By BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka November 18, 2015
“The white supremacist ideology and world-view, normalized and thus unrecognized by most, has become a form of psychopathology.”
The white world views French victims of ISIS as more valuable – more human – than the thousands of Arabs, Kurds and Africans murdered in terror attacks, or the billions of people exploited, enslaved and exterminated by Europeans over the past five centuries. “The ‘lie of white supremacy’ has distorted the personalities, lives and the very ability of many white people to grasp reality. France is anything but innocent. Neither is the U.S.
I received a message from one of my friends in Lebanon who asked with feigned curiosity why the U.S. media only gave a passing reference to the bombing in Beirut before turning to non-stop coverage of the attacks in Paris. Of course, like many of us she already knew the answer – that in the consciousness of the White West there is a premium on the value of White life.
2,000 Nigerians slaughtered by Boko Haram.
Acknowledging this fact is neither new nor should it be particularly controversial. Its obviousness is apparent to anyone who is honest. We saw it in the response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks where the world (meaning the White West) engaged in a gratuitous expression of moral outrage against terrorism. But that outrage against terrorism didn’t extend to the two thousand Nigerians who were murdered by Boko Haram the same weekend that a massive rally in Paris took place to condemn the Charlie Hebdo attack. At that rally not one word of solidarity or condemnation of terrorism in Nigeria was expressed by the speakers or the thousands gathered that day.
“Non-European life simply does not have equal value.”
What my friend and all of us who have been the victims of the selected morality and oppressive violence of Western civilization over the last five hundred years have come to understand is that non-European life simply does not have equal value.
Yemeni children after U.S.-Saudi terror attack; 7,000 Yemenis murdered.
How else can one explain the complete lack of attention to the humanity of the victims of ISIS attacks in Beirut and in Bagdad the day before or the lack of concern for the lives of the over 7,000 people in Yemen murdered by the Saudi Arabia dictatorship, with U.S. and NATO support?
And is it unfair to suggest that it is the diminished value of life of the lives of people in the global South that allows supporters of Bernie Sanders to dismiss his support for U.S. war-mongering policies in the global South?
The Liberal Roots of White Supremacist Psychopathology
In the classrooms of Western universities and occasionally in civic courses in high schools, students are introduced to the ideas of liberal humanitarianism that are supposed to characterize the core values of the European enlightenment. The enlightenment is supposed to represent the progressive advancement of all of humanity by the thinkers of Europe who, of course, represented the leading edge of collective humanity.
But what is not sufficiently interrogated in these classes is the fact that while these grand theories of “mankind’s” inherent equality, rationality and even “perfectibility,” were being discussed, those theorists had already arrived at a consensus. This consensus was on the criteria for determining which individuals and groups would be recognized as having equal membership in the human family, what Hannah Arendt referred to as those people who had the “right to have rights.”
“Women and the non-European world were excluded or assigned to a lower order of humanity.”
Photo of slave auction attended by southern “gentlemen” in the U.S. The 13th Amendment still declares slavery legal in the U.S. prison system.
According to the criteria, women and the non-European world were excluded or assigned to a lower order of humanity. Eurocentric academicians, still a hegemonic force in the West, don’t historicize the “great” humanitarian theories of Europe and critically juxtapose the rise of those theories with the concrete practices of European powers. Those practices involved the systematic slaughter of millions of Indigenous people throughout the America’s and the African slave trade that made Europe fat and rich and allowed for the creation of a class of intellectuals freed-up from the struggle to earn a living and able to engage in the higher contemplations of life.
However, Eurocentric liberalism was never just confined to the academy. It became the hegemonic ideological force that embedded itself in the culture and collective consciousness of the Western project and with it the devaluation of non-European life and culture. In other words, the white supremacist ideology and world-view, normalized and thus unrecognized by most, has become a form of psychopathology. It is the cognitive dissonance that Fanon talks about regarding white supremacy as part of the colonial mindset and what James Baldwin refers to as the “lie of white supremacy” that has distorted the personalities, lives and the very ability of many white people to grasp reality.
James Baldwin: “The lie of white supremacy.”
However, the contradictions in the spheres of ideas and culture are not the real threat. The construction of a Western collective consciousness that is unable to cognitively process information and consider knowledge beyond the assumptions of its own world-views and values is dangerous enough, but the ease with which humanity is stratified with Europeans and their societies representing the apex of human development is the real threat because that belief has resulted in the rationalization for the crimes of colonialism, slavery and genocide, and the politics of permanent war.
The White Lives Matter Movement writ large, played out on the international stage
Despite the spirited defense of the positive aspects of liberalism from John Rawls to radicals like Slavoj Zizek, the racist and sexist contradictions of liberalism were once again confirmed by the obscenely disproportionate response to the attacks in Paris that once again demonstrated that liberalism is no more than a racist ideological construct posing as trans-historical philosophy.
130 dead in Paris, hundreds of millions of Africans, indigenous peoples across the world dead at the hands of European and U.S. imperialists.
However, let me be clear, my critique of the moral hypocrisy of the West should not be read as a rationalization for the horrific crimes committed in Paris a few days ago.
The intentional murder of non-combatants is a recognizable war crime that can rise to the level of a crime against humanity and should always be condemned with the perpetrators brought to justice. That legal principle is based on the moral principle of the equal value of all life and everyone’s human right to life. The defense and enforcement of those principles requires, however, that all states and groups be subjected to the same legal and ethical standards and that all are held accountable.
“Some states – like the United States – proudly claim their ‘exceptionality,’ meaning impunity from international norms, as a self-evident natural right.”
Imperialist France’s General Gourand marches through the streets of Aleppo in Syria in 1920.
But in the context of the existing global power relations, crimes committed by Western states and those states aligned with the West as well as their paramilitary institutions escape accountability for crimes committed in the non-European world. In fact some states – like the United States – proudly claim their “exceptionality,” meaning impunity from international norms, as a self-evident natural right.
And in that sense, while the victims of the violence in Paris may have been innocent, France was not. French crimes against Arabs, Muslims and Africans are ever-present in the historical memory and discourse of many members of those populations living in France. Those memories, the systemic discrimination experienced by many Muslims and the collaboration of French authorities with the U.S. and others that gave aid and logistical support to extremist elements in Syria and turned their backs while their citizens traveled to Syria to topple President Assad, became the toxic mix that resulted in the blowback on November 13.
Palestinian children murdered in Zionist Israeli air attacks.
Although a number of the dead in Paris are young Arabs, Muslims and Africans, in the global popular imagination, France, like the U.S. (even under a Black president), is still white.
