PHILADELPHIA–In response to the recent police shooting of Officer Jesse Hartnett by suspect Edward Archer, a Muslim and who is believed by many to suffer from serious mental health issues, State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams called a community meeting to allay fears of a terrorist plot in the predominately Black section of West Philadelphia where the shooting occurred.
The town hall style meeting took place Jan. 14 at the Bryant Elementary School. The school auditorium was packed, standing room only with several hundred people present. What emerged from what residents characterized as manufactured hysteria by the press was not the issue of terrorism but rather a need for the community to have better mental health services, police protection, schools and a solution for rampant gun violence that plagues the community.
Present for the meeting were Congressmen Chaka Fatah members of the city, Captain James Clark of the police department homicide unit, District Attorney Seth Williams, mental health workers and representatives from the joint terrorism task force.
Atty. Williams in opening remarks told those in attendance that the meeting was held to give the community a voice. “We are here for you,” he said. “It’s time to build partnerships. The action of one individual is not indicative of the community.”
After hearing from public officials who largely praised the valor of Officer Hartnett, the meeting was opened for questions. Interestingly, not one question was directed to Homeland Security nor were there questions about the alleged 30-year-old shooter being an alleged terrorist or of an ongoing terrorist plot as reported by the press.
What was asked for was better mental health services and a better understanding by the police department when it comes to the general treatment of the Black community. Imam Asim Abdur-Rashid of Masjid Mujahideen was also a stage guest. He made it very clear that Masjid Mujahideen for which the shooter had an affiliation was no terrorism threat. “We just want to be a part of society and help keep it safe. We stand with society and against violence,” said Imam Abdur-Rashid.
During the Q & A several community members asked panelists what is being done to keep young Black men safe and free of police harassment? Many raised the point of the need for community outreach and addressing the daily trauma many residents suffer. One resident caused a murmur in the audience when he said the problem was not the fear of a threat from ISIS but rather police terrorism in the community.
One thing the community was very clear on was the role of White corporate-controlled press and its distorted view of the Black community. Alia Khabir, an author and public relations expert, said there is a double standard that exists. “The use of the phrase urban terrorist for example is a code word for Black Muslim,” she said.
It was also noted the characterization of Black Muslims as being radicalized was nothing new. In the past the press said the same thing about Malcolm X, Khalid Abdul Muhammad and Jamil Al-Amin formerly H. Rap Brown. The label has also been applied to non-Muslims as well such as Assata Shakur, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, Mumia Abu Jamal and others, she explained.
In a video that drew national concern, a man authorities identity as Mr. Archer, is seen dressed in a white tunic, while approaching the driver’s side door of the officer’s patrol car. From point-blank range, he fired more than a dozen bullets into the vehicle from a 9mm Glock that had been stolen from the home of another Philadelphia officer, authorities said. The officer was hit with three gunshot wounds to his arm. He managed to return fire wounding the assailant.
What set off the fire storm was Mr. Archer following his capture allegedly invoked ISIS and said he shot the officer “in the name of Islam,” authorities charge. According to published reports the incident is being investigated by the FBI as a terrorist attack.
When the story initially broke, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny cautioned those who were quick to blame Islam as the culprit.
“In no way, shape, or form does anyone in this room believe that Islam or the teaching of Islam” had anything to do with the attack, he said, adding that it “does not represent the religion in any way, shape, or form or any of its teachings.”
A woman by the name of Sister Aliyah, attended the forum and told The Final Call she was acquainted with Mr. Archer. “From my involvement with him, I knew him to be a very nice, young, respectful brother; very kind. I understand his mental state was not in a good place. … No, he was not well. May God have mercy on him.”