Members of the Youth Justice Coalition, L.A. Cop Watch and October 22nd Coalition distributed Stop Police Brutality Resource Booklets at the Community Call to Action and Accountability�s Nov. 28 Town Hall Meeting on Police Brutality.
Photos: Charlene Muhammad

LOS ANGELES ( – Over 100 people gathered at Bethel A.M.E. Church for the Community Call to Action and Accountability’s (CCTAA) Nov. 28 Town Hall Meeting on Police Brutality and told one-by-one their stories of peril with local police and sheriffs.

Mothers, fathers, sisters, aunts and attorneys spoke for those who could not speak for themselves, mostly because they were killed by police, like 19-month-old Susie Pena in L.A. and Deondre Brunston in Compton.

Hours before the meeting, the Los Angeles Police Commission announced that officers involved in the standoff with Susie Pena’s father, Jose Pena, acted within policy with regard to weapons, and some garnered Administrative Disapproval in areas of use of force and tactics.


Attorney Luis Carrillo, who represents Baby Susie’s mother, Lorena Lopez, shared his disappointment, but not shock, over the ruling.

“The result was an outrage,” he said, “however, the lawsuit continues and we are going to seek justice in the civil courthouse, because we didn’t get it today from the Police Commission.”

The CCTAA routinely dedicates its fourth meeting to town halls on pressing community issues; however, a surge of national excessive force incidents in L.A., New York and Atlanta prompted the special meeting and focus on a national solidarity movement against police brutality and oppression.

“If you look at the Muhammad Speaks, which has evolved into The Final Call newspaper, What the Muslims Want, Point No. 6 states that we want an immediate end to police brutality and mob attacks. Here we are in the new millennium, 2007, and we’re seeing more police brutality–Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, and now Fort Lauderdale (referring to unarmed, 21-year-old Troy Eddines),” stated Western Regional Minister Tony Muhammad, himself a victim of brutality by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). “America has been set up under the institution of White supremacy, so much so that Black people engage in it and don’t even realize that we do it, too.”

On the heels of the Nov. 25 fatal shooting of 23-year-old Sean Bell by New York cops, Reverend Al Sharpton stressed, during a phone-in to the town hall meeting, the need for federal guidelines and a congressional hearing on police brutality.

“We must have a coast to coast federal response to deal with the national problem with policing, and call for a national coalition, national monitoring and national response,” Rev. Sharpton stated.

Initially, stated Akile, CCTAA executive board member, its determination to focus on police brutality centered on 23-year-old William Cardenas (whose police beating was captured on videotape and circulated on the Internet), but the shooting of Mr. Bell heightened its focus.

According to Attorney Kwaku Duren, Mr. Cardenas’ representative, the district attorney dismissed charges of two felony counts and gang enhancement, and his client pled guilty to a misdemeanor of running from police, which rendered him free of having to serve time. But for the videotape, Atty. Duren stated, Mr. Cardenas would be sitting in prison.

Caution tee shirt “Police in Area”

“Police brutality has been a national phenomenon and increasingly an international phenomenon, because many of the police forces are trained by the U.S., so their practices and culture have become globalized,” added Atty. Duren, whose sister was killed in 1975 by California Highway Patrol officers. “Absent a fundamental change in the culture of the police department, police brutality will continue to afflict people of color.”

Before the two-hour meeting, the CCTAA gave a report on past police-related actions, which included a follow-up letter to LAPD Chief William Bratton and the city’s three Black council members on the status of Officer Stephen Garcia. The Police Commission found that Off. Garcia acted out of policy when he fatally shot 13-year-old Devin Brown last February.

One concerned citizen said that his 26-year-old son, who was arrested, sits in solitary confinement, but deputies will not give him information because he is an ex-con and his son is an adult.

“Everyone that I’ve tried to get help from says that all they can do is help get him medical attention. Medical attention is an aspirin and back to your cell,” he charged. “I need somebody to help shed light on what’s going on inside the county jail with the sheriffs, because just because you’re incarcerated, doesn’t give them the right to beat on you.”

Another resident testified that his brother was handcuffed and tasered to death two weeks after he graduated from college with honors. “I strongly believe that not all cops are crooked,” he maintained. “For me to lose my brother, yeah, part of me wishes to hate all police departments, but we have to address certain issues in certain ways.”

Danielle Heck, a death penalty abolitionist, believes that police abuse will continue because it is non-accidental. “It’s not a matter of really reforming them, because they are out there to dehumanize people and demonize the Black and Brown community,” she argued, adding that police are governmental tools used to divert attention from real problems that breed crime and gang violence, and keep a lid on the simmering anger in poorer communities.

Michael Novick, of Anti-Racist Action, an international network that participates in direct action against organized White supremacy groups and cop watch projects, insisted that the problem is not police misconduct, but rather police conduct.

“The police are mandated to carry out a certain policy of policing that basically targets people of color, particularly young Black, Mexicano, Asian and Indigenous people,” he asserted. “The killings or beatings that happen are just the tip of the iceberg, because they are constantly stopping and harassing people.”