering George Floyd, Manny’s killers were acquitted in December 2023. This despite camera footage of the police punching and kicking a cuffed Ellis as he lay face down on the ground, ignored as he gasped that he couldn’t breathe. Officers told him to shut up, if he could talk, he could breathe.

The unceasing and murderous campaign targeting Black people, people of color and women is built into the capitalist system. There is an attitude of derision and contempt for the victims.

In 2023, Jaahnavi Kandula, a 25-year-old East Indian college student, was run down by a speeding Seattle Police cruiser. Daniel Auderer, the vice president of the police guild, joked around at the crime scene and later said that Kandula’s life had “limited value” so the city should “just write a check.”

This for-profit economic system will never willingly give up their enforcers in blue. The powers-that-be want and need police terrorism to enforce and control the racist and sexist status quo. Divide-and-conquer tactics maintain their rule. But there is a power stronger than money — mobilized working people.

The Black Lives Matter movement galvanized millions around the issue of police violence. Led by Black women and families of victims, the power in the streets was palpable. Across the U.S., communities passed laws to try and rein in state-sanctioned violence.

Unfortunately, too many of the measures fail to achieve their goals. In Washington, Initiative 940 eliminated the hurdle that cops had to have “malicious intent” in their actions. But the Tacoma Police violated due process multiple times in the investigation of Ellis’ death with no repercussions.

One solution is to create elected civilian review boards over police departments, complete with an independent prosecutor, like activists in New York City have fought for (see “The fight for cop accountability” at Ultimately capitalism, the root of all this misery, needs to be brought down.

The Black struggle has the seismic potential to galvanize and unite the social movements. The Black Lives Movement underscored this potential. What seems insurmountable, like this unequal system, can be toppled. Black radical working-class leadership is essential to building a strong multiracial socialist feminist movement that can win.

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