On the first day of Mental Health Awareness month, a houseless man was killed. His name was Jordan Neely.
Neely, 30, was murdered by a fellow passenger while riding an “F” train in New York. Daniel Penny, a 24 year old Marine and the alleged perpetrator, killed Neely by putting him in a chokehold for 15 minutes. His reason for doing so was because Neely was causing a disturbance, begging for food and water and throwing down his jacket.
So, Penny restrained and killed Neely, with the help of two other passengers. As of May 5, no charges have been filed against Penny, and some politicians reacted to the news.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “Jordan Neely was murdered. But bc Jordan was houseless and crying for food in a time when the city is raising rents and stripping services to militarize itself while many in power demonize the poor, the murderer gets protected w/ passive headlines + no charges. It’s disgusting.”
Civil rights leaders also joined the call to action for charges to be brought against Penny. In a statement, The National Action Network, said, “The National Action Network demands the District Attorney and police investigate this horrific incident as a potential case of manslaughter – if not murder. Thirty years ago, I fought the Bernard [sic] Goetz case and we cannot end up back to a place where vigilantism is tolerable.”
The National Action Network was founded in 1991 by Reverend and Civil Rights Leader Al Sharpton. They have become outspoken critics of civil rights violations such as this case. In their statement, they mention Bernhard Goetz, a white vigilante who shot four Black teenagers on a subway in December of 1984.
Goetz was acquitted of murder charges and fined $5,000, according to TIME magazine. However, Neely’s death is not just a reminder of this case; it is also a reminder that white vigilantism is on the rise. In the past few months, there have been several cases of white male vigilantes enacting violence on Black victims.
At a TJ Maxx in California, a bystander physically assaulted alleged shoplifters. On the video, the bystander can be seen punching a woman, pulling her hair, and throwing her into a security checkpoint. At the time of publication, there were no charges filed against the bystander who assaulted the suspected shoplifter.
As with Neely, the video footage of the incident elicited public outcry. For The Root, Candace Mcduffie wrote, “Not only was he not a T.J. Maxx employee, he was also much bigger than the woman he attacked.”
This led Candace to question the man’s intentions behind attacking a Black woman. Prior to this incident in California, there was another example of vigilantism in Kansas City, Missouri.
Ralph Paul Yarl, a 16 year old, survived a gunshot wound to the head after he showed up at the wrong house. Despite going to three houses, Yarl did not get help until he reached the third one. “At the third house, a person inside gave him instructions to raise his arms and lie on the ground. Ralph lost consciousness, and police were called,” NBC News reported.
These three examples of white vigilantism go hand in hand with the rise of the fascist state. Ever since Donald Trump’s 2016 election, white supremacists have been emboldened to enact their wildest fantasies.
Moreover, after Trump’s 2020 loss, white supremacy has gotten worse – from Ron DeSantis’ attacks on Black and trans people to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the political climate has shifted in favor of violent, conservative values. Unless we act now, we are sure to see more people harmed by these brute forces.