‘Who do you call when cops murder?’


The Police are Not Police –

From Forced ‘Rectal Feeding’ to Random Murder

In the Disunited States of Amnesia


illustration: Elena Caldera


“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival….”
…………..Frederick Douglass


“…the on’y way a fella can keep his decency is by takin’ a sock at a cop. They’re working on our decency”.”
…………. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath




“Y’all just can’t front on us niggas no more
Police can’t keep pulling these triggers
Won’t go for that shit much longer…”
                  Mick Jenkins, ‘Sunkissed’




Who do you call when cops murder?
What do you say to the police?
‘Excuse me officer, forgive the intrusion,
‘But just when will the killing cease?



‘When will you stop killing the innocent?
‘Stop beating them black and blue?
‘Is this is what you mean by law and order?
‘This dysfunctional, fascistic social glue?

‘The best kind of free society is a co-operative one:
‘Not one that’s kept in place by force;
‘One whose interactions are egalitarian and peaceful
‘So there’s no need for a Gestapo on a horse.’


police 2


When Howard Zinn [1] was demonstrating
Against the Vietnam War
He assumed people were free to speak, and write
And to gather together without feeling fear.

“After all it was in the Constitution,
“It was in the Bill of Rights.
“For we’re a democracy” he’d say to himself –
Until the police knocked out his lights.

He was awakened from the American Dream
By “a painful lump on the side of my head”,
The police were laying into the protesters with clubs
And then they left some of them for dead.

“I was astonished, and bewildered,” said Zinn
On finding himself concussed.
Having believed the police were there to protect him
He was now decidedly nonplussed.


“The state police,” he discovered, “weren’t neutral referees
“But on the side of the rich and powerful.”
“Free speech?” Zinn queried, “you just try it and you’ll find
“The police regard that as dangerously liberal.”

“They will be there with their horses, and their clubs –
“There with their guns to stop you.” And then Zinn,
A former believer in the self-correcting nature of the US
Became a radical, as he said, “from that moment on.”

Zinn believed that something fundamental was wrong:
The American state had a personality disorder –
That it needed not just new Presidents or new laws
But to be torn root and branch from its torpor.

The existence of poverty amidst exorbitant wealth;
The picking on minorities again and again,
Saw Howard using his platform as an historian to say,
“You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.”

For on that moving train the police guarded the status quo;
Upheld a racist plutocracy with a global reach;
Killed blacks with impunity, and institutionalized race hate
Using State-sponsored murder to kill ‘free speech’.
The world’s policeman delights in extreme methods of control
And, to US Presidents, human rights just slow things down:
When George W. Bush was briefed on a detainee’s torture, he snapped,
“Who authorized putting him on pain medication?” giving a frown.


The President relished hearing how his officials, overseeing interrogations
At Bagram and at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base,
Used childish euphemisms for the prisoners’ beatings and electrocution
And he liked their calling torture, “a little bit of smacky-face”.



Grinning, he’d sign an executive order allowing the CIA “to use harsher methods”
And his Presidential successor refused to prosecute his crimes.
“We tortured some folks,” President Obama said, blithely implying
That it’s all above board, and he dared mention no one by name.




Instead he insists that such institutions are maintaining US values
Though no one knows what American values are meant:
For no Americans are ever prosecuted for perpetrating US wars
And certainly it’s against the national character to repent.




Vice President Cheney said he was not concerned that their torture program
Had ensnared several victims of mistaken identity.
He said he had no regrets. “I’d do it again in a minute,” he’d boast with a shrug
For torture and murder have long been US policy.



In his seeking to expand the nation-state’s territory,
President Washington would have his genocidal say:
“No other remedy remains, but to extirpate, utterly if possible,”
By which he meant natives in the white settlers’ way.

At Sand Creek, during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency,
Unarmed Cheyenne and Arapaho were massacred.
“All manner of depredations were inflicted on their persons,”
“They were scalped, their brains knocked out; they were mutilated.”