So in Iraq the Shia will continue to die in the thousands from ISIS bombs; the Saudi’s will continue to slaughter Houthi’s with U.S. and NATO assistance; and Palestinian mothers will continue to bury their children, murdered by Zionist thugs in and out of uniform, without any outcry from the West. CNN and others will give non-stop coverage to the attacks in Paris because in the end we all really know that the lives that really matter are white.
Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He is a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” (Counterpunch Books, 2014). He can be reached at www.AjamuBaraka.com
William Melendez’ mug shot Nov. 19. Photo: Wayne Co. Sheriff’s Office.
DETROIT— William “Robocop” Melendez is finally off the street, after at least 20 years of wreaking murder and havoc throughout Detroit, the City of Inkster, and elsewhere in Michigan.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda R. Evans remanded him to the Wayne County Jail Nov. 19, pending sentencing Dec. 4 (updated) on two felony counts in the brutal beating of Black Detroit autoworker Floyd Dent on Jan. 28, 2015, in the city of Inkster.
A jury comprised of seven Blacks and five whites found Melendez guilty of “Assault with Intent to Do Great Bodily Harm Less Than Murder,” which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, and “Misconduct in Office,” which carries a five year maximum. They found him not guilty of a felony count of “Strangulation.” The jury foreperson was a Black woman.
That morning, the jury had again watched the police dashcam video of the beating, during which Melendez is seen hitting Dent 16 times in the head with his fist, and other white cops are seen jumping on him, tasering and kicking him. It was a video which went viral after Channel Four reporter Kevin Dietz first aired it and followed up relentlessly with a series of other revelations about the case.
Floyd Dent at courthouse with attorney Gregory Rohl prior to his testimony.
“I would like to have seen Melendez found guilty on all three counts, since I saw my client being choked on the video,” Dent’s attorney Gregory Rohl told VOD. “But Melendez is still looking at 10 years. I admire the courage of Judge Evans; she did the right thing. During Melendez’ sentencing, Floyd Dent will give a very powerful victim impact statement. I don’t know where they’ll send Melendez, but people have called my office saying they’re waiting for him.”
A statement from Rohl’s office added, “Floyd Dent would like to thank all of his supporters and public leaders who stood by him and believed in him during his ordeal with the Inkster Police Department, specifically Reverend [Charles] Williams and Ron Scott. He would also like to extend his gratitude to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and Lieutenant Twana Powell for their dedicated service in establishing the truth in this case before the jury.
Father Ellis Clifton of Inkster marches with Floyd Dent and grandson Apr. 2, 2015.
“While Mr. Dent is satisfied with the jury verdict, he is hopeful that his plight will serve to educate the public and reinforce the belief that all lives matter without regard to the color of their skin. He further hopes that the healing that the community so desperately needs can now begin.
“Finally, Floyd would like to thank Judge Vonda Evans for both her professionalism and courage demonstrated in handling this volatile case, especially in remanding ‘Robocop’ Melendez to a place where he can no longer hurt innocent members of the community.”
Melendez has a long, repellent history from his time on both the Detroit and Inkster police forces. He has been sued 12 times in federal court, for the killings of Detroiters Lou Adkins in 1996 and Ernest Crutchfield II in 2003, and numerous other acts of brutality. Prior to the Adkins’ killing, he had been sued four times, according to the Detroit Free Press article shown below. During his trial on the Dent beating, he refused to take the stand to testify, likely in light of this history.
Atty. David Robinson (r) with client Arnetta Grable (l) in 2006, after $4 M jury verdict in 3-time killer cop Eugene Brown’s execution of her son Lamar Grable, 20.
In 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice charged and tried him and other Detroit cops from the Third and Fourth Precincts for a years-long LA Ramparts-style campaign of terrorism. Despite the unprecedented testimony of 17 Black Detroit officers against Robocop’s crew, they were acquitted. The jury evidently responded to aspersions by Melendez’ defense attorney David Lee against those who were victimized.
“Melendez finally got exactly what he deserved,” Attorney David Robinson said. He represented Crutchfield’s family after Melendez, Jeffrey Weiss, and other Detroit cops invaded the man’s home without a warrant and shot him to death in his kitchen in 2003.
“There’s no excuse for what he did to Floyd Dent,” Robinson added. “Fortunately, he was not smart enough to turn his police car camera in a different direction. Had it not been caught on camera, it would have been his word against Dent’s, and he would have gotten away with it again.”
A young Black Inkster resident said Melendez had been on the force there for many years.
“They finally got that monster off the streets,” he told VOD. “Justice has been served today. Now he’s caged up like an animal like he has done to so many other people. He falsely arrested me, and planted drugs on my friends and family members. Two of them are still in prison. The Inkster police force as a whole is corrupt and needs to be dismantled. This verdict has brought me to tears, and I am rejoicing that my God has seen fit for this day to come.”
Cornell Squires is a southwest Detroit resident and leader of We the People for the People. His son was falsely charged by Melendez in 1999 and subsequently spent time in prison.
“Praise the Lord,” Squires said. “We’ve finally got a victory. It’s karma, baby. Melendez sent my son to jail and now he’s in jail. Asst. Prosecutor Tom Trczinski suborned perjury in the case, and he died at the age of 56 about two years ago. Melendez thought he was going to get away with it, but he finally got caught. The streets of Michigan will be safer now. Robocop is down for the count; his terrorist attacks have come to an end. He needs to get the maximum sentence. He’s ruined so many people’s lives. He’s a demon. He’s going to jail, and then he’s going to hell.”
Squires said, however, as did Dent, that all the cops involved in the beating and its aftermath should have been criminally charged. He said their charges should have included planting drugs (Melendez), and filing false police reports as well. Melendez was convicted of filing a false report prior to his son’s trial, but then Judge Kym Worthy would not take that into evidence.
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is placed in handcuffs at his sentencing hearing May 25, 2010.
Inkster police Officer Chuck Randazzo was internally suspended for 15 days for use of excessive force, and Sgt. Shawn Kritzer was suspended for 30 days for improperly administering medical attention to Floyd Dent. Both testified at the trial on Melendez’ behalf. Randazzo wore his Inkster police uniform on the day of the verdict, and according to Channel 7 news, assaulted one of their cameraman in the hallway. (See video below.)
Squires also noted that despite his violent history, Melendez was politely escorted off to jail with no handcuffs.
“They handcuffed Kwame Kilpatrick after he was convicted for non-violent crimes, far less than what Melendez did to so many people,” Squires said.
