We mourn because a little girl is dead for no reason. We mourn because a little girl is dead for terrible reasons. We mourn for Aiyana Jones, because she is yet another victim of police violence, and because as a community, we want to stand in solidarity with her community and her family – and all those who suffer at the hands of the prison-industrial complex in America.
Aiyana was murdered by the police on May 16, 2010, in Detroit, MI during a no-knock raid on her family’s home. Police threw a flash grenade into the first-floor window, where the little girl lay asleep. After police barged into the home, an alleged confrontation took place between Officer Joseph Weekley and Aiyana’s grandmother, during which it is claimed that Weekley’s gun “accidentally” went off, killing the girl. There is video documentation of what transpired, but there are many conflicting accounts at this time – and more information will undoubtedly be revealed in the near future. The lawyer for Aiyana’s family states that the video taken
contradicts the police account of what happened. He states, “What I’m most concerned about is that this videotape demonstrates that police are involved in a cover-up of a child’s killing.” (CBS News) Charles Jones, Aiyana’s father, told reporters that upon rushing into the room where Aiyana was shot, the police forced him to get down on the ground – and he had to put his face in his daughter’s blood.
We do not mourn Aiyana’s death because she was so young and so innocent, though this terrible reality weighs heavy on our hearts. We mourn Aiyana as we mourned Oscar Grant, as we mourned countless individuals whose li
ves have been ended or forever changed by systemic police violence and the profit-driven prison-industrial complex. So while we do mourn this little girl’s murder, we also acknowledge its connection to the larger whole, which encompasses a racist system of perverted “justice” and social control.
In a sick way, Aiyana’s death represents the intersection of police violence and media spectacle – the raid on her family’s home was filmed as part of a reality television show called “The First 48.” The raid that night was being filmed for media consumption, for entertainment purposes. How disturbing and poignant that the video this film crew recorded of the incident reveals the true brutality of police violence, when its original intent was surely to “document” a dramatized story about police heroics, a story constructed for the American audience to bolster societal beliefs about the role of the police.
Though it is clear that in the coming days and weeks, more terrible facts will most likely be coming to light regarding the circumstances surrounding Aiyana’s murder, what is clear at this point is that the police are not giving an honest account of the incident. This should not be surprising. Acts of police violence are often covered up or depicted as tragic, yet solitary, incidents. By no means should we participate in perpetuating this lie. What happened that night to Aiyana and her family was business as usual when it comes to policing. It happened in Detroit, Michigan, last week – but in 2009 it happened in Oakland, California, and it happens in cities around the country – and the world – all the time.
Officer Weekley is on paid administrative leave at this time, as was Officer Tony Pirone of the BART Police following the murder of Oscar Grant.
Members of the Oakland community will gather at 11 am this Sunday, May 23rd, at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland in a silent vigil to mourn a young life lost, a family shattered, and another victim of systemic police violence.