On Monday night, people gathered for a candlelight vigil in New York City for Jordan Neely, an unhoused Black man and subway performer who was murdered last week on the F train. Neely was experiencing a mental health episode and was strangled by white vigilante and ex-Marine Daniel Penny. The NYPD responded with brutal violence and arrested more than ten people, including a prominent photojournalist and a man whom police slammed during arrest, causing a bloody face. The cops also targeted those doing jail support for the arrestees later that night.
Similar police violence was wrought against protestors on Saturday. 13 people were arrested at a subway protest where protesters went onto the tracks and stopped trains for 20 minutes. A few days later, the NYPD released names and pictures of people they are trying to identify in order to apprehend them and charge them with “Crime of terrorism: tamper,” “unlawful interference with a train,” and trespassing. This, while Neely’s murderer continues to walk free.
As we can see, the police do not exist to keep us safe — they protect a murderer while brutally repressing and arresting those standing up against reactionary violence. These are the police that former NYPD officer Mayor Eric Adams wants to keep giving more and more money to while pushing for budget cuts in education and libraries, among other services. We are constantly told that we must vote for the “lesser-evil” Democrats, yet this is the violence that they oversee in Democrat-run cities across the United States.
Daniel Penny’s violence cannot be looked at in isolation. A big part of Eric Adams’s tenure in office has consisted of attacks on unhoused people. In December, he announced a plan for the police to forcibly remove people from public areas and involuntarily detain them due to mental health crises. Multiple violent sweeps of encampments have occurred under his watch, carried out by none other than the armed wing of the state, along with removing unhoused people from the subways. Despite this, Mayor Adams had the audacity to say that “Jordan Neely’s life mattered” and his death “never should have happened.”
Neely’s murder is also consistent with police repression throughout the country to prevent a resurgence of the Back Lives Matter movement like in 2020. We saw extreme repression in Atlanta against the Cop City protests, including the brutal police murder of Tortuguita, a land defender. In Memphis, we saw concessions to keep protesters at bay in the wake of the police murder of Tyre Nichols.
Housing, food, and healthcare, including mental healthcare, are human rights and we must fight against the capitalist system that ensures profits for a few while many are houseless, while houses sit empty for rich landlords and developers to speculate on as housing costs keep increasing. We must fight against the racist and violent police, who exist to uphold capitalism and protect private property. Our private, for-profit healthcare system ensures that those who need adequate care the most are unable to get it. Justice for Jordan Neely!