Anarchists Express Grief over Huerta’s Death, Gratitude for Protesters’ Courage

protestFrom Carrboro Anarchist Bookfair

A Statement from Organizers of the Carrboro Anarchist Book Fair

Organizers of the Carrboro Anarchist Book Fair express our grief over the death of Jesus Huerta and our admiration of all who took action in Durham last Friday to confront the police in whose hands he died.

Early on Tuesday, November 19, 17-year-old Jesus Huerta, known to his friends as Chuy, was killed while handcuffed in the back of a police car in Durham, North Carolina. He died of a gunshot wound. The Durham police have refused to offer any further details, but Chuy appears to be the third person they have killed in four months.

Chuy’s death is an irreparable tragedy. No investigation or justification can rectify this loss, nor break the systemic pattern of racist harassment and repression of which it is a single example. In a just society, the Durham police would submit themselves to the judgment of his family, rather than presuming to judge guilt and innocence themselves. Instead, in the initial coverage, police and corporate media reported previous misdemeanor charges against Chuy in an attempt to discredit him, even though all of those charges had long been dismissed.

On the following Friday night, hundreds of people gathered at CCB Plaza in Durham and marched to the police headquarters, displaying signs, banners, flares, and firecrackers. Several windows of the police headquarters were broken, as well as the window of a squad car. Police officers physically attacked participants, arresting three and verbally threatening many more. Of the arrestees, one was released with no charges, an indication of the lack of precision with which the arrests were carried out. The other two are 14 and 19 years old, close to Chuy’s age.

The News and Observer and other corporate news sources have presented blatantly slanted coverage. According to one article, “Officers came out from the building to help defuse the situation” by trying “to push the crowd back.” Another News and Observer article reports that, “as the group reached police headquarters, protesters wearing black hooded sweatshirts, ski masks and bandanas joined the march.” This is blatantly dishonest: a cursory review of photographs of the demonstration available on the News and Observer’s own website shows that protesters dressed thus were present from the beginning of the march. The intention behind this wording is to give credence to police claims that the confrontation was the work of “a few ‘outside agitators,’” the same language once used to delegitimize civil rights protesters.

This effort has not succeeded. As an organizer of the march posted afterwards on Facebook, “I refuse to condemn any actions during the demonstrations, and my heart was full of fire seeing so many young brown and black youth leading the march and expressing their anger with the police.”

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue, famous for supervising a controversial attack using military equipment and tactics against an unarmed building occupation in 2011, appeared in the News and Observer a week after Chuy’s death, speculating that anarchists were responsible for the escalation of Friday’s protest. For our part, though the politics of all who engaged in conflict with the police are unknown, we praise their courage, determination, and willingness to put themselves at risk for an honorable cause.

It is typical and despicable that the Durham Police Department is investigating Friday’s protest while evading responsibility for Chuy’s death. It is typical and despicable that corporate media are parroting police rhetoric in hopes of dividing the public and delegitimizing popular outcry. It would be despicable, if sadly typical, if local liberals decried the course of Friday’s protest without doing anything to support the young men who were seized by the same police department that has Chuy’s blood on its hands. Like the bereaved, Friday night’s arrestees know it was not handwringing proponents of timidity who responded in their hour of need.

As for what it would take to ensure that no one ever dies at the hands of the police again, it would surely be more dramatic than the breaking of a few windows. Those who have no real plan to ensure this should not criticize others’ efforts to deter police from taking lives lightly, unless the maintenance of today’s “law and order” is more important to them than the lives it costs.

This ongoing tragedy is yet another example of why anarchists desire a world without police or any of the other institutions that impose white supremacy and inequality. We invite you to join us in the struggle to abolish them.