‘They’re using the court system to hang us’

Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, activist Najee Ali (l), join protesters in support of the Palmdale 4. The Black teens face criminal charges stemming from a run-in with school security guards after cake was dropped on a high school floor.

LANCASTER, Calif. (FinalCall.com) – Los Angeles county prosecutors have filed criminal charges against three Black teenagers, charging the youths threatened campus security guards during an incident involving spilled cake at a high school.

Pleajhai Mervin was charged with misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor assault on a school employee during the Nov. 20 hearing at the Antelope Valley Courthouse. She suffered a broken wrist when security guard Chris Niemeyer allegedly grabbed her and pulled her arms behind her back because she did not pick up pieces of a birthday cake that spilled on the ground.


Joshua Lockett was charged with two felony counts–threatening a public officer and making criminal threats–and a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. He was videotaping Ms. Mervin’s Sept. 18 arrest until Mr. Niemeyer and another guard tackled him. Mr. Lockett, jailed because the charges constituted a probation violation, is on house arrest.

Kenngela Lockett faces a charge of misdemeanor battery on a school employee, which also carries a one-year sentence, for attempting to pull security guards off her brother, Joshua. Mr. Niemeyer had pinned the boy to the ground. The three teens will be arraigned on Jan. 7. Mr. Niemeyer, who was suspended from work with pay, is expected to return soon.

The district attorney announced days earlier that no criminal charges would be filed against Latricia Majors, whose case was referred to a non-courtroom arbitration process. She was accused of battery after walking past a principal, whose arms were outstretched, to look for her daughter, Pleajhai, in the school. Ms. Majors, alerted that her daughter had been injured and arrested, left work and went to the school. She said she waited 20 minutes as school staff told her different stories about where her child was and what had happened.

Latricia Majors cries cries as her daughter Pleajhai Mervin speaks at a Nov. 20 rally outside the courthouse. Photos: Charlene Muhammad

Activist Najee Ali, a family spokesperson, said charges against the children should be dropped. “It took this tragedy to bring Black parents in that area together. When our children are under attack and facing this type of legal lynching, it makes everyone determined to fight with our last dying breath to save our children and that’s what we’re all committed to do,” he said.

The Antelope Valley Parents Union was formed shortly after the Knight High School cake incident. Other parents cited similar abuses of their children by Mr. Niemeyer, campus security guards and L.A. County sheriff deputies on and off campus. They complained of harassment, excessive ticketing and felony charges for minor offenses.

During a community gathering in the school’s theatre, a diverse panel of school officials, community and religious leaders promised parents that their complaints would be investigated and resolved.

Some 80 parents, frustrated and dissatisfied, met Nov. 18 to share stories and strategize about how to protect their children. The meeting at Wellsprings Christian Center was the second meeting in a month to discuss the issue.

“I want to get something positive out of this, not for it to just blow over. It’s not just about my child; it’s about all of our children,” said Ms. Majors.

The Antelope Valley Parents Union was joined by Mr. Ali, community leaders, residents, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Nation of Islam at a Nov. 19 rally outside the courthouse to support the “Palmdale 4,” as the youth are known.

Tony Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam, brought a message from Min. Louis Farrakhan. “Now, in the midst and the rise of racism all over again, history is beginning to repeat itself in the hostility and the anger of a system that is socially engineering our children to be criminals, therefore, you have high schools that are set up like a prison system,” he said.

“You better do justice while justice is still in your hands because there’s a God who is angry today, and he controls hail, snow, rain and earthquakes. Leave our children alone! Do not criminalize our children and do no take the punishment out on their mothers!” Mr. Muhammad said.

“Since no one has said it, I’m apologizing for everyone. You did nothing wrong, and you should not be punished. I’m going to stand behind you 100 percent until this is over. I love you,” said Ms. Majors to her daughter.

Sherman Mitchell, a pastor and president of the SCLC Lancaster chapter, said “outside” help was welcomed. “You need everybody you can get because racism is alive and well in Palmdale. Everybody needs to get together and work on this problem as a team, because it’s not only happening in Palmdale, it’s happening all over the United States. We’re going back to the ’60s and they’re using the court system to hang us,” he said.