Family members from NYC, NC, Minnesota and elsewhere embrace them; Campaign against “Stop and Frisk” police policies introduced in NYC
By Diane Bukowski
Jan. 20, 2011
DETROIT – Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ mother, grandmother and aunt met with families from all over the country whose loved ones have been killed by police on Jan. 14, during a national conference held in Redford, Michigan by several coalitions. It was hosted by Arnetta Grable of the Original Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality.
Dominika Stanley, Mertilla Jones, and LaKrystal Sanders were warmly and sorrowfully greeted by the participants, who came from as far away as New York City, Minneapolis and North Carolina. New York participants brought with them documentation that law enforcement has killed at least 323 residents of New York and New Jersey since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 40 of them since 2010, and that 7,000 people are killed nationally by police every year.
The Stolen Lives project, sponsored by the October 22 Coalition Against Police Brutaliey, has documented the deaths of over 2,000 people nationally at the hands of police, listed by state on a banner displayed at the meeting.
Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ name is first on the list of those killed in Michigan. Everyone at the conference table was in tears as Aiyana’s family members described Aiyana’s killing by Detroit police at the age of 7 on May 16, 2010, and the events since then. (Video below shows Aiyana’s induction into the Stolen Lives list in New York City in July, 2010, as family member speaks by phone.)
Aiyana’s grandmother Mertilla Jones said her daughter LaKrystal convinced her to join with others in organizing against police killings. She recalled how Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley burst into her home after an incendiary grenade was thrown through the window, seconds before he shot Aiyana to death.
“The look in his eyes said ‘kill,’” Jones recalled. “Then they blamed me for my grandbaby’s death.” Jones said Aiyana, the only daughter of seven children of her son Charles Jones and Dominika Stanley, was “mine.”
“Now they have my son locked up,” Jones continued. “They have continued to harass my family until this day. But I know who I raised—eight children, six boys and two girls, and they are not murderers. I can’t bring Aiyana back, but I can bring my son Charles and his brother Norbert home. The majority of my kids are sons. I have 22 grandchildren, and I am so scared for all of them.”
Charles Jones is currently jailed without bond on first-degree murder charges in the death of Je’Rean Blake on May 14, 2011. After three sessions of his preliminary exam, it is clear that the only evidence the prosecution can bring against him is hearsay testimony from alleged jail-house “snitch” Jay Schlenkerman, convicted of vicious beatings of several women, as well as assaults on police and numerous DUI’s. (For more info, click on http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/01/10/schlenkerman-brutally-abused-women-lied-served-mdoc-time-for-repeat-dui%e2%80%99s-but-is-%e2%80%98jail-house-snitch%e2%80%99-in-jones-case/.)
Jones’ next hearing is Thursday, Jan. 26 at 1:30 p.m. in front of 36th District Court Judge E. Lynise Bryant-Weekes.
Jones said her son Norbert Jones was unjustly convicted on charges of felony murder, and sentenced to life without parole in July, 2010, two months after Aiyana died.
“My children used to have respect for the police, but no more,” Jones said. “Every time we turn around, they are harassing us. The Warren police took my daughter Krystal’s car. Why should we be put off the courthouse grounds after Charles’ hearings before we can even talk to his attorney, and why aren’t they allowing all of his family into the hearings?”
Jones said the family who moved into the flat where they had lived during the raid named their newborn daughter “Aiyana” after her granddaughter.
Grable and others said they too had experienced constant harassment and retaliation by the police and government forces when they protested the murders of their loved ones.
Grable, who is a co-founder of the Detroit Coalition, fought a 10-year battle for justice after her son Lamar Grable, 21, was shot eight times to death by three-time killer Officer Eugene Brown on Sept. 21, 1996.
