"State violence is ubiquitous"

Mumia Abu-Jamal address to Kent Students during commencement on the 30th anniversary of the Kent State massacre:

When I was asked to write some words about the Kent State massacre of May 197 0 in Ohio, my mind's eye filled like a bucket under a dripping sink. Each word a drop—not of water, but of blood. Each drop a shimmering round crimson mirror which plops into a reddened basin and overflows.

Each drop is a bright place that communicates a world in a word. My Lai. Kent State. Hiroshima. Philadelphia. Tulsa. Jackson State. Rosewood. Haymarket Square. Waco. Wounded Knee. Sand Creek. Fort Pillow. Attica.

Of course for any student of history this list could go on and on and on, for massacres are integral to the American enterprise. What these bloodstained markers of history, and somewhat fairly recent 20th-century history I might add, teach us is the ubiquity of state violence, as well as the impunity of state actors who commit what could be called, if it happened anywhere else, crimes against humanity.

How much time in prison did the trained killers of Kent State do; how about the trained killers of the students at Jackson State? I think they received the same sentence as the bombers of the MOVE house in Philadelphia, the exact same one as the highly trained killers of Waco, and ultimately the same as the killers of Amadou Diallo, and the vicious killers of Attica.

No time, no sentence, for the system saw this as no crime. Kent State teaches that a so-called free society will slaughter students who are exercising their alleged Constitutional right of demonstrating for peace and give awards to the killers, and do so with impunity. The passions that drove over a quarter of a million people into the streets against the Vietnam War have cooled in 30 years.

But for many, for the poor, for radical dissidents, for prisoners, and increasingly for Black youth, that war has come home. Kent State was indeed a vile and bloody marker, but as Amadou Diallo shows us, the blood spilled by the state continues to run. It also teaches us the very real limits of the law. When it is the state itself that commits criminal acts, all these absolutely awesome examples scream at us from the charnel house of history. And none of these vicious, premeditated mass murderers spent a single hour in a jail cell.

What does this tell you of the nature of things? In truth, weren't those four kids at Kent State in fact liquidated because they were exercising their alleged Constitutional rights? What does this reveal about the true nature of the state? Of America? Of the Constitution?

My Lai, Kent State, Hiroshima, Philadelphia, Tulsa, Jackson State, Rosewood, Haymarket Square, Waco, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fort Pillow, Attica. Place names of mass murder. Blood drops falling into a vast red-stained bucket, a bucket called America.

Ona Move! Long live John Africa!
From death row, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.


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