- Amnesty International condemns racial profiling (FCN, 09/30/2004)
- The challenge of policing police brutality (FCN, 02/09/2004)
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – Former New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once said you can hear a lot by listening. On October 22, people in 30 U.S. cities and Israel asked law enforcement officials, the media and the public to listen to what people had to say about the rise in racial profiling and police brutality. The occasion was the ninth annual “National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
“I guess people are asking why have we been marching for nine years. Well, it’s because our goal is to stop police brutality and we won’t stop marching until police brutality stops,” offered Katherine Lee, national organizer for the October 22nd Coalition, sponsors of the day of protest.
“In fact, we had some new cities participate this year,” Ms. Lee said, noting that Chattanooga, Tenn. is new, reporting several police shootings this year, the latest one within the last couple of weeks. “Louisville, Ky. just came aboard. They report 11 police shootings.”
In New York City, approximately 300 people gathered in Union Square, according to Steve Yit, a New York-based organizer for the National Day of Protest. There is a nationwide epidemic of police brutality and repression, organizers for the October 22nd Coalition stated in a press release announcing their call to action. This year’s focus was on the parallels between what is happening in Iraq and Palestine, and what is happening in neighborhoods in New York City, Chicago, Ill., Phoenix, Ariz., Chattanooga, Tenn. and San Francisco, Calif.
“The current attacks on Muslims, Arabs and South Asian immigrants–mandatory registrations, preemptive arrests, indefinite detentions, secret trials–should be seen as the latest addition to racial profiling,” the release said.
“We have a lot of work to do in getting the word out that police brutality, racial profiling and police repression of civil rights has escalated. In New York and New Jersey, 101 people have been killed by police under suspicious circumstances since 9/11,” Mr. Yit said.
Ms. Lee said that there was also a growing problem with police repression in the San Francisco Bay area. The October 22nd Coalition published 45 names of those killed by police in the Bay Area since 9/11.
Renee Wilson, director of People Against Police Violence (PAPV), said, “Tell the world about police repression in Pittsburgh.” On March 9, a Pittsburgh radio station aired a forum on police brutality. An official from the county coroner’s office said 25 citizens, almost all Blacks, had been killed by police, almost all White, in the last eight years. The official said the racial breakdown was problematic. Blacks constitute only 12 percent of Pittsburgh’s total population.
“We started PAPV because the grassroots had no voice,” Ms. Wilson said.
According to Ms. Wilson, 115 people gathered at Freedom’s Corner in the Hill District and marched to the Allegheny Court House on Oct. 22.
“We asked the marchers to remember Michael Ellerbe, who was 12 years old when the State Police shot him in the back on December 24, 2002. In another Pittsburgh case, on Oct. 9, the parents of a 26-year-old Black man filed a complaint with federal authorities concerning the death of their son. They asked for an investigation into possible violations of their son’s civil rights, when he was gunned down by three Pittsburgh Housing Authority police officers.
“It takes a lot of courage to march these days. People know the police, because of Homeland Security, document their every move. So many people have been intimidated, but we noticed this year that, even with the smaller numbers, we had reached a broader audience,” Ms. Lee observed. “People are realizing that they are not as safe today as they were before 9/11,” she added.
Zaki Baruti, co-chairman of the St. Louis, Mo.-based Coalition Against Police Crime and Repression, said 100 people gathered at a park across the street from City Hall, on Oct. 22, to show solidarity in their plan to “fight back.”
“We’ve had several high-profile police shootings in the last few years,” Mr. Baruti said. He said that activists had been fighting for community control of St. Louis’ police department. “We face daily police terror here, because the officers have been allowed to act as judge, jury and executioner. We are also demanding a civilian overview board,” he added.
In Washington, D.C., a gathering in the Plymouth Congregational Church featured speeches by Sabrina Green of MOVE and Ray Perry Bey of the Hampton, Va.-based United Front for Justice, according to Ayo Wandy Kendi of the African American Holiday Association (AAHA).