Kerry Melendez during honeymoon, from her Google+ account.
Throughout Melendez’ trial, the courtroom was filled with white cops, along with his wife of two months, Kerry Melendez, and other family members. His wife faced a stinging rebuke from Judge Evans after storming out of the courtroom when the verdict was read. Evans forced her to return, telling her she had disrespected her courtroom and the jury.
While outside in the hallway, Randazzo assaulted a Channel 7 cameraman who approached Kerry Melendez, and she herself made threatening moves toward their crew, according to Channel 7. She also refused to stand for the jury as they left after the verdict.(See video below.)
Melendez’ defense attorney James C. Thomas, who also represented former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in the case which ended with his sentence to 28 years in prison, told the media that he planned to appeal Melendez’ conviction based on alleged “judicial error” by Judge Evans during jury selection proceedings.
Defense attorney James C. Thomas (l) talks to media including Kevin Dietz (r) of Channel 4, who broke the Dent beating story.
He said the voir dire of the jury was conducted all at the same time, in one room, but did not cite any court rule indicating that could not be done.
“The attorneys both for the prosecution and defense would be able to weed out whatever biases had occurred by getting to know the jurors without being around other people and without other jurors [present],” Thomas said.
Michigan Court Rule 6.412 says regarding voir dire of the jury, that “The scope of voir dire examination of prospective jurors is within the discretion of the court.” It adds, “The court may conduct the examination of prospective jurors or permit the lawyers to do so. If the court conducts the examination, it may permit the lawyers to supplement the examination by direct questioning or by submitting questions for the court to ask. On its own initiative or on the motion of a party, the court may provide for a prospective juror or jurors to be questioned out of the presence of the other jurors.” (See Michigan Court Rules.)
Thomas did not say that he ever introduced a motion for sequestered voir dire of any juror or jurors.
Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers in 1992, known as “Starsky and Hutch.”
A majority-Black jury is a rare occurrence in the Third Judicial Circuit Court these days. The state legislature abolished the Detroit-only Recorders Court in 1999 after a Black jury convicted white Detroit cops Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers of second-degree murder for the magnum flashlight beating death of steel plant worker Malice Green in 1992. Then Assistant Prosecutor Kym Worthy gained acclaim from Detroiters for the verdict, which she parlayed into her run for Wayne County Prosecutor.
Budzyn and Nevers, known as “Starsky and Hutch” on the streets of near-west Detroit, later won new trials and reduced verdicts and sentences. Nevers later died of cancer.
Malice Green, beat to death by white cops Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers in 1992.
Wayne County administrator Mike Duggan, now “Mayor” of Detroit, fired former Assistant Wayne County Medical Examiner Khalil Jiraki for determining Green died from the beating rather than from drugs in his system. Jiraki’s original finding was later confirmed. He won $2.1 million in a lawsuit against his discharge.
Worthy said after the Melendez verdict, “Public confidence in law enforcement is eroded when police officers abuse citizens. The jury’s verdict in this case is important because it shows that police brutality cannot and will not be tolerated.”
However, Worthy recently refused to charge officers in the killing of 19-year-old father Terrance Kellom in his father’s home, despite mass protests in Detroit as Baltimore went up in flames to protest the police killing of Freddie Gray.
Worthy has so far failed to charge ANY DETROIT COPS with murder.
Terrance Kellom with baby son before he was killed. He did not live to see his daughter born afterwards.
Aiyana Jones, killed by Detroit police at age of 7.
A Grand Jury consisting of Third Judicial Criminal Court Chief Judge Timothy Kenny charged Detroit cop Joseph Weekley with involuntary manslaughter in the May 16, 2010 killing of 7-year Aiyana Jones, but Weekley walked after three mistrials.
During those trials, all covered by VOD, it was clear that Asst. Prosecutor Robert Moran colluded with defense attorney Steve Fishman and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway to orchestrate the results. A source familiar with the prosecutor’s staff told VOD in two letters that many staff members of the office were enraged.
The racial element in Dent case has been glaring. The dashcam video of the beating by numerous white cops of Dent, a Black man, went viral after a year during which Blacks and their supporters in Ferguson and Baltimore rose up in fiery rebellion against the killings of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray by white police officers. Across the country, protests against hundreds of other such killings dominated national news.
Thousands marched in Inkster in support of Floyd Dent on March 3, 2015.
In Detroit and Inkster, thousands marched, demanding charges against Melendez and all involved.
Closing arguments on Nov. 18 in Melendez’ trial were rife with either specific or subtle racial references.
John Zieleniewski testifying about racist texts he received and sent from his phone. He was present at the trial afterwards, and was heard objecting to being characterized by Donaldson as a “wannabe” cop, since he is an unpaid auxiliary cop.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Robert Donaldson argued that the defense’s whole strategy was to draw attention away from the video, which even former Inkster police chief Vicki Yost admitted was “difficult to watch.” She testified, however, that the video showed Dent had resisted arrest, but that excessive force was used.
“Mr. Dent, who is a 35-year Ford Motor Company employee, with no record except for difficulties keeping his driver’s license, made the mistake of driving his Cadillac in the city of Inkster,” Donaldson said.
He referred to his direct exam of Melendez’ partner, auxiliary Inkster cop John Zieleniewski, who he called a “wannabe” cop. Zieleniewski had testified that he and Melendez saw Dent in the parking lot of the Inkster Budget Inn going into a room and coming out, implying that he went there to buy drugs. He said Dent turned right on Michigan, right on Fairbairn, and left on Oakland, before eventually stopping at the old Inkster police station on South River Park Drive, where the beating occurred.
Dent testified that he was never at the Budget Inn. He said he drove his car from a liquor store near I-275 and Michigan, where he picked up drinks for friends living on Oakland, then drove down Michigan to Fairbairn, which he took to the Pineridge Apartments on Oakland to deliver the drinks.
Pineridge Park Apartments on Oakland in Inkster, MI.
“Why did I expose Zieleniewski?” Donaldson asked, referring to his introduction of racist texts the prosecution subpoenaed from Zielenewski’s phone. “He has a bias. He doesn’t like Black people, he jokes about beating them up, he thinks it’s funny. Zielenewski is not worthy of belief. In essence, he wants to convince you that Mr. Dent got what he deserved. . . .Look at the video. You don’t see Dent’s car in the Budget Inn parking lot, or turning down Michigan Avenue from there.”
