Photo: 17-year-old Ricardo Ramirez (left) and a memorial of candles and flowers after his death (right)
By Audrey Hellenbrecht
On November 10 two suspects, 23-year-old Joshua Gomez and an unidentified 16-year-old, were arrested in connection to the murder of 17-year-old Ricardo Ramirez. Ramirez was shot and killed the previous day while walking home from his second day of work. He was the 11th person killed in Boyle Heights this year alone.
Even before these suspects were arrested, with no apparent evidence for their claim, police wasted no time in declaring the incident to be gang-related. Ramirez’s family and girlfriend both maintain that he had no affiliations with any gang and would not have been involved with anything gang related – he was an innocent bystander. This common practice of claiming gang activity in the neighborhoods of the working class and oppressed nations is a tactic used by the police to justify increased criminalization and police presence.
Boyle Heights sits at an intersection of various contradictions, poverty, national oppression, and encroaching gentrification. It has a rich history of Chicano and working-class resistance, and today revolutionary organizations continue the fight against class enemies. Ramirez’s world was one of struggle and hardship, of resilience and danger. He was caught in the crossfire of class oppression.
As enforcers of bourgeois law and order, the police do not blame the poor conditions that their capitalist masters need to maintain in order to keep a reserve army of labor. Instead, they blame “bad elements” in the form of gangs. By focusing on individual “bad” actors, they obscure the conditions that produced them.
The police don’t stop at pursuing gangs, but use this pursuit to criminalize entire working-class communities like Boyle Heights. They will make claims that they are cleaning up the community and making it safer even as they brutalize working-class people and enforce gentrification.
The police cannot stop killings like these from happening, and their response to them will always be to further oppress communities like Boyle Heights and brutalize their inhabitants. Any claims they make to fight “gang violence” or “clean up” neighborhoods are merely a pretext for their own violent agenda.