Police Are the Mass Killers We Should Be Worried About

Pax Ahimsa Gethen
4 min readFeb 15, 2023
Activist Benjamin Bac Sierra speaks at a podium on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. Next to him, another activist wears a shirt reading “Justice for Alex Nieto — Strike Out Police Brutality”. Another holds a banner partially reading “Justice 4 All”, with an image of the police chief crossed out in red. Another holds a sign reading in part,  “¡6 tiros por detrás! #6shots2theback #sfpdCOVERup #justice4amilcar”.
Benjamin Bac Sierra speaks at a podium alongside other Latino and Black activists at a San Francisco rally against police violence, March 2016. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Two months into the year 2023, mass shootings continue to be everyday occurrences in the United States, with no end in sight. Every one of these events is a tragedy. But an even bigger tragedy, to my mind, is that hundreds of legal state executions are happening every year in our homes and streets. The executioners are the police, and people of color are their primary victims.

In the U.S., more people are killed by police each year than in mass shootings. Our police have killed more than 1100 people each year since 2020. And these are just the killings we know about, thanks to Mapping Police Violence, who estimates that Black people are three times more likely as white people to be killed by the police. This non-profit also states that 98% of police killings from 2013–2022 have resulted in no criminal charges.

Activists hold signs and banners on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, with the images and names of Amilcar Perez Lopez, Alex Nieto, and Mario Woods.
Activists hold signs and banners on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, with the images and names of Amilcar Perez Lopez, Alex Nieto, and Mario Woods. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Though politics are certainly a factor when it comes to addressing gun violence, police shootings are not a partisan phenomenon. My photos above are from a rally against police violence in March 2016, during the Obama administration. The Black and Latino victims depicted— Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez Lopez, and Alex Nieto — were all shot and killed by police in San Francisco, a (supposedly) progressive city led by Democrats.

Personally, I feel that policing in the United States is beyond reform. The problem isn’t that the system is “broken”; it’s functioning exactly as intended: Protecting property and capitalism while killing and imprisoning marginalized people with impunity.

I am more afraid of being shot by a cop than by a robber. This is not because I am a criminal or a “bad person”, but because I am Black and trans. Before you accuse me of being an armchair activist, please consider that between racism, transphobia, and gun violence, I am often literally afraid to leave my home.

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, pacifist. Pronouns: they/them/their. funcrunch.org, patreon.com/funcrunch