Jurors took a field trip to view the scenes involved Nov. 17, but unfortunately covered only the police version of Dent’s route, beginning at the liquor store near the Budget Inn. Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor John Donaldson told VOD that route was used because Dent’s version was “in question,” despite the fact that the prosecution’s whole case rested on questioning the police version of events.
Melendez jurors (in white vans) proceed from Budget Inn on Michigan. Dent testified he had never been at the Budget Inn. MSP Lt. Twana Powell testified that cell phone tower pings placed him at Michigan and I-275, 20 minutes east of the Budget Inn, at beginning of trip.
The senior Donaldson said Zieleniewski tried to portray Dent as a “deranged crackhead,” an image some suburbanites have of Black Detroiters.
“But this is not about cocaine,” Donaldson said. “There is no evidence, none, that Floyd Dent was high on cocaine; both a Medical Examiner and a state toxicologist said so. Melendez says he got cocaine from Dent’s car, the third time he goes in. We don’t see it coming out of the car on the video, only when Melendez pulls it out of his pocket.”
In his closing arguments, Melendez’ defense attorney Thomas appeared to use a “Rodney King” defense. He alleged that Dent was so strong that he was able to struggle against two large, well-built cops lying on top of him, even moving them several feet. He also had officers testify that Dent had such superhuman strength that he did not react to three taser direct stuns. See video of Rodney King beating below.
History has been rife with such portrayals of Blacks as subhuman animals. Hollow-point bullets, originally known as “dum-dums,” were first developed by the imperialist British and Belgians for use in India and Africa in the 1890’s. The invaders claimed people of color needed superhuman force to put them down. (See Detroit Police on SAFARI.)
Thomas disavowed racist texts by Melendez’ partner, auxiliary cop John Zielenewski, admitted into evidence by the prosecution, but the undertone of his later statements reflected repeated if subtle racial animus.
Michigan State Police First Lt. Twana Powell supervises MSP’s internal affairs division for all of Michigan.
“This is a high crime area,” Thomas said of the area around the Budget Inn on Michigan Avenue in Inkster, which Thomas contended Dent had visited to buy and ingest cocaine. “[Former Inkster] police chief Vicki Yost and Randazzo did not have reason to exaggerate. You heard from police officers on the street.”
Inkster’s police force is 80 percent white, while its population is 75 percent Black.
Michigan State Police First Lieutenant Twana Powell, the officer in charge of the case for the prosecution, testified earlier that Inkster police records showed only one drug-related police call to the Motel during the year prior to the Dent beating. Her demeanor throughout her presentation of the case was authoritative and dignified.
But Thomas repeatedly denigrated Powell, who is Black, by name during his closing, making aspersions against her investigative capacity, accuracy and thoroughness.
“Ms. Powell was promoted to First Lieutenant just before this case, for unknown reasons,” Thomas said among other remarks.
Powell is the highest-ranking Internal Affairs MSP officer in the state, after 23 years with both the Detroit Police and MSP. She was also the chief investigative officer in the case against Joseph Weekley for killing Aiyana Jones. The Jones family gave her kudos for her sensitivity to them.
Aaron Westrick, PhD, testified as expert in the use of force on behalf of Melendez.
Thomas contended that Dent possessed and tested positive for cocaine, although those charges had already been dropped. Testimony he elicited from Professor Aaron Westrick, who has a PhD in criminal justice and teaches at Lake Superior State University, was countered by a top MSP forensics lab supervisor and Wayne County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt, a medical doctor.
Thomas also insisted on calling Westrick a “doctor” as if he was a medical doctor, a far cry from a PhD. He used him and other witnesses as well to describe what they saw in the video, although none of them were forensic video analysts.
But the majority-Black jury, evidently aware of the racist sub-texts in the defense presentation, convicted Melendez based on what they saw in the video. Prosecutor Donaldson quoted Richard Pryor regarding a case of being found in bed with another woman: “Who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?”
His final presentation to the jury was a video clip showing a bloodied Dent held up against Melendez’ police car, crying out, “What did I do? Why are you doing this to me?”
Floyd Dent cried out after beating: “What did I do? Why are you doing this to me?” Melendez is seen at right.
‘Robocop’ Melendez leaves federal court in 2004. Photo by Diane Bukowski
Floyd Dent at rally in Inkster April 2, 2015, with grandchildren.
DETROIT – The jury in the felony trial of former Detroit, Highland Park and Inkster cop William ‘Robocop’ Melendez will tour the scenes related to Melendez’ near-fatal beating of Detroit autoworker Floyd Dent on Tues. Nov. 17, by order of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda R. Evans. A final prosecution rebuttal witness will testify Wed. Nov. 18, after which closing arguments are expected.
“It will be an aid for the jury to visit that scene, and we’re going to drive that area,” Judge Evans said. She later ordered a van for the trip.
National and international news outlets are covering the trial, including Reuters, the Associated Press, the Guardian, and Al Jazeera America. The video of Dent’s beating went viral across the globe, sparking four major protests in Inkster, Highland Park and Detroit.
Judge Vonda R. Evans
Judge Evans said she hoped the tour will clarify differing prosecution and defense accounts of the case. Melendez was fired after the beating, and faces 10-25 years in prison if convicted on counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, strangulation, and misconduct.
Evans’ order, issued after defense attorney James Thomas rested his case without calling Melendez to the stand, capped a week of testimony from prosecution and defense witnesses. During the week, David Lee, Melendez’ attorney in a 2004 federal court case in which he was accused of running an LA Ramparts-style ring of brutal cops, attended the proceedings.
Key testimony included:
Jennifer Wilson (l), supervisor at MSP lab, testifies definitively on cross exam that there was NO COCAINE in blood samples taken from Floyd Dent. Defense attorney James Thomas is at upper right; MSP First. Lt. TwanaPowell at lower right.
“The video is hard to watch.” Former Inkster police chief Vicki Yost’s assertion that she saw nothing in the dashcam video of the incident to justify the 16 blows Melendez delivered with his fist to Dent’s head. Her assertion contradicted later testimony from a Lake Superior State University criminology professor that the use of force was justified.
“I don’t testify for either side, I just testify to the results.” Michigan State Police lab supervisor Jennifer Wilson’s detailed testimony that blood samples taken from Dent at Garden City Hospital tested negative for cocaine and its metabolites (break-down products) on both initial and confirmatory tests. An initial hospital report showed that an initial urine sample from tested positive for cocaine, but no confirmatory test was done.
“Dent would had to have taken cocaine 30 hours before the incident for it not to show up in his blood.” Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt, as an expert in toxicology, backed up Wilson’s testimony and countered Thomas’ assertion that the cocaine could have metabolized out of Dent’s system before the blood test.
