by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
The murder of Javier Ordoñez in the neighbourhood of Villa Luz in Bogotá, Colombia at the hands of two policemen brings again to the fore the issue of police violence and its function in society.
First of all we should be clear that we are talking about a murder, not an accident. They tasered him so many times it was foreseeable that they would kill him. Secondly they did not violate their duty nor did they act against their training on the contrary for much as it annoys those who believe it is an institution with just a few rotten apples.
In the USA the role of the police and the disproportionate murder of black people has twisted the debate and it is presented as one that has only to do with racism, even when the victims are white or the cops are black.
It is true that in the USA the police kill more blacks than whites as a percentage of the population, but even so, they continue to kill whites. What the majority of those whites have in common with the blacks that are killed
by the police is their social class.
Now in Colombia, the police murder a 46-year-old man in the neighbourhood of Villa Luz in Bogotá. A lawyer and engineer who worked as a taxi driver. How can we explain this in the light of the discourse of Black Lives Matter? We can’t, in reality. There is racism in the US police, that is true and it is a very important factor when they act, this is also true. However, police forces are the same the world over, both in the USA and in Colombia.
One of the most problematic police forces is that of South Africa, a black police force of a black government, but still repressive. Or that of Russia, a white force that represses other whites. Now we have to look at the Bogotá police force, which doesn’t just kill youths in demonstrations as happened last year with the murder of Dilan Cruz, but also how they cold-bloodedly executed a man in a neighbourhood of Bogotá. We should be clear that it is not the first time that they have killed nor will it be the last. However, such are the circumstances of the murder that we can discuss it without the usual excuses from the cops and social democrats.
For example, Amnesty International reports various cases of police violence. According to this organisation:
* In 2019 police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, killed 1,810 people – an average of five per day
* In 2019, Kenyan police killed 122 people
* Between October 2019 and January 2020, police in Iraq killed around 600 protesters
* Between 2015 and 2018, over 500 people were fatally shot by the police in Jamaica, and over 300 shot and injured
* Around 1000 people are killed by police in the USA every year. (1)
It is clear from this short list that in some cases, such as Brazil and the USA, racism is a factor and in other countries it is not. Thus the police violence cannot be explained in terms of racism although racism is a factor.
The real explanation has to do with their social function, something Colombian social democrats bowed down to the peace process do not want to acknowledge.
The police are not a neutral force; they represent the armed and repressive wing of the bourgeoisie.
Furthermore, all over the world, the training programmes are similar, with some differences on certain minor procedures. If there are tortures in all the world, murders in all the world, repression of strikes in all the world this cannot be explained through the rotten apples discourse, nor can it be explained through the cheap discourse of reform of police institutions.
We are not opposed to reforms or placing legal, moral or social limits on the police. But the problem is a deep-rooted one.
The newspaper El Tiempo reported the headline Protests and Vandalism following the death in a case of police brutality.(2) The headline is misleading. There were protests, but what they did cannot be described as vandalism, but rather as the people expressing their rage and neither is it a case of police brutality, but rather the murder at the hands of the police.
The youths who have had to suffer the repression and negligence of the state during the Covid 19 confinement express their justified rage in the face of another one, amongst the thousands of abuses by the government’s lackeys. The protests extended throughout the city of Bogotá to neighbourhoods both physically and socially far from Villa Luz like the Soledad. They also extended to other cities, burning police stations in various parts.
Before the Polo Democrático and others plead, we should be clear that those who burn the police stations are nor criminals; the criminals are those in the police stations, the cops, all of them, without exceptions, as the National Police are an organised gang at the service of the state and its repressive policies.
We are not dealing with an isolated murder, we are dealing with an act where the cops comply with their social function, whether the peaceniks or Polo congress representatives like it or not.
I do not know Javier Ordoñez but his death causes me immense sadness and at the same time it brings great joy to see the youths express their rage and indignation in the face of his murder.
Youths who are burning police stations, don’t listen to the congress representatives, don’t listen to the reasonable voices! It was not an accident, it was not the excessive use of force. This was the police doing and complying with their duty as ordered by Congress and the Mayor’s office. When you burn police stations, you are burning the workplace of your mortal class enemies.
- Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/police-brutality/
- El Tiempo (09/11/2020) Protestas y vandalismo tras muerte en caso de brutalidad policial – https://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/investigacion/protestas-y-movilizaciones-en-bogota-