- Activists won’t keep silent on police brutality (FCN, 04/12/2005)
- Police brutality: Alive and well in America (FCN, 03/26/2005)
- Amnesty International condemns racial profiling (FCN, 09/30/2004)
- The challenge of policing police brutality (FCN, 02/09/2004)
- Minneapolis rallies against police brutality (FCN, 12/14/2003)
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – As the national fight against police brutality heightened its momentum with a call by the October 22nd Coalition for the Eleventh Annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation this past October, activists charged that police violence against primarily communities of color has increased and their victims or prey, have become younger and younger.
With its Stolen Lives Project, the October 22nd Coalition continues to document the lives stolen by police violence that have since been obscured in the minds of the public.
It cites 12-year-old Virginia Verdee, run over and killed by Bronx police; 15-year-old Brandon McCloud, shot by Cleveland police on his way to school; 18-year-old Samson Bounthisane, shot and killed by Seattle sheriff’s deputies; 12-year-old Michale Ellerbee, shot in the back by Pittsburgh police and thousands more.
Terry Wilson, a 20-year-old Long Beach, Calif. youth suspected by police of being the trigger man in the Aug. 1 fatal shooting of Davionne Myers, was talking near his home with friends when, according to a 15-year-old eyewitness who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) officers “rolled up in broad daylight, wearing plain clothes, in an unmarked car and just started shooting at us with high-powered rifles and guns.”
The teen told The Final Call that at approximately 1 p.m. on Aug. 9, as the police were shooting and everyone ran for their lives, area residents screamed for them to stop shooting because children were outside playing and families were on their porches and walking about the neighborhood.
He said that as Terry geared down an alley and tried to jump a fence, his basketball shorts began to fall. When he tried to pull them up, the police shot him several times from behind and he slumped over the fence. Everyone thought he was dead.
Terry suffered three shots to his left leg, which resulted in an amputation, two shots to his right leg, one shot in the groin and one in the abdomen. The shot in his abdomen pierced and collapsed his lung, according to his mother, Helen Wilson.
A police spokesman stated that during the chase, officers thought Terry was reaching into his waistband for a gun, and fearing for their lives, they fired.
“That’s the age-old story: ‘He was reaching for a gun!’ The police have a mentality of a gang themselves, a John Wayne mentality,” opined Western Regional Minister Tony Muhammad. “So when it comes to us, ‘Shoot first and ask questions later, because the community will not respond anyway. We’re ridding them of their own problems.’”
Ms. Wilson said police investigators would not allow her to see her son for several days, but after a barrage of phone calls and an Aug. 16 press conference and protest at the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, police lifted the restriction and she finally saw him.
“When I arrived on the floor, I dropped my purse and we just hugged and kissed and couldn’t talk for about 10 minutes,” she recalled. “If it wasn’t for Min. Tony, all of the people he called together, this would not have happened. I’m just so grateful that I could see my son.”
The approximately 40 community leaders, activists, media and concerned citizens who demonstrated also included the Community Call to Action and Accountability, criminal attorney Tom Mesereau, the Compton branch of the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), and Project Cry No More.
Min. Tony called for a national summit on police brutality and mob attacks. “We will be meeting with attorneys to develop a language that we can go before Congress and ask the federal government to look into how poor areas and the Black community are being policed by law enforcement all over this country. If we can’t get our answers there, then we will go to the United Nations, because these are human rights violations,” Min. Tony charged.
Lisa Calderon, the Legal and Social Policy Director for Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non Violence in Boulder, Colorado, stated that her son, like many other Black and Latino youth in their urban Denver neighborhood, is a victim of “broken windows” policing. She said he was merely walking home from school when he was slammed into a wall in an alley by a White police officer, frisked and given a citation for “being a wise guy.” She said his offense was taking a few steps into a crime scene to avoid getting hit by a car near a busy intersection.
“I feel that in a sense, when he turned 16 years old in July, he lost something. He lost the ability to walk down the street confident; to not have to look over his shoulder; not give a second thought to the police; not worry that he might be a target for them,” she lamented, “and now it is an ever present thought whenever he sees the police.”
In her Aug. 29 dissertation, “Broken Windows Policing: The New Slave Codes,” she compares the aggressive policing to a new form of slave codes.
“In the South, these were a new way to keep Black folks from moving forward, gaining basic freedoms, vote, own property, congregate. It also kept them in a constant state of criminalization,” Ms. Calderon stated. “That criminalization stems from their arrest for petty offenses. That would put them into the criminal justice system and you would see the cycle going on and on.”
Activists acknowledge that homicides of Black and Brown populations perpetrated by police occur less than those committed by Black and Latino youth who gun each other down. However, they maintain that there is a grave distinction between youth and law enforcement, and many police abuses go unreported.
“I think that Black-on-Black and Brown-on-Brown crime have roots in a system of White supremacy,” stated Kim McGill, director of the California Youth Justice Coalition. “So a police department that is there to serve the rich and protect property ultimately creates a greater culture of violence in poor communities.”