“No latent prints left on baggie.” Michigan State Police First Lt. Twana Powell testified that fingerprint testing had not been ordered on the baggie containing cocaine which Melendez claimed came from Dent’s car, but which Melendez is seen on video pulling from his pocket. She said it was ordered later upon her intervention into the case March 23, and by that time was inconclusive.
“I did follow-up investigations to find out which story most likely occurred, Dent’s or Zielenewski’s. . . First time Dent’s car is seen on the video is on Oakland.” Powell contradicted Melendez’ police report and sworn testimony from his partner John Zielenewski regarding Dent’s route. Zielenewski testified they were surveilling the “high-crime” area of Michigan Avenue in Inkster from the parking lot of a motel on the south side of Michigan. He said they first saw Dent in the parking lot of the Budget Inn across Michigan, which they portrayed as a hotbed of narcotics trafficking. Powell said Zielenewski’s view of the Budget Inn parking lot was blocked by a wall. She testified that the first time Dent’s car is seen on the dashcam video is on Oakland Avenue, travelling west. She said Inkster police records showed only one narcotics-related call to the Budget Inn in the year previous to Dent’s beating, on Jan. 28, 2015.
Map shows Dent’s route from Michigan Ave. up Fairbairn to Pineridge Park Apts. Old Inkster Police Dept., where beating took place, is at far left.
Dent testified earlier that he had never been to the Budget Inn. He said that on the evening of Jan. 28, he traveled from a liquor store near I-275 and Michigan Avenue to the Parkridge Park Apartments to deliver liquor to a friend, Amy Williams, at her request. The Budget Inn is approximately a half-mile east of the Parkridge Park Apartments and Fairbairne Street, which Dent took to Oakland, where the apartments are located. Powell testified that Dent’s cell phone records confirmed his account, showing cell tower pings from the locations he described.
Map shows Budget Inn on Michigan, west of Fairbairn, where Dent turned.
Dent, who lives in Detroit, has worked for Ford Motor Company for 36 years. There are two Ford plants near I-275 and Telegraph.
Map shows route from I-275 and Michigan to Fairbairn Street. First Lt. Twana Powell said cell phone tower “pings” from Dent’s phone confirmed these routes.
Williams, a state-paid home health care worker, testified in support of Dent’s account of his brief visit to the apartment complex’s parking lot. She said that that Dent wiped down the interior door well of his late model light tan Cadillac after delivering the liquor to her in the parking lot, telling her he had just had the car washed.
Pineridge Park Apts. on Oakland, Dent’s destination.
Dent testified earlier that he opened his door during the traffic stop instead of rolling down his window because he didn’t want to streak the windows. Defense witnesses asserted that was an aggressive move indicative of imminent danger to the cops.
Dent was traveling on a suspended license, with one warrant out for his arrest, Powell testified. She said he had been stopped seven times during the previous ten years for driving without a license.
At the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, Judge Evans denied a defense motion for a directed verdict. Thomas claimed testimony showed that Melendez had Dent in a “head lock” to immobilize him, not a “choke hold” to cause strangulation. He claimed Dent’s medical records showed no “significant injuries.” He said there was no “subarachnoid hemorrhage” in Dent’s brain, that his nose was not broken, and that the injury to his eye orbit was repaired.
Judge Evans denied his motion, saying, “I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a trier of fact to proceed.”
The prosecution’s rebuttal witness Nov. 18 is expected to be the Parkridge Park Apartments manager, who will testify to records of the card swipes needed to enter and exit the complex on the night of Jan. 28.
Belinda Myers-Florence (r) with husband Jesse Florence (center), both City of Detroit retirees. From Jesse Florence’s Facebook page.
BY YVONNE JONES
November 11, 2015
Belinda Myers-Florence from DAREA Facebook Page, speaking at press conference
It is with great sadness that I post of the passing of Belinda Meyers-Florence. Belinda was one of the founding members of DAREA. Belinda was our Communication Coordinator, Belinda made sure we were all connected and informed. Over this past year Belinda collected over 500 emails from retirees and concerned individuals who wanted to know what was happening with the bankruptcy and pension cuts. Belinda participated in the court hearing, protests, donated funds and whatever was necessary to keep the fight alive.
Belinda was at our meeting on November 4, she encouraged us to continue to fight for justice. Belinda was passionate about the cuts to our pension especially health care! She would speak about how unjust these cuts were. Many times Belinda would come to a meeting, court or demonstration not feeling her best, she would say I got do what I got to do! Belinda was a committed activist for Justice in the fight for Pension, an Elk Daughter, Retiree of 36.9 years as a Principal Social Planner & Development Specialist. Devoted wife, mother, daughter and friend. Belindafoll2 signing out! Peace & Love!
BY VOD STAFF
Belinda Myers-Florence (2nd from r) receives Mover and Shaker award with other DAREA officers (l to r) Wanda Jan Criss Hill, Bill Davis, and Yvonne Jones.
“Belinda Myers-Floreance was a committed soldier in fighting for City of Detroit employees pension rights and restoration, through the courts,” DAREA VP Cecily McClellan said. “Belinda was Corresponding Secretary for DAREA and Financial Secretary and Daughter of Beulahland Temple #569, she will be missed. Please send your blessing and support to the family.” Her family includes her husband Jesse, her daughter Erica, her son Jesse Jr. and many others. Funeral arrangements are below.
Belinda (l) with other women warriors from DAREA fighting against bankruptcy at Detroit General Retirees Employment System Meeting.
DAREA depended on Belinda for collecting its contact lists and keeping them in order, constant email updates, and her unfailing presence at DAREA meetings and at numerous protests against the illegal Detroit bankruptcy, Belinda was everywhere in the battle for justice not only for Detroit retirees, but for the residents of Detroit as a whole, as photos taken by VOD show. She was dedicated and tireless and always kept a cheerful demeanor.
Under the bankruptcy plan, health care costs for Belinda’s husband Jesse Florence, a retiree from D-DOT, and Belinda skyrocketed from $152 a month to $1062 a month, in addition to a $3,000 annual deductible. After putting their children through school, they faced the possible loss of their home.
Belinda with DAREA members who came to denounce “Mayor” Mike Duggan’s plan to dismantle DWSD.
Thousands of other City of Detroit retirees faced the same plight because of the vicious assault by the corporations and banks not only on their pensions and health care, but on the very assets the people of Detroit owned, including the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department, the Institute of Arts, and Belle Isle.
