Jackson, Mississippi’s Black mayor is celebrated as a “radical” in some quarters, but his cops kill, maim and abuse Black people just like police forces everywhere in the US.
“The mayor’s reform efforts are meant to reconcile Black toilers with the Black led police state.”
Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba recently issued an executive order announcing paltry reforms. These reforms have been proposed to quell rumblings of discontent among Jacksonians who realize that police state violence is endemic in Jackson. At least eight people have been killed with impunity by Jackson Police Depatment since Lumumba took office in 2017. The reforms offered by the Lumumba regime add insult to the suffering and represents the self-confessed bankruptcy of the municipal government led by Mayor Lumumba.
There is nothing more preposterous in pursuit of justice than allowing oppressive regimes to admit they need to reform the terms of how they coerce and kill without admission of guilt, trial, or consequences for those who committed crimes. These “reforms” reveal that the previous terms of abuse were unacceptable and functioned under unjust law. Now Mayor Lumumba proposes to “make” police coercion, brutality, and killing “great again.” He understands that his trial has begun in the court of public opinion.
“At least eight people have been killed with impunity by Jackson Police Depatment since Lumumba took office in 2017.”
When you reform something you modify institutions that you believe are basically good and legitimate. Good and legitimate the police are not. The Mayor has told Jackson he is “against police brutality, not the police.” Nonetheless, he admits indirectly that the police have brutalized and killed people in Jackson. Neither he nor the activists that work for the government will “say their names.” Mayor Lumumba is not against police brutality. Brutality is the way that police uphold property relations and ensure that the government he presides over maintains its monopoly on violence.
How can Jackson be offered “better” policing without acknowledging all the facts of what was damaging and degenerate in the past under the Lumumba administration? Why does Jackson policing need to improve if the brazen mayor felt it was satisfactory previously?
The mayor’s reform efforts are meant to reconcile Black toilers with the Black led police state. This tactic of subverting ordinary people’s desire to handle their own judicial affairs in a direct democratic way is not new for Mayor Lumumba. Just as the mayor’s minions sustain “a people’s assembly” subordinate to his will, he doesn’t wish to see the self-directed initiatives in the streets found in Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and New York City come to Jackson. His way to beat ordinary people “to the punch” is by offering reforms that he and others in hierarchical government control.
“Brutality is the way that police uphold property relations.”
Mayor Lumumba employed this tactic in 2018 in response to residents’ calls to release the identities of officers who killed in Jackson. There were calls for a mass assembly to allow ordinary people to determine when and how the names of these officers should be released and how they should be punished for their crimes. Instead of letting common people decide, he created a task force and appointed government bureaucrats, professionals, and his political cronies. He also appointed JPD officers -- including Eric Stanton, who shot at Reginald Harper in South Jackson at the Sunshine Food Mart on Terry Road.
The mayor has the unmitigated gall to propose a civilian complaint review process that he wants to control from behind the curtain. While across the country the discussion is on what terms to defund, dismantle, or abolish the police. The Mayor always brings a cup of water to a raging house fire after initially denying the house was ablaze.
Like in 2018, Mayor Lumumba and his lackeys are depending on us to settle for his false solutions. We should not. Instead, we should organize our own judicial affairs and ensure that we have the power to enforce them on our own authority.
“The Mayor always brings a cup of water to a raging house fire after initially denying the house was ablaze.”
The arrogance of the Mayor is marked by executive orders that speak with a lot of “whereas, whereas…” “be it resolved,” “what we have done,” and “what we’re doing now.” Everybody knows the Mayor is running scared and has not done anything. He believes all can be won with just talk.
During the national uprising in multiple cities he held a press conference with a donation of children’s books from Disney. Does he think that Jackson is his “magic kingdom?”
He attempts to ameliorate the harm caused by the police state he directs by invoking his social identity and saying “as a black man” he understands. Mayor Lumumba is a phony who likes to pretend that his social identity means he has had the same experiences as the Black toilers in Jackson who have been maimed and killed by JPD. Ordinary people should tell the mayor to sell his “once upon a time when I was a Black man” stories to Disney.
The power of ordinary people that made their oppressors retreat across America was not a result of African clothing, drum beating, lighting candles and pouring libation to the ancestors. It did not emerge from memories of slavery. Rather, it was a consciousness of what is wrong with post-civil rights, post- black power America where there are black mayors and police chiefs in cities throughout the country. Jacksonians, whose voices have not yet been heard, see the pattern and are planning their next steps.
The Mayor proposes to prohibit JPD officers from utilizing chokeholds and shooting at moving vehicles. Such a proposal is asinine. It infers that officers do not know the deadly nature of these practices after countless working-class Blacks have been killed utilizing these tactics under his watch and throughout the country.
“The Mayor is running scared and has not done anything.”
How Crystaline Barnes was shot and killed by JPD officers as she drove in her vehicle parallels how Sean Bell was killed in a similar fashion in 2006 by NYPD. JPD Officer Myron Smith’s choking of a Black man days before George Floyd was choked to death by police officers in Minneapolis, could have been Jackson’s own Eric Garner.
Municipal governments throughout the U.S. previously enacted policies that prohibit certain deadly practices by police that mayors, including Lumumba, presided over. A recent report by National Public Radio found that bans on neck restraints in some of the nation’s largest police departments have proven ineffective. Even where bans on chokeholds had been put into place, police utilized a different method to murder and maim. These reforms are nothing more than an attempt by Mayor Lumumba to pacify the demands of commoners for justice in Jackson. 
Mayor Lumumba’s executive order “requires officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers.” Does Mayor Lumumba think that the multitudes are not aware of the “thin blue line” where officers cover the slaughter and terror of their colleagues as an unspoken policy? Does the mayor think that we are “out to lunch?”
“Myron Smith could have been Jackson’s own Eric Garner.”
The fact that “reforms” must be made by the mayor publicly exposes the ethical bankruptcy of JPD and policing as an institution. The only reason reforms were proposed, besides public relations purposes, is that JPD has an entrenched culture of turning a blind eye to the evils committed by fellow officers. How else could officers get away with having sex with and soliciting teenaged girls while on patrol?
Confession of sins, as a process of repairing ethics in society, can only possibly bring about peace and reconciliation where first transparent documentation of the terms of murder and mayhem are exposed to the light. Promises never to behave in such a manner again – Mayor Lumumba’s regime did not do this nor admit wrongdoing explicitly -- can only be taken seriously if those who molest and administer abuse step down and disavow holding the reins of power and authority to take away life.
Mayor Lumumba’s election should be recalled, and his Black led police state should be dismantled -- I did not say defunded -- immediately for killing eight Black people.
Adofo Minka is an attorney in Jackson and president of the International Association of Black Lawyers
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