By ERWIN FREED
A coalition of important organizations fighting for police accountability in Connecticut has announced a demonstration to “End Police Shootings” planned for noon on Friday, April 16. The rally will take place at the State Capitol building in Hartford. The coalition consists of Justice for Jayson, Justice for Mubarak, and Justice for Steven Barrier. All of these groups are composed of family and friends of people killed by the actions of Connecticut police officers, as well as community supporters.
Statewide fight against police brutality
The coordination between justice groups on a statewide level represents a definite step forward for the movement against cop violence. Connecticut is sometimes known as a “progressive” state, with Democratic Party majorities in the House, Senate, governorship, and most organs of local government. But all the same, police regularly and brutally kill young people of color.
The killing of the young men for whom the groups involved with the April 16 are specifically fighting for justice shows the callousness and depravity of Connecticut police. Jayson Negron was 15 years old in 2017, when Bridgeport police shot him to death and left his body uncovered on the street for over six hours. In 2019, Steven Barrier was 23 when Stamford police ignored his pleas for medical attention. As he lay dying on the floor of a holding cell, those same officers mocked him to his dying breath. Mubarak Soulemane was 19 when a state trooper shot him through a closed car window in 2020.
None of these victims posed any sort of reasonable threat to officers. Barrier and Soulemane were both suffering from mental health crises when they were fatally executed by Connecticut cops. Another victim of murder by cop, Zoe Dowdell, killed while driving away from New Britain police in 2017, was a well-known artist. So was Jayson Negron. These four people are a small fraction of people killed by the police in Connecticut in recent years. Thousands more face regular racist harassment.
Just since the beginning of the pandemic, Connecticut cops have killed at least two people. In April, a SWAT team murdered Jose Soto in Manchester, effectively for parole violation. The day after Christmas, Shamar Ogman was shot after being cornered by cops in Hartford. Illustrating the inability of police to act for the benefit of public safety, Ogman’s ex-girlfriend had begged the police not to kill him, despite being the person who called them. Ogman was likely also suffering a mental health crisis. Reports from family members suggest that he developed PTSD from his time in Connecticut prisons.
All out against cop killings!
All three of the organizations calling the April 16 demonstration at the Capitol have been active throughout the pandemic. The most covered moments in the press were encampments outside of the Bridgeport Police Department and on Stamford’s Latham Park last July. Those were concrete experiences of struggle that activists and community members now have to draw on following the mass upsurge against police brutality last summer. Already this year, Chris Hagan was shot by Stratford officers during a car stop in February.
An activist is facing charges for taking part in a demonstration that occupied the location on the I-95 highway where Soulemane was killed by West Haven police. In an act of obvious malice, West Haven cops waited over six months to let the protester know there was a warrant related to that event. As Socialist Resurgence has reported previously, protesters at a Justice for Steven Barrier march were arrested last Aug. 8. An online petition to have all charges dropped against these activists currently has nearly 1900 signatures.
The force of all labor, social justice, environmental, immigrant, activist, and community groups needs to be mobilized for this call against more cop killings. In order to really end cop violence, a movement must be built that has the backing of all these organizations and more, and participation from their ranks. Socialist Resurgence stands with people fighting for justice for victims of police brutality and for the total abolition of the capitalist police.
For more information: End Police Killings in Connecticut | Facebook