DAREA and Belinda’s family and friends weep for her loss, but vow to continue the fight for justice in her spirit forever.
Belinda (in purple at right) worked on fish fry fundraiser for DAREA, always devoting her time and skills to the struggle.
PEOPLE’S WARRIOR TANGELA HARRIS JOINS THE ANCESTORS
On Nov. 2, water warrior, social justice activist and community journalist Tangela Harris joined the Ancestors one day before her 40th birthday, after suffering an asthma attack and cardiac arrest. (Her homegoing service was held Nov. 7, 2015.)
Tangela Harris candlelight vigil at her home on Lawrence Nov. 3, 2015.
Tangela was committed to the struggle for humanity in Detroit and across the globe. There was rarely an event for social justice that you didn’t see Tangela at, or you didn’t hear her voice contributing to. She was a frontline foot soldier, as well as a behind the scenes doer. Her interviews were just as passionate as her work, and her love and compassion for her city and her people showed through in everything she touched.
Activists vow to continue Tangela’s fight.
We will never forget Tangela Harris. She was indeed a woman full of “peace and love.”
There are hardly enough words to describe what Tangela Harris means to the city of Detroit, so I will leave you with Tangela in her own voice and her own words for 7 Mile Radio.
This clip is from one of the many events Tangela covered, participated in, or organized in Detroit. If you didn’t know Tangela or about what she poured into her people, this video should shed some light.
Elder holds photos of Tangela in triumph.
Geo. Errol Jennings and wife (left) had just lost their own son before they came; activist Baxter Jones is at right.
Many remembered not only Tangela the warrior, but the warm, wise and loving woman she was.
Dean Fox shows his lay-off notice during meeting with VOD.
DETROIT – The Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD) has laid off at least 200 workers in recent months, many of them long-term, experienced employees, according to documents received by VOD and information from workers themselves.
DWSD is using secrecy, deception, and privatization to carry out the lay-offs. It has even had security escort some the employees off the premises, with no advance notice of their separation. Layoffs are being carried out without regard to seniority, according to the workers and their union representatives.
“If people think things are bad in Flint, wait until they see what going to happen to THEIR water,” laid-off workers Edward Collins, Jr., Dean E. Fox Sr., and Sammy Barber told VOD reporters at Bert’s Place Nov. 1. They showed lay-off notices with “elimination of job title,” not “lack of work,” listed as the reason for termination, or no reason at all. The three were general auto mechanics.
VOD also interviewed an active worker at Detroit’s Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), but is not using his name to avoid retaliation. The workers above said staffing there is so bad that “when you call there, nobody answers.”
Members of AFSCME Local 207 protest lay-offs, takeover of DWSD in front of Water Board Bldg. Oct. 13, 2015
“They’re trying to run a municipality like a business,” Fox said. “But a city is not for profit, it’s for service. How can the federal government sit back and watch this go on? This is serious. Residents’ lives are being put in danger.”
DWSD Director Sue McCormick, now confirmed as director of the incoming regional Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), said in an earlier interview that she had eliminated 41 percent of DWSD workers prior to the new cutbacks. Notorious privateers EMA and Veolia are being paid as “consultants” to the DWSD. EMA earlier recommended the elimination of 81 percent of DWSD’s workforce.
Letter notifies AFSCME of lay-offs, not transmitted to workers
Sixty-one AFSCME Local 207 workers were laid-off Oct. 23, according to a DWSD letter to Catherine Phillips, Staff Representative for Michigan AFSCME Council 25 dated Sept. 29, 2015. They including the three VOD interviewed, who said they were not informed ahead of time by management or by Council 25 of the pending lay-offs.
Letters have also been sent to other unions, according to current DWSD Director Sue McCormick’s Oct. 28 report to the Board of Water Commissioners.
Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant strike Sept. 30, 2012.
Phillips was one of three AFSCME representatives, including Ed McNeil, assistant to the director of AFSCME Council 25, and Staff Rep. Melvin Brabson, who went to the picket lines during a strike by WWTP workers in Sept. and Oct. 2012, to deliver letters from U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox ordering them back to work. The strike had been set for Oct. 1, but WWTP workers walked out early after rumors spread that Cox would issue a pre-emptive order.
Workers on the picket lines carried signs saying “SAVE DETROIT,” and “The battle for Detroit begins here.”
“We want DWSD under the control of the city,” one worker said then. “We are fighting for Detroit and all of its people.
Terri Taber Conerway, DWSD Organizational Development Director, said in the letter to Phillips that the terminations resulted from the elimination of 11 long-existing classifications represented by AFSCME Local 207: Auto Repair Helper, General Auto Mechanic, Pitometer Technician, Sewage Plant Attendant, Sewage Plant Operator, Sr. Pitometer Technician, Storekeeper, Water Meter Worker, Water Plant Attendant, Water Plant Operator, and Water Systems Control Instruments Technician.
DWSD workers make repairs using equipment serviced at auto shop, going into manhole.
In the main garage, where all DWSD vehicles including excavators and dump trucks are repaired, Collins said, 11 out of 25 auto mechanics were laid off although they were already short 10 people.
Audrey Bellamy, president of the Senior Accountants, Analysts and Appraisers was quoted in a Detroit Free Press article telling the City Council Nov. 3 that workers are being laid off regardless of seniority and other contract provisions.
“They appear to have laid off most of our senior members,” Bellamy said. “You have a problem when you start picking and choosing and treating people unfairly.”
WWTP workers down 370
Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant at 9300 W. Jefferson is the largest such facility in the U.S., and the third largest in the world.
An active WWTP worker told VOD over the phone that he is currently working multiple shifts back to back because so many people at the WWTP have been laid off or transferred. He said management has the authority to tell workers to stay on the job at the end of their shift if they are short-staffed. If they leave, they are fired.
Detroit’s Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest in the country and the third largest in the world, after China and Brazil, he said. Its operations are crucial to keeping dangerous toxins and algae out of the Detroit River and Lake Erie, as well as preventing floods of freeways and basements like those that overtook metro Detroit in August, 2014. Then, WWTP retirees said three major sewage pumps at the WWTP were out of commission at the time because 24/7 maintenance oversight had been halted due to lack of staff.
Inside DWSD WWTP; 24/7 surveillance of sewage pumps has been eliminated, causing constant breakdowns.
