On Monday, Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old Black man who performed as a Michael Jackson impersonator, was having a mental health crisis on the F train in New York City. According to bystanders, he declared he was hungry, thirsty, and tired, and that he didn’t care if he went to jail that night. He was loud but didn’t touch anyone on the train. Instead of being met with compassion, he was murdered.
A white man whose name is not being released — we only know that he was a former Marine — put Jordan Neely in a chokehold, strangling him for 15 minutes as another person held him down. Jordan Neely died from the chokehold. His murderer was not charged; he was promptly released from police custody.
Neely was executed for being poor, Black, and disabled. Even as crime in New York continues to go down, copaganda and media reporting against the homeless and people with disabilities is increasing. Neely should not have been hungry, thirsty, and tired. He should have had a home with food. He should have had the medication and mental health support he needed. And his killer should not get away with murder.
Eric Adams, current New York City mayor and former cop, has been calling for people with mental health disabilities to be hospitalized, creating anti-homeless panic and calling for more cops on the subway even as crime in the city has gone down. While hospitalizing those who need help sounds like a quick fix, it only empowers the police to brutalize with more impunity, adds more money to private hospitals which essentially warehouse without adequate treatment, and burdens the understaffed workers. Solutions for this issue are free housing, increased wages, and full employment, as well as training workers — not police — to help people with disabilities and those in crisis.
By releasing the killer without charge and protecting him by not releasing his name, the police deputized him, and the capitalist media is complicit. We should denounce the police as agents who empower killer vigilantes like the man who strangled Jordan Neely. This murderer must be exposed, not coddled.
The fight against poverty and racism is a fight for socialism. Housing, food, healthcare, and mental healthcare are human rights and must be fought for by the working class and oppressed sectors. Republicans call for more police, Democrats call for bankrolling private hospitals and more money for police. From Eric Adams in New York to Karen Bass in Los Angeles, the Democrats have no answers for the unhoused because they are both political parties of the landlords, capitalists and cops.
Mental health workers must fight for these demands and, along with the community, be the ones making decisions about how to take care of mentally disabled people. Subway workers and their unions, too, must speak out against this racist violence and join the call in New York city for care, not Cops: for increased mental health services, more funding for schools, and more housing, rather than bloated police budgets.
Jordan Neely brought joy to subway riders by impersonating Michael Jackson. He was having a mental health crisis brought on by poverty, and we must wage a fight against poverty for him and those killed by police or vigilantes. Food, housing healthcare and mental health care specifically are human rights. The fight against poverty will only be successful if it is a declaration of war against the landlords, capitalists, and cops. Workers must take charge over mental health services and use the power of political organization, unions and tenant unions with the method of the strike for these demands to be met.
Justice for Jordan Neely!