Blacks moving targets for cops (FCN, 06-14-2004)

WASHINGTON, D.C. ( – It’s been said that there is a “Jena Six” case in every city: Black youth wrongfully prosecuted for offenses that White youth would have just received a slap on the wrist.

What happened to six students from Woodrow Wilson High School may be a similar case in the nation’s capital.


Six young Black men were riding the city’s metro train, and depending upon who you talk to, they were either a “gang terrorizing everyone on the platform,” according to an article in The Washington Post, or they were just boys “rough housing and horsing around,” according to their parents’ spokesperson, Matthew Fogg.

By the time they reached their destination, complaints had been placed about their behavior and the Metro Transit Police were waiting for them when they got off the train.

The Washington Post reported that Transit Police officers met the train downtown at Gallery Place and told the teenagers to calm down, according to Metro. The group got off the train and headed toward the platform below for the Green and Yellow lines.

But one youth lay down on the platform with his head near the edge. An officer asked him to get up and leave, but he became abusive. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, according to Metro.

Another young man, who tried to interfere with the arresting officer, was arrested and charged with assault. D.C. police arrived to back up the transit officers, and they moved the rest of the group out of the station. Along the way, Metro said, four of the young people got rowdy. They were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

“This case is about how Blacks are perceived by society. It’s the same as in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina. Blacks were seen as stealing while Whites were seen as surviving. I’ve seen the racial bias used in terms referring to Black youth versus White youth,” Mr. Fogg, who is also a U.S. Marshal, told The Final Call.

“Black youth are seen as fair game. The stereotype is that Black youth are more violent and more aggressive. These cases are a continuation of what we’re seeing around the country because the real problems are not being addressed.”

Mr. Fogg has explained the students’ version of what happened as the following: On Oct. 17, the Metro Transit police in concert with the Metropolitan Police Department converged on the Gallery Place Metro Station. They responded to a radio call from an officer who reported an alleged disturbance with a young man who reported being injured and who was laying on the ground on the Metro platform.

Back-up police units arrived from both the Metro Transit and D.C. Police Department.

When the incident was over some students were either punched, scratched, bruised, and/or detained by being placed in handcuffs by police and ultimately six students were arrested and transported to the D.C. Juvenile Detention Center on Mount Olivet Road in NW D.C..

After several hours of incarceration, all six students report they were told to sign papers placing them in a youth Diversion Program and released without criminal records.

The families are charging that their children were mishandled and inappropriately treated.

The students have alleged that, “The officer who initiated the first contact with a student laying on the Platform – kicked the student and alleged he was not injured and further attempted to move and drag the student away from the train track platform.” They also explained that the officers used foul and vulgar language and were very abusive to the students. The officers pushed and shoved various students up the escalators and out of the station and arrested them when they were only inquiring as to what they did wrong.

“Why were they arrested?” asked Mr. Fogg. “We’re calling for the video tapes, the unedited videotapes that will bear the facts of what happened.”

According to officials from both the Transit and D.C. Police Department, an internal investigation of the incident is well underway.

The families are calling for a complete, fair and impartial investigation by both departments asking that both departments stop presenting one sided untrue information to the public most favorable to the Transit Police.

The families believe the stories in the Washington Post and other publications have placed their children in a false inaccurate role before the public and hopefully the police and news will reflect the perceptions of all parties involved and wait until the investigation is completed.

“In a Post 9/11 era it is well known that Metro Transit station video records every location on the platforms due to public safety. These videotapes are invaluable to the facts of the allegations coming from both the students and the police. We are asking the police to please make these unedited tapes available to the family as soon as possible,” said Mr. Fogg.

“Its unfortunate that the “Wilson 6” high school football players have been characterized in the Washington Post as gangs, terrorizing Metro customers. American high school youth should not be quickly saddled with words linked to terrorists, terrorism or gangs. That merely serves to further stereotype African Americans and is a form of juvenile profiling.”

The students have their first hearing of the case Nov. 17.