“There are sometimes only two workers on a floor, sometimes one, and sometimes none at all,” he said. “I can hardly leave the job because they’ve laid off about 70 people, or transferred them, or switched them around to other jobs. They were already short 300 workers. One worker recently had a major heart attack. The people running this place are totally incompetent. They’re dumping sewage sludge back in the river, and they just got fined for that. They’re piling up other sewage sludge outside the new [NEFCO] sludge-drying plant across from us, because they haven’t been able to get it working yet.”
McCormick confirmed in her report, “The WWTP received stipulated penalties . . . for failure to comply with requirements . . .Specifically, fecal coliform during a wet weather event was over the limit at a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) basin outfall and a prohibited bypass at Outfall 054 . . .The stipulated penalty for $5,000 for each occurrence for a total of $10,000.”
Aerial photo shows green areas of contamination at Metropolitan Beach, at the mouth of the Clinton River, on July 4, 2015.
Recently, DWSD told its customers that they should begin cleaning out their “storm basins,” evidently referring to sewers in front of their homes. They gave the same advice in August, 2014 after metro area freeways and basements were flooded with billions of gallons of water during heavy storms, largely due to three major non-functioning sewage pumps in the WWTP, according to WWTP retirees.
Evidently, the city is worried about more such situations.
Metropolitan Beach was shut down this past July due to contamination there. An aerial view by NASA showed green areas of algae contamination like that which caused the Toledo water crisis of Aug. 2014, also related to WWTP malfunctions.
On September 23, 2015, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit issued a boil water advisory for Boblo Island, which is downriver from the WWTP. Dr. Gary Kirk, the medical officer of health, said only bottled water or water brought to a boil for one minute should be used for consumption, food and ice preparation.
DWSD Chemist says $700 million NEFCO plant will raise sewage rates, make profit only for NEFCO
At the GLWA’s Oct. 19 meeting, McCormick reported on delays in getting the New England Fertilizer Company (NEFCO) sludge-drying plant, being constructed across from the WWTP, up and running. It is the largest such facility in North America, and is slated to take sewage sludge from the WWTP and convert it into dry pellets to be used for agricultural fertilizer, and to produce energy for DTE.
Construction on the facility began in 2013, and was supposed to have been completed this fall, but McCormick has admitted to ongoing delays. The contract’s original cost as posted on the facility’s wall was $138,000,000; with change orders since then it has risen to $700 million, paid for out of income from sewerage charges.
NEFCO Biosolids Dryer at 9129 W. Jefferson, Detroit on Nov. 10, 2015. Original cost of $138 M as posted has risen to $700 M with change orders as completion delayed.
DWSD chemist Saulius Simoliunas called the NEFCO facility, which will be staffed by NEFCO, not DWSD workers, a total folly.
Former DWSD director Victor Mercado with former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, both indicted for RICO violations. Kilpatrick is serving 28 years in prison, Mercado likely told on him and is scott-free.
“The NEFCO sludge-drying facility, financed by DWSD with millions of bond money, is one of a kind and by one bidder,” Simoliunas said. “It is designed to raise the sewer rates since it will not earn a cent. Most communities get money for their sewage sludge . . . This is quite different from paying an outside firm to dry our sludge to take to a contractor’s landfill.”
Another report on the project exulted, “NEFCO will make amazing amounts of money via DWSD contracts for the drying/processing of sewage sludge for Detroit. Remember the Synagro contracts worth literally a Billion dollars?”
The NEFCO deal is the new Synagro. The Synagro contracts caused a major scandal and were linked to the indictment and jailing of then Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his associates.
DWSD Chemist Saulius Simioliunas after GLWA meeting Oct. 19, 2015.
Simoliunas added, “The laying-off of half the technical force from DWSD will put the system in permanent disability to do anything right,” he testified. “Ratepayers have to be prepared to pay the highest rates in the nation for inferior service.”
McCormick reported that 1120 workers have been placed in new classifications. Workers meeting with VOD said management told them they had to re-apply to get those jobs, without regard for seniority, even if the jobs involved work they had done for many years. They said if they didn’t reapply, they were summarily laid off. McCormick told the BOWC that 700 DWSD workers applied, but only 687 were accepted.
The new classifications often combine the job duties of several previous different titles, for which workers have not always been adequately trained. Workers said DWSD is tricking some workers into taking the new titles, then laying them off anyway. Once those lay-offs happen, the workers are caught in no-win situation. They cannot use their seniority to transfer to other city departments because the titles don’t exist elsewhere.
Safety, customer health issues
Water main break at E. Jefferson and Bellevue in Sept. 2014.
“This is a safety issue,” Fox said. “DWSD is getting federal money to provide clean water, but they are putting inexperienced people in positions doing dangerous stuff. When you first start, you learn a lot from the other guys, for instance how to find the actual hole that is the source of a water main break. It’s not always where the water is spouting off.
“Recently, one guy with the title of ‘truck driver’ was running an excavator, with no experience knowing how wide the circumference to swing the bucket was, and he tore off the whole side of a church.”
Barber said four-man crews are needed to work in manholes, but they are being reduced to three-man crews, a highly dangerous situation.
“You need a top man, an operator, and two men to go down into the hole, even 5-10 feet,” one said. “If there’s a problem in the hole, you need someone to go down there to help get the men out. One guy doing a water job on the side recently got caught in a cave-in and almost died.”
Contracts posted on WWTP walls Nov. 10, 2015 total $40,333.000, not including change orders, as WWTP staff is decimated.
Much of the water and sewage construction work is being contracted out at great expense to DWSD. Minutes for the meetings of the BOWC over the past year show huge contracts being let. Contracts underway for the WWTP as posted on its wall Nov. 10 total $43,300,000, while the majority of WWTP city workers have been eliminated.
They are let to Walsh Construction, which has merged with Archer Western to handle global projects, and Weiss Construction, both white-owned, non-Detroit based firms that have gotten the lions’ share of construction contracts from DWSD over past decades. Such contracts are the low-hanging fruit being sought by the architects of the Great Lakes Water Authority.
WWTP workers picket at the Water Board Building Oct. 13, 2015, stress loss of DWSD workers.
At least 40 clerical workers have recently been laid off as well, along with chemists and engineers. The engineers are being replaced with non-licensed workers, according to Association of Detroit Engineers Pres. Shakil Ahmed.
“DWSD is laying off 11 experienced engineers with professional licenses and in their place are bringing engineers with no experience and without professional licenses. We are very short in engineering staff and this action will upset the operation of DWSD,” Ahmed said in an email to GLWA Chair Robert Daddow. Daddow told Ahmed to direct his complaint to DWSD since the GLWA had not yet taken over.
