LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – The Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) beating and arrest of Western Regional Minister Tony Muhammad during a community vigil for yet another victim of gang violence August 25 ignited outrage, protests and a host of press conferences by the community, police and city officials.
Numerous community calls about the arrest began pouring in just before sunset, and many residents kept watch at the LAPD’s 77th Street Precinct until he was released at approximately 1:30 a.m. Marcus Muhammad, Ronald Muhammad and Robert Muhammad were arrested while trying to protect Min. Tony from the police assault. All three have been released.
Despite the lengthy wait, approximately 150 supporters and activists gathered at the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper the next day at a press conference to “see about Min. Tony.” They also reiterated their demands for an end to police brutality and gang violence.
“I’m a frontline soldier and I just want to say, my head is bloody, but it is unbowed. I will never bow down to this oppressor. I will never bow down to wickedness no matter what, and I will be on the frontline tonight to continue tending to these grieving mothers,” Min. Tony stressed.
He reiterated the need for a movement in America. “For 40 years, it was Bull Connors and nobody loved Black people. We are at the bottom and we might as well stand the hell up today. To my family and this nation of Black people, I’m with you and I ain’t going nowhere. Power to the people!” he shouted as he pumped his right fist into the air.
The crowd cheered, chanted “Stop today, stop today!” and some began crying when he emerged from the Sentinel, flanked by the F.O.I., Danny Bakewell Sr., (Sentinel Publisher), Dr. Maulana Karenga (Organization Us), Rev. James Lawson (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), Dr. Sandra Thomas (NAACP Southern California State Section Director) and members of the Community Call to Action and Accountability (CCTAA), who also addressed the conference.
“Conversation is not enough. This is the end of the line. Min. Tony is our supreme leader in Los Angeles. He is one of those Brothers who is always on the frontline for us. If he can be beaten and battered, and we want everybody to know that we believe he was beaten and battered brutally in an unprovoked attack by the Los Angeles Police Department, we are all in danger,” Mr. Bakewell stated.
“I stand with Min. Tony Muhammad and his wife and his family and the Nation of Islam, with Bro. Danny Bakewell, who took this strong stand and called us together to say we will not tolerate this. It was an unprovoked attack. It was, first of all, a violation of Min. Tony’s civil and human rights. A right to be secured from violence under the color and camoflauge of law,” said Dr. Karenga.
LAPD Deputy Chief Earl Paysinger told The Final Call that Min. Tony was booked for the offense of battery on a police officer, and that the charge is pending review in the next several weeks of the Office of the City Attorney. He also said expect multi-layered police investigations, with assessments from the LAPD Internal Affairs Division, Force Investigation Division, and an oversight by the Office of the Inspector General.
“This thing involving Min. Tony and the police department can easily be the tipping point of something very ugly, and we must not allow it to tip in the wrong direction,” he stated.
Chief Paysinger continued that it is too early to provide an accurate timeline, because the series of events happened so fast. “My best sense suggests that given the importance of the investigation and the standing that Min. Tony Muhammad has in the community, we will make an effort to address and complete the investigation into the circumstances as quickly and as thoroughly as possible,” he added.
The chain reaction of violence began the night before, when 21-year-old Nahum Beaird was killed in a drive-by shooting in the Crenshaw District’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Residents grew angry and explosive when paramedics placed a sheet over the youth and pronounced him dead. According to the residents, he was still moving and they wanted his vital signs checked again.
The next day, members of the CCTAA and residents gathered for a vigil at the site of Mr. Beaird’s murder to help quell tempers–when another “drive-by” shooting occurred, drawing police on tactical alert to the area.
The community and police sharply dispute subsequent events on Aug. 25.
For many within various ethnic communities, Min. Tony’s swollen cheeks, red eyes and mouth appear to corroborate eyewitness accounts that the police hit him with fists and batons, kicked him in the face and maced him. But the police claim that Min. Tony was “belligerent” and prompted the actions.
Tommy Walker, of CCTAA was with Min. Tony when the police attacked, and gave the following account minutes after the arrest:
“The police came in full speed and jumped out on us like we were supposed to run, zooming down the street with these babies out here. Min. Tony went to talk to them, and told them who he was, and the cops cursed and said they didn’t give a damn who he was. They sprayed the Brothers and Min. Tony with mace, and it was really uncalled for. They mis-thought that we were gang-bangers and started whipping on a few of the Brothers with clubs. It was a physical confrontation, and there were at least 500 police in riot gear there, and that’s a low-end number. Some people in the apartment building opened up the security gate that locks and pulled me and about 20 Brothers who were trapped into the gate. It was a standoff with us on one side and the police on the other. The people were screaming and yelling in favor of us a lot and telling the police to leave us alone. It was so devastating because of the kids who had to witness this stuff. If you would have seen how many police who had us blocked in. If this had not been the minister, and just a group of Blacks standing around, nobody would have survived.”
Dr. Sandra Thomas, NAACP Regional Director, told those in attendance at the press conference that enough is enough.
“I’m here today because we cannot tolerate these kinds of actions, this kind of viciousness, we will not tolerate this kind of brutality. It goes against everything that the NAACP stands for,” she said. “Every time we have called upon this man of God, he has stood with us, he has stood beside us. When we weren’t there, he was there. He stood with this community.”
Student Rabbi Ali Abrams, of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), attended the press conference to show solidarity on behalf of “a large amount of people in the Jewish community who stand with Min. Muhammad, that we are outraged,” he said. “We understand that he is a minister of justice to everyone in this city, and we support him. Our organization works with Min. Muhammad, I believe in Min. Muhammad and the work of this community.”
And that work has been extensive over the last 10 years. It ranges from skillful conflict resolution between warring gang members, fighting against hunger with food programs and distribution, to promoting peace in the streets and advocating for justice for murdered children and their families, and even bridging the gap between law enforcement and the community.
Some community activists and observers have charged that the attack against Min. Tony stemmed from his consistent battle cry for justice for oppressed people and, more specifically, his participation in the community’s mass protest against the LAPD over their slowness in the Devin Brown investigation.
Two days before the brutal incident, about 200 people from various community organizations flooded the Police Commission’s meeting, demanding that they fire and criminally prosecute Stephen Garcia, the officer who shot and killed 13-year-old Devin Brown. LAPD has admitted that forensic evidence revealed that the officer was beside, not behind the car that the teen was driving on the night he was murdered–a direct contradiction to his explanation of the incident.
The CCTAA questions whether the same police commission that Min. Tony and others have been petitioning for protection against police violence is poised to grant justice in their review of Min. Tony’s case.
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