Chiewelthap Mariar, a 26-year-old Sudanese refugee and worker at the Seaboard Foods meatpacking plant in Guymon, Oklahoma, was shot and killed by police on January 9. According to testimony given to The Guardian by a fellow worker, Mariar was fired from his position but ordered to work the rest of his shift. This worker claims that the supervisor who fired Mariar confronted him on the shop floor, then called police. Seaboard Foods has neither confirmed nor denied these claims.
Oklahoma police responded to the call, claiming that Mariar then produced a knife and “began advancing on officers.” Police responded by shooting and killing the 26-year-old worker, and are labeling this murder as an “officer-involved shooting”.
However, the worker who witnessed the confrontation claimed that Mariar was only holding a company-issued band-cutter, which does not indicate any violent intent. This worker filmed parts of the incident on his cell phone, and claimed he was fired for doing so. “He had a company-issued band-cutter in his hand,” this unnamed worker told The Guardian. “When the police got to the plant, the guy was already working, minding his own business.”
Seaboard Foods released a statement following the murder, “Providing our employees with a safe work environment and their well-being is extremely important to us. Following repeated attempts to bring calm to the situation, we requested assistance from the Guymon Police as we felt it was in the best interest for everyone’s safety. Following the incident, operations were ceased for the remainder of the evening and the following day, and we provided in-person counseling services for employees throughout the week in addition to ongoing phone counseling services available 24 hours seven days a week.”
But according to the anonymous Seaboard worker interviewed by The Guardian, the bosses were completely indifferent to the murder that their workers had just witnessed on the shop floor. “I worked in maintenance. All they had us do was cover the scene with plastic, and we proceeded to finish what was on the production line,” said the worker. “This company fired me for recording the truth they were trying to brush under the mat. They never asked me if I was OK. It was my first time seeing a guy get killed—and then I get fired.”
The Seaboard Foods plant has come under fire in the recent past for numerous COVID-19 infections of meatpacking workers, which claimed the lives of six workers as of April 2021.
Police violence continues to be a second pandemic in the United States. 2022 recorded the most police killings in US history at 1,176 people murdered by police. 2023 has thus far been marked by the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers, and the police shooting of Tortuguita, an Atlanta “forest defender” who was fighting to prevent the police foundation from building a massive urban warfare training facility on Atlanta forest land.
“Am I scared of the state? Pretty silly not to be. I’m a brown person. I might be killed by the police for existing in certain spaces. [But] fear is the mind killer … you can’t let the fear stop you from doing things, from living, from existing, from resisting.”
– Tortuguita pic.twitter.com/RodTldwQGT
— Defend the Atlanta Forest (@defendATLforest) January 23, 2023
The union that represents workers at the Seaboard plant in Guymon, UFCW Local 2, released a statement following Mariar’s death, calling for a “federal investigation of this horrific incident by the Guymon city police.”
“To think Mr. Mariar and his family came to this country to escape the violence and strife of Sudan, settled in Guymon, Oklahoma to contribute to the economy of our country, and died senselessly on the shop floor,” said UFCW District Union Local 2 President, Martin Rosas.