- The challenge of policing police brutality (FCN, 02/09/2004)
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – There wasn’t a dry eye in Harlem’s St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on July 22 during the Stolen Lives Project induction ceremony, sponsored by the New York City chapter of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality. There are over 2,000 names on the scroll.
This was the fifth ceremony here and six “Stolen Lives” were inducted, as families of the police victims were presented with certificates. The names: Gregory Chavis, killed by NYPD in 2004; Scott Ericksen, killed by Suffolk County police in 2005; Jamil Moore, killed by NYPD in 2002; Silverio Del Rios, killed under questionable circumstances at Elmira Correctional Facility; Donte Palmer, killed by NYPD in July 2004; and Randy Weaver, killed by East Orange police in 1999. The master of ceremonies for the event was Nicholas Heyward Sr., whose 14-year-old son, Nicholas Jr., was killed by officers of the NYPD in 1994.
“I still cannot hold back the tears, when talking about the circumstances surrounding my son’s death. I have been encouraged not to stop fighting for my son, to expose the corruption inside the system,” Mr. Heyward said.
Juanita Young, who lost her son Malcolm Ferguson in March 2000, spoke of the dedication of the October 22nd Coalition. “This group has become part of my strength,” she shared.
Attorney Lynne Stewart told the audience, “It gladdens our hearts that this ceremony is taking place across the street from a police precinct (26th)”, which brought laughter from many of those attending. Speaking of October 22nd Coalition, she remarked that it is one of the true people’s movements.
“We know there must be a time when truth and history will meet,” she insisted. “That is why we say these lives were stolen. They have a right to expect justice.”
The family of Scott Eriksen gathered together to receive their certificate. “He was beaten to death. They refused him medical help. He would still be alive if they would have just given him help,” his aunt said tearfully.
“My son Gregory was shot in the back by a police officer; and the police prevented his friends from carrying him to the hospital, which was sitting across the street from where he was shot,” Danette Chavis recalled to the gathering. “I am angry. I am tired of fighting them, but something keeps me going.”
Nellie Bailey, director of the Harlem Tenant’s Council told the audience that the “assault” against Black people is “relentless.”
“This list of 2,000 names demands of us that we must go before the international community, so that we may charge the police departments across the nation with crimes against humanity,” she argued.
In a press release calling for mobilization against police brutality on Oct. 22, the organization stated: “Police brutality and murder nationwide is on the rise. Virginia Verdee, 12- years-old, run over and killed by Bronx police; 15-year-old Brandon McCloud, shot by Cleveland police on his way to school; an 18-year-old shot and killed by Seattle sheriff’s deputies; Michael Ellerbee, 12- years-old, shot in the back by Pittsburgh police.”
The organization asked, “Why isn’t the escalation of police brutality and murder in recent years headline news?” The answer in its release: “Perhaps, because these images don’t comply well with the need to project images of police as defenders against terrorism.”
De Lacy Davis, president of Black Cops Against Police Brutality, noted that people must see what is happening domestically with the police as the same problem globally with such issues as prisoner abuse in the Abu Gharib prison in Iraq.
“This is the same mindset, the same people who are police officers here and in places such as Iraq,” Mr. Davis stressed. “I was recently in Gulfport, Mississippi, and 200 people came out to the rally, all with complaints against the police. That was unbelievable.”
A recent rash of police misconduct in Brooklyn includes the shooting of 28-year-old Robert Ramirez, still in critical condition; and the arrest of his stepfather on July 24. According to police accounts, the officers were responding to loud music in the project courtyard.