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Parents protest the criminalization of Black students (FCN, 10-23-2007)

PALMDALE, Calif. ( – The Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department has cleared a high school security guard who broke a teenage girl’s wrist of any wrongdoing, but her mother, community activists and civil rights leaders have declared the findings unjust and say that the decision nor city officials’ demands for outsiders to stay out of Palmdale will not deter them from seeking justice.

Knight High School student Joshua Lockett, wrestled to the ground by security guard Chris Niemeyer and other unidentified guards after he videotaped the incident with Pleajhai Mervin. Community activists and concerned residents have labeled Mr. Lockett a �good Samaritan� for helping to shed light on alleged student abuses at the Palmdale, Calif. high school. This photo (provided to The Final Call) was taken by an unidentified student�s cell phone and provided to the families of Mr. Lockett and Ms. Mervin.

Captain Carl Deeley of the L.A. County Sheriffs Lancaster Station announced Oct. 12 that Chris Niemeyer displayed no criminal conduct and was “incredibly patient” Sep. 18 when he detained Pleajhai Mervin. The incident began, Ms. Mervin told The Final Call, because Mr. Niemeyer thought that she had not picked up enough birthday cake, which spilled onto the floor of the William “Pete” Knight High School lunch area.

Captain Deeley’s announcement came a day after Leo Stallworth, a Black reporter for KABC Los Angeles, who initially reported the incident, further reported that, according to her doctor, Ms. Mervin’s wrist was not broken.

“The reporter did not tell the whole truth, and I believe that this is part of a smear campaign that’s going on. Not only was my daughter treated for her wrist, but she has head injuries, shoulder and back pain, and emotional pain. They put the cast on her; I didn’t,” charged Latricia Majors, Ms. Mervin’s mother.

During a phone interview with The Final Call, Ms. Majors, reading from Ms. Mervin’s Lancaster Community Hospital Emergency Room Intake Report, stated, “Your caregiver has diagnosed you as having a fracture of the wrist. A fracture is a break in the bone or bones.”

Ms. Majors insisted that Mr. Stallworth distorted the following text of the report, “One of the bones of the wrist the, (Carpal) Navicular Bone, often does not show up as a fracture on X-rays until later on in the healing phase. With this bone your caregiver will often cast as though it is fractured even if not seen in the X-ray.”

Top (L-R) Najee Ali, activist, and SCLC National President Charles Steele (r), Jr. escort Pleajhai Mervin, Kenngela Lockett and demonstrators to protest in front of the Antelope Valley Courthouse in Lancaster Oct. 11. (bottom) West Coast Nation of Islam representative Tony Muhammad addresses demonstrators at Oct. 11 protest in front of Antelope Valley Courthouse in Lancaster.

“I let him see the reports which showed the other injuries and he did not report any of that. My baby is seeing a therapist. She’s scared and traumatized by this. It’s not just physical, but mental suffering as well,” Ms. Majors said.

Najee Ali, a family spokesperson, believes that the news report was part of a plan to justify Mr. Niemeyer’s clearance.

“This was done intentionally to try to cast doubt and suspicion on this baby’s injury. It’s unfortunate that the media has taken this out of context and put false information out there to a sometimes gullible public, but no one can dispute the videotaped evidence of this Black child being body slammed and physically assaulted by this 300-pound security guard, and that’s what we need to keep the focus on,” Mr. Ali stated.

Mr. Niemeyer has insisted that he is not a racist and that the incident had nothing to do with race.

The day before Captain Deeley’s announcement, approximately 50 peaceful protesters had prayed and rallied in front of the Antelope Valley Courthouse in Lancaster for the Los Angeles County District Attorney to file criminal charges against the guard and to drop any charges against Ms. Mervin, Joshua Lockett, Kenngela Lockett and Ms. Majors.

Sandi Gibbons, a D.A. spokesperson, told The Final Call that charges are pending against Mr. Lockett only and that the others are pending court hearings due to the incident.

Palmdale Mayor James Ledford, Jr. and some residents took issue with the Oct. 11 demonstrators, which included civil rights leaders, and claimed that the incident was not race-related. “I can’t see how somebody with sketchy or little information from somewhere else in the nation is going to make a call in our community. No. We’re going to do that ourselves and please, stay home,” Mayor Ledford said.

The next day, Black residents awoke to flyers warning Blacks to stay out of the Antelope Valley. The flyers portrayed a black tree with a full moon in the background and two heads of Black men hanging from nooses. Under the two heads were the words, “NAPPY HEADED -PIMPS.” Below that read, “‘don’t come’ to Antelope Valley. KKK.”

Tony Muhammad, Western Representative for the Nation of Islam, told the “Palmdale 4” during the rally to be encouraged that they are not alone. “When you hit our babies, you hit me. There used to be a time in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s that when a Black man was lynched we felt it in California. Our girls are suffering and we will leave no stone unturned for justice. The world is on its way to Palmdale and Lancaster,” he charged.

Charles Steele, Jr., National President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), charged that racism is embedded within the Palmdale community. “If you don’t see that, we’re talking about a 51st state—a state of denial. It is real. It is alive and well. You wouldn’t even have the SCLC had it not been for racists mindsets,” he said.

Chad Kempton, a Caucasian morning drive-time host at 100.9 FM “The Heat” in Lancaster, attended the rally after viewing the videotape and receiving numerous listener calls. “It’s an unfortunate event and I would like to think that it crosses racial lines, it’s not just one particular race, but it’s hard to make that argument when this is all we see. If it’s not about race, then how come there aren’t more White people here showing support? If it’s just about the issue, then I would think that the community would come together, Black, White, Asian, Mexican, and be together, but it isn’t,” he stated.

Mr. Lockett, who was detained for videotaping the incident and arrested on a probation violation, has been released to house arrest and Ms. Majors remains suspended from her job as a teacher’s assistant without pay pending the findings of her court hearing in November.

Activists are forging ahead with a national protest slated for Lancaster Nov. 19.