“The men used their knives”, recounted an eyewitness.
“They ripped open women, clubbed little children, and knocked them in the head
“With their guns, they beat their brains out, and they mutilated
“Their bodies in every sense of the word.”

The US mind-set has been feeding ever since on fantasy enemies
Beginning with their founding hero Thomas Jefferson:
A slave-owning white supremacist who abused black children;
Who’d rape 15 year olds and whip those aged just ten.

Just as all imperialists have enjoyed blood sports
The US Empire’s apparatchiks enjoy torture:
It’s the coward’s way to assert his superiority,
‘I’ve got you in my grasp, now suffer!’

President Woodrow Wilson introduced “forced labour” into Haiti
His imperial euphemism for slavery
He judged its political class to be insufficiently compliant,
This racist and disobliging bully.

The US enforcement of “American values” since World War Two
Has resulted in a holocaust of thirty million
And its imperial enforcers, like the CIA, have cost its taxpayers
Millions, and then billions, and then trillions.


But as no politician has ever been tried in the US for their crimes in Vietnam
It’s hard to know what exactly is meant by an “American value”.
For it’s “American interests”, after all, that dominate American foreign policy –
Venal interests that are quite divorced from any notions of virtue.

Visiting the CIA’s HQ President Obama says
“The CIA is fundamental to America’s national security,”
“It is a great honor to be here with the men and women of the CIA”
“For some time I’ve been eager to come out here to Langley

“So I can deliver a simple message to you in person on behalf of the American people:
“Thank you for the freedom that we all cherish.”
But the President’s words paper over the CIA’s role as global torturer
And so justice, if not truth itself, is diminished.

President Obama overlooks the CIA’s barbarous history:
How, for example, they circulated film of an Iranian girl
To show how the Shah’s secret police got prisoners to talk
Through a medieval torture that made your toes curl.


According to the Egyptian journalist, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal,
This film was considered “usefully educational” by the CIA.
And so copies were given to the secret police of all US client states
So they’d learn how to deal with the women sent their way.

Yet President Obama praises C.I.A. officers as “patriots” and he sees
This cabal of torturing patriots as second to none
For, after all, isn’t the CIA the American Empire’s Praetorian Guard
And doesn’t it keep the US Emperor on his throne…?


The CIA has long been home to psychopaths and killers,
Inventing enemies to allow them to promote death.
Take the Cambodian, Nicaraguan, and Vietnamese killing fields,
The CIA’s in on the action as the world takes its last breath.




The CIA has been present in every American intervention
In fifty countries from Afghanistan to Iran
America’s secret police would even tilt the world’s axis
In their efforts to influence world opinion.

And if CIA staff deem that it’s in the interests of the US
To end peoples’ lives whenever they choose,
Then they’ll, “terminate with extreme prejudice”
¬Which is their jargon for their most lethal abuse.



Recently the US Empire’s police force held a Torture Orgy
In which a hundred prisoners were killed in US lairs:
Of the many thousands detained in US facilities world-wide
Many would find their treatment too much to bear.



There were forced rectal “infusions” and multiple “waterboarding”
Leading to drownings and terminal convulsions;
There were shackled freezings to death, and hanging by the wrists;
There were hooded beatings and mock executions.



CIA officers threatened to harm a detainee’s children
And to “sexually abuse the mother of a detainee”
Then to “cut a detainee’s mother’s throat.” All this from officials
Of the “home of the brave and land of the free.”




During a waterboarding session in a CIA ‘black site’ one detainee
Was “completely unresponsive with bubbles rising
Through his open full mouth.” The fact that detainees had their lives
Ruined and gave up hope altogether was unsurprising.

At a secret prison in Afghanistan know as “the Salt Pit”
Detainees with broken hands or feet
Were forced to stand upright in stress positions for days
With their ankles unkindly chained to concrete.




But the US Administration is uneasy with the word torture
It prefers to say, ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”
Which includes sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours –
Tortures that make people wonder whether they exist.

One prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, was slammed against walls,
Stripped naked, and hung from his wrists.
He was water boarded no less than eighty-three times,
Until he altogether lost the will to resist.

He spent eleven days in a “confinement box” – too small
To straighten his legs and, upon their closing the lid,
Zubaydah was told it was his coffin, and his CIA interrogators
Did their best to destroy him and they nearly did.

The motives of the CIA torturers were mercenary:
CIA contractors were paid $1,400 extra in cash
For each waterboarding, which gave them an incentive
To claim the torture was more successful than it was.

All in all, CIA contractors were paid more than $80 million
For their work between 2001 and 2009 as torturers.
A single contractor carrying out torture could earn anywhere
From $500,000 to $700,000 per year in tax-free retainers.

The torturers seemed not to notice a conflict of interest:
That those who were paid huge sums to torture
Were the same people who judged the torture’s effectiveness,
And who recommended that the practice continue…

The money piles up as they place prisoners in stress positions;
The money piles up as they deprive them of food;
And they strip them naked and risk their dying of hypothermia;
The money piles up after each physical assault.




The money piles up after mock executions and mock burials
The money piles up as guards feed off strife
And as they prize open buttocks to pump nutrient enemas
Into their captive’s bodies to further prolong life.



The Third Reich would keep the concentration camp guards drunk
And, in the Fourth Reich, US guards are rewarded with money
And the more they torture their detainees, the more they receive
So they can be bribed by their own greed to be torture junkies…



A US marine scout sniper unit posing with neo-Nazi SS lightning bolts
in Sangin province, Afghanistan.

To blind prisoners with lights then darkness to disorientate
So that detainees no longer know night from day:
To dislocate them psychologically; to loosen their defence mechanisms
So they say whatever they think they’re expected to say.

When their food supply is manipulated, when their sleep patterns
Are disrupted and when the temperature is constantly changed
Then the hippocampus is damaged and memory can be destroyed
So that the detainee is traumatised and then deranged.

These are the techniques the President knew were being practiced
By his spooky police force for whom he has nothing but praise.
Since the US President even boasts about his “being good at killing” [2]
His CIA’s torture orgies cannot come as a surprise.




Rectal feeding is anal rape, but perhaps it’s emblematic
Of a country that violates the world with its excreta –
With fast food from tortured animals and with radioactive waste,
Hell-bent on waging an anti-earth vendetta.




In its psychotic desire to leave its mark upon everything
The US once even thought of nuking the moon:
Furious at the Soviets’ Sputnik beating them into space
The Pentagon’s cold warriors would turn green.

With an equally lunatic mindset vice president Cheney
Was challenged as to the merits of anal rape.
He insisted that it was done “for medical reasons”
And refused to consider the policy a mistake.

Though we now know that torture’s useless
As a method of gaining intelligence:
It’s used for the dominant power’s amusement,
Or solely for the purpose of revenge.

But the global police state the US is constructing
Has been torturing for century after century.
Brutality has always been a staple of U.S. military intervention,
And it’s been built into its imperial agenda.

During a massacre of Native Americans at Sand Creek, Colorado
An eye witness heard one man say
That he’d “cut out a woman’s private parts to exhibit them on a stick.”
There’s the same mindset now as back in the day.

The world’s lawless policeman toys with nuking Iran
Just as they once thought of nuking China.
At the same time they’re tempted by the depraved idea
Of conquering their old enemy Russia.

A warmongering dinosaur with genocide in its blood
Wanders the world’s stage sniffing out enemies.
It leaves in its wake a ravaged landscape, and corpses
Killed by America’s stealing their resources.




The US police force is militarized and, very simply,
The US police believe that they’re at war.
At war with the indigenous people in the precincts –
Bad news if you’re black and you’re poor.




US police killed twice the amount of people (111)
In one month, namely in March 2015,
Than the entire UK police have killed since 1900 (52),
Yet despite this statistic being so obscene

No one in the United States has the political will
To point out that US policing’s redundant –
As evidenced by the crime rate during police strikes
For when people police themselves, it plummets.

