When nine people at a Black church in South Carolina were brutally murdered by a white supremacist, the killer was taken into custody unharmed. When seventeen high schoolers at a school in Parkland, Florida were gunned down, the killer was taken into custody unharmed. Yet on Friday, August 25th, Cincinnati police fired 16 shots into 20 year-old James Clay in his own home for a robbery and assault that occurred two days prior.

The police immediately began drumming up public support for the killing by lying and claiming that Clay had shot an officer during the altercation; only later did it come out that the officer had been shot by his own colleague. In a press conference about the shooting, they tried to boil the incident down to two small windows of time. They played the video of Clay assaulting the attendant at Boost Mobile, and then body camera footage from two days later of Clay pulling out a pellet gun (which they originally deceitfully claimed was a real gun) after the officers invaded his apartment at a Talbert House property in East Walnut Hills.

If we are to condemn the gun violence that occurred this past week at Fifth Third, we must also condemn gun violence committed by police. Clay’s death was entirely avoidable. Assault and robbery does not warrant a death sentence, and a city and police department that were more concerned about justice would have taken measures to ensure a different outcome. The fact that he lived at a Talbert House property should have been indication enough that mental health issues factored into his actions. A social worker or case worker with experience working with persons with mental illness should have been the first to be dispatched to approach him. Talbert House staff should never have opened the door to his private apartment without having done anything to put him at ease or explain the situation. Police entered in an immediately provocative manner and escalated the situation. Because of this inept and inhumane action on the part of the police department, he was shot dead in his own home, while posing no immediate threat to anyone.

We live in a city and country in which the institution of policing is designed to keep Black and working class communities subordinate. The police under this current system therefore cannot and do not have the moral authority to decide who lives or dies. We unequivocally reject the argument that officers have a license to kill anyone who draws a weapon, especially when they themselves provoked the escalation. We also reject the implicit argument put forth by the police that because he had committed a crime, he deserved to be murdered. Dehumanizing the victim is a common tactic used by police forces to justify their brutality and quell public unrest. In the past several years in Cincinnati alone it was used against Sam Dubose; it was used against Jawari Porter; it was used against Quandavier Hicks; it was used against Paul Gaston; and we refuse to let it be used against James Clay.

Mass Action for Black Liberation demands:

  • That the officers who fired shots into Clay immediately be fired and indicted.
  • That the city of Cincinnati pay for all funeral expenses for Clay.
  • That Talbert House issue an apology to the family of Clay and pledge to protect the safety of clients even when they are being approached by police