During that time, she said her two other children faced constant stops by the police. Her son Aaron Grable is currently incarcerated after an illegal stop and search by Detroit police, as is the son of Cornell Squires, another Detroit Coalition member. Squires and his son were victimized by former Detroit Officer Robert Feld and William “Robocop” Melendez, both of them the subjects of repeated lawsuits and brutality charges..
‘They always blame the victim,” Grable said. She finally won her day in court against Brown, where world-famed forensic pathologist Werner Spitz testified Lamar had been executed as he lay on the ground. Brown admitted on the stand that it “was possible” he had shot Lamar in the chest on the ground after shooting him in the back and turning him over. His admission led the Michigan appeals and Supreme Courts to deny the City of Detroit’s appeal of a $4 million jury verdict.
Other family members were present to plan a continuing offensive against what they said is a national epidemic of police murders and brutality.
They included Juanita Young, of New York City, who assured Aiyana’s relatives that they will find comfort and support working with other victimized families.
“”We have turned the police brutality coalition into an underground railroad for victims of the police,” Young told the Jones family. “They’re going after my children to get at me… But they are not going to make me shut up,” she said earlier in an article published at http://rwor.org/a/174/juanita_young-en.html in the newspaper Revolution.
Young’s son Malcolm Ferguson was shot and killed by New York plainclothes police officer Louis Rivera on March 1, 2000. She too fought a long battle in court, with a jury finally awarding her a $10.5 million verdict in 2007. The New York Supreme Court of Appeals reduced the judgment to $2.7 million in 2010.
Young herself was brutalized and arrested by police in 2006. A jury later acquitted her of charges in that case, but on August 8, 2009, NYPD officers raided her home again.
“Over a dozen plainclothes police officers broke down the door, attacking Juanita’s oldest son, James (JJ) Ferguson,” Alice Woodward wrote in the Revolution article.
“They pulled down JJ’s pants, knocked him to the ground and turned him over face down on the pavement. They pushed their knees into JJ’s neck and back, choked him, punched him, handcuffed him and pepper-sprayed him. JJ was vomiting and had several bumps on his head as he was put into the police car. Police also sexually assaulted Juanita Young’s oldest daughter, Saran, while Saran held her baby in her arms. They arrested seven people including two of Juanita Young’s daughters. JJ Ferguson was charged with several serious charges, the six others were given a summons for disorderly conduct.”
Nicholas Heyward, Sr., also of New York, told the heart-rending story of his 13-year-old son Nicholas Hayward, Jr.’s killing by New York housing officer Brian George, also known as “Robocop,” on Sept. 27, 1994.
His child was playing “cops and robbers” with others in the Gowanus Houses park in Brooklyn, using a toy gun with a bright red tip that did not look like a real gun. George shot him in mid-sentence as he said, “We’re only playing, we’re only play. . . .” according to witnesses’ accounts. George was never charged.
Afterwards, Heyward, Sr. was repeatedly picked out by cops, harassed and arrested for things like walking his dogs without a leash.
“My fight in the struggle for justice continues because we continue to see authorities exonerate brutal, murdering cops no matter how clear the evidence of their crime,” Heyward said in an account of the case published in the book Stolen Lives, “Because we bury too many of our children while the cops who murder them walk free. Because the mainstream media continues to cover up and help justify police assaults on the people.”
The park where Nicholas, Jr. was killed has been re-named “Nicholas Nequan Heyward, Jr. Park,” and has become a center for community organizing against police brutality, with annual events on October 22, and a mural depicting the child. A foundation established in his name gives out basketball scholarships every summer, has a mentoring program and sponsors numerous other events. Its website is at http://www.nicholasheywardmemorialfoundation.org/
Jesse Barber of Greensboro, North Carolina, attended the national conference, still fighting against police brutality on behalf of her son Gilbert Barber, killed at the age of 22 by Guilford [“Guilty”] County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Gordy in 2001, and others.
“Our people have always been killed by police,” Barber said.