During 2016 the US police have shot 566
Exclusively black victims dead –
Seized upon for a faulty tail-light,
If you’re black you’re shot in the head.

A militarised police force has established
Police states in poor black communities.
Laboratories where the inhabitants
Are stripped of their rights with immunity.

The Ku Klux Klan killed 50,000 black Americans
Across the South after the Civil War,
And now a predominantly white police force
Continues a war on the black poor.

Alton Sterling was shot while pinned to the ground
After being stopped for selling a CD.
For his having had a broken tail light on his car
Five bullets were fired into Philando Castile.

His girl friend Diamond Reynolds said of Philando Castile –
Who drove a car while black, and got a citation –
“He was the quietest most laid back person you would ever meet.”
“Nothing in his body language said intimidation.”


Tamir Rice aged 12 was gunned down by officers
Who were scared of his holding a toy.
For selling cigarettes Eric Garner was in a chokehold
From which he would slowly die.



New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked Garner to death after he confronted him
for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. He faced no criminal charges.


Freddie Gray’s spine was eighty per cent severed.
Walter Lamer Scott was shot from behind.
Darrien Hunt, dressed as a samurai, was murdered,
Like Michael Brown, of Ferguson, who was unarmed.


police-3illustration: Elena Caldera


As Eric Harris, shot in the back, lay struggling and dying,
He told surrounding officers, “I’m losing my breath.”
One officer yelled back at Harris, “Fuck your breath!”
Then insisted the dying man be handcuffed. [3]




The personification of America, Uncle Sam, was named
After Samuel Wilson who sold meat to the military.
In those days Uncle Sam was a Klansman and perhaps he still is
For he still deals in dead flesh and is reactionary.

A world without empathy rejects as an absurdity
The call to love your neighbor as yourself.
The US divides the world into winners and losers,
And it celebrates power and wealth –

But the risk of such a murderous mindset is
That out of the blue a lone wolf
Will decide to correct the imbalance
And take a rifle down from the shelf.




Micah Xavier Johnson shot five Dallas policemen
At a rally for ‘Black Lives Matter’.
He wrote ‘Righteous Blood’ before he was caught
By a robot bomb – his body shattered.

Another army veteran, Gavin Long, posted videos
Urging African Americans “to fight back`’
He shot a policeman in Baton Rouge then declared
He was “affiliated with justice” for those who are black.

Beforehand he’d posted this, “Violence is not THE answer
“(It’s a answer) but at what point do you stand up
“So that your people don’t become the Native Americans.
“EXTINCT?” He was psyching himself up for an event.

“Europeans can celebrate their Independence Day
“When they got free from their oppressors –
“But if Africans do the same as George Washington,
“Then that’s wrong for them to be aggressors?”

When these veterans of a militarized US Empire
Come home from Iraq and see their own kind
Treated as an enemy by a militarized police force
Some react with anger, or go out of their mind.

The Chicago community activist Jessica Disu
Now calls for the abolition of the police:
“They were founded as a ‘slave patrol’
“And that’s how they dispense justice.




“The institution began with slavery in America
“And it needs to be scrapped entirely:
“De-militarize the police, disarm the police.
“We need a solution for the community.”



A protester in Baton Rouge being pinned down by police officers.
Photograph: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters


But the plantation owners of Wall Street
Still have their property protected
By the slave patrols who serve capitalism;
Who kill the poor and the disaffected.




The NYPD is a private army.
It’s the largest one on earth,
And in the land of the free it’s licenced
To dispense a guilt-free death.


Heathcote Williams







[1] Howard Zinn, anarchist historian, and author of A People’s History of the United States, Harper & Row, 1980

[2] Quoted in their book on the US presidential election of 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, entitled Double Down: Game Change 2012, Penguin, 2013

[3] Brittney Cooper, ‘Blood money, killer cops: How privatization is funding the racist logic of America’s police’, Salon, April 15, 2015


By Heathcote Williams

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