An account of what happened, “Crying Murder,” was published by “The Campus Echo.”. According to the article, Barber had a one-car accident, then was pepper-sprayed and shot three times by Gordy, who claimed he approached him in a threatening manner and shot at him, a startling similarity to Brown’s claims in the Grable killing. Evidence at the Brown civil trial showed that Brown himself likely shot twice into his bulletproof vest while not wearing it.
The family’s attorney told the Campus Echo that Barber was dragged into a nearby church, where pools of blood and five of Barber’s teeth were found, some still attached to gum tissue. The church furniture was covered with blood. Police claimed Barber knocked his own teeth out with a wooden collection plate, but a dental forensic specialist testified that was “highly unlikely.” For more information, go to http://web.nccu.edu/campus/echo/archive10-0102/c-murder.html
Danette Chavis, mother of Gregory Chavis. killed by the NYPD on October 9, 2004, was one of the most outspoken members of the New York delegation during the meeting of Jan. 14. The entire conference took place over three days, Jan. 13-Jan. 25, 2012.
“My son Gregory was shot in the back by a police officer; and the police prevented his friends from carrying him to the hospital, which was sitting across the street from where he was shot,” Danette Chavis earlier told Revolution newspaper. “I am angry. I am tired of fighting them, but something keeps me going.”
Ms. Chavis warned the assembly that there is a movement to pass legislation to make it illegal for people to videotape police officers in action. Twelve states have so far passed laws against this, although several have been overturned by federal circuit courts of appeals. However, the move to make this illegal on a federal level has not ceased. See http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/08/opinion/la-oe-turley-video-20111108
In a recorded statement, she told members of the New York Coalition that people from every police precinct in the country who have experienced killings and brutality at the hands of police must address U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to demand justice. To date, however, Holder has not done so. In 2010, the USDOJ exonerated the FBI and Detroit police in the assassination of Detroit’s Imam Luqman Abdullah.
A New York Oct. 22 Coalition member addressed the assembly about the group’s latest venture, “STOP STOP AND FRISK,” in a conference call. He said that in the last two years, NYPD has recorded 250,000 cases where police stopped individuals and searched them.
“Less than 10 percent of the stops were valid,” he said. “Only two percent resulted in charges being brought. The policy is aided and abetted by NYPD’s policies placing quotas on the number of arrests made by officers to determine who is more ‘efficient.’ Most times people are stopped for no reason, sometimes just for standing in front of their own buildings, and then they get $250 tickets for loitering.”
The spokesman said the coalition has organized occupations outside New York courthouses to protest this policy.
In 2006, two Detroit officers, Michael Osman and Michael Parish, upgraded this policy to abject depravity, stopping dozens of Black men in broad daylight on public streets, stripping them, and penetrating them anally under the guise of drug searches, as well as otherwise sexually abusing them. Their actions fit the state definition of criminal sexual conduct (rape) in the first degree. Such searches are illegal without a court order and must be done by medical personnel.
Osman and Parish never faced charges despite broad publicity (the story was broken by this reporter, who did a series on the cases in The Michigan Citizen, which was followed up by the daily media).
Shockingly, a member of Communities United Against Police Brutality, (CUAPB www.cuapb.org ), from Minnesota’s Twin Cities, said such police rape of Black men is prevalent in Minneapolis to this day. Several members of CUAPB attended the conference.
October 22nd Coalition organizer Scott Trent, of North Carolina, addressed the meeting on the connection of the epidemic of police brutality with the mass incarceration rate in the United States, which has 2.5 million people in prison, the largest per capita rate of any country in the world. He recalled the 2010 Georgia prisoners’ strike, where thousands of prisoners across the state refused to leave their cells for weeks, facing extreme retaliation including beatings and charges. Last year, prisoners across California conducted weeks-long hunger strikes to protest the brutal conditions of their solitary confinements, many of which have lasted for decades.
(To read proposed action statement brought by Trent to the meeting, click on Oct. 22 proposed statement.)