James Casha, an individual contractor who worked for DWSD for many years as an engineer, took issue with GLWA’s Oct. 19 approval of Sue McCormick as CEO.
James Casha after Oct. 19 GLWA meeting.
“The GLWA and DWSD need to be run by licensed civil engineers,” he said. “The GLWA should put her approval on hold until a full investigation is carried out into her role in the Flint water crisis.”
Although Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and former Flint EM Darnell Earley ordered the separation of the Flint water system from DWSD, McCormick as CEO of DWSD should have warned of the dangers, he implied.
Flint’s Water Department reconnected with DWSD for nine months on Oct. 15, 2015, after a major expose of a rise in lead in children’s blood levels resulting from use of the Flint River instead of Lake Huron for the city’s water intake.
But Flint is expected to leave DWSD again to join the Karegnondi Water Authority, a Flint/ Genesee County partnership. The Authority is building a new pipeline to Lake Huron rather than continuing to purchase water from DWSD. Communities in the county will treat their own water instead of using Detroit’s ready-to-drink water, or use it raw for agriculture. It is questionable how those communities plan to construct their own treatment facilities, and with what expertise.
DWSD increases debt load while jettisoning workers, raising rates
While DWSD continues to dump its long-time, experienced and dedicated workers, it is busy incurring more debt on top of the $5.5 billion it currently owes, which includes an additional $300 million borrowed after the bankruptcy was confirmed by Judge Steven Rhodes in December. Orr, who claimed Detroit’s main problem was an alleged $18 billion in debt, had actually proposed during bankruptcy proceedings that DWSD bondholders take a $2 billion haircut, but Wall Street promptly quashed that idea.
Currently, according to a chart published at the Oct. 28 meeting, the Detroit Water and Sewerage divisions have a combined ANNUAL revenue requirement of $933,234,836. Of that, $422,508,000, or approximately 45 percent, is assigned to debt service. The City of Detroit contract with the GLWA specifies that rates are based on “revenue requirements.”
Baxter Jones (center) with other protesters June 6, 2013, as Detroit EM Kevyn Orr speaks inside church.
Despite DWSD’s already skyrocketing debt, the BOWC approved the sale of $125 million in new “Sewage Disposal System Revenue” bonds at its Oct. 28 meeting. The agenda for a DWSD Special Finance Committee meeting Nov. 2 includes recommendations for the sale of an additional unspecified amount of both Water Supply System and Sewage Disposal System Revenue Refunding Bonds.
McCormick said the bonds were sold through the Michigan Finance Authority, allowing for lower interest rates. She said that while rates will rise for DWSD and later GLWA customers, the lower interest rates will benefit them. DWSD water and sewerage rates have already risen 120 percent over the last ten years.
Increasing rates cause more water shut-offs
Newly appointed GLWA director Sue McCormick.
McCormick said in her Oct. 28 report that 16,078 residential accounts found to be on illegally have been permanently shut-off, meaning water service will never be restored to those addresses. That also means those homes will no longer be occupied and will add to the increasing amounts of vacant land in the city, as well as reducing property taxes.
She said that since May 11, DWSD has posted 49,824 door hangers notifying customers of pending shut-off of services. She said 27,172 of those customers have either paid their bills or entered into Payment Plan Agreements. She neglected to note the high rate of delinquency on such agreements, which are themselves unaffordable for most customers.
Below, Detroit COO Gary Brown, soon to take McCormick’s place as DWSD Executive Director, despite the fact that his career with the city was largely in the Police Department, rationalizes water shut-offs despite United Nations mandates barring them.
DAREA president William Davis at tax foreclosure protest.
Related: The Coalition to Save the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department is continuing its petition campaign to get the GLWA takeover on the city’s ballot.
At the Monday, Nov. 16 meeting @11:30 am, of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA), all petition circulators are asked to turn in what they have collected so far. The meeting will be held at Nandi’s Knowledge Café at 12511 Woodward Ave.
For more information on the this campaign, including links to petitions themselves, fliers, and instructions for circulating, see:
The Coalition needs to collect a total of 15,000 valid petition signatures meaning it must collect at least twice that to allow for invalid signatures. Signers must be Detroit residents who are registered voters. CIRCULATORS DO NOT HAVE TO BE DETROIT RESIDENTS.
(L to r) Floyd Dent, his niece, Atty. Gregory Rohl, legal asst. Angela Martin after hearing Nov. 5, 2015.
DETROIT – Autoworker Floyd Dent, now a national symbol of the battle against police brutality, took the stand Nov. 5 to confront former Detroit, Highland Park, and Inkster cop William Melendez, nicknamed “Robocop.” Melendez is being tried in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans for nearly beating Dent to death during a traffic stop in Inkster Jan. 28.
He is charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, attempted strangulation, and misconduct in office and faces 10-25 years in prison. The City of Detroit previously paid out at least $1.2 million to settle numerous brutality lawsuits against Melendez, including two killings in 1996 and 2003. The City of Inkster paid $1.3 million to settle the Dent case out of court.
Dent remained calm and dignified throughout his testimony, pointing to Melendez to identify him.
William ‘Robocop’ Melendez during preliminary exam in Aug. 2015.
“That’s the officer right there in the purple tie,” Dent said.
Just prior to Dent’s testimony, Melendez’ partner at the time, “auxiliary” Inkster cop John Zielenewski, admitted sending and receiving racist texts using the “N” word and other epithets, that the prosecution had subpoenaed. He said he had used the word “only” 20-30 times out of thousands of texts, and did not mean it “derogatorily.”
One text in March said, “At least give me the satisfaction of knowing you’re out there beating up N’s right now,” to which Zielenewski replied, “lol, just got done with one.”
Zielenewski told Judge Evans that a volunteer auxiliary cop for the Inkster force, he buys his own uniforms, guns and other equipment. He said he works full-time “for the railroad.”
Evans quipped, “Oh, so you’re a railroader by day and a crimefighter by night?”
Dent, now 58, has worked for Ford Motor Company for 38 years. He sustained permanent closed head injuries, a broken nose, broken eye orbit, broken ribs, and burns from taser strikes applied directly to his stomach and thighs.
John Zeileniewski–unpaid auxiliary Inkster cop admits to using “N” word repeatedly.
In key testimony, he recounted the beating.
“When I pulled over to the right, I opened the driver’s door and held both arms out, to let the officers know I didn’t have any weapons,” Dent testified. He said he had his light tan Cadillac washed earlier and didn’t want to streak the windows by letting them down.
“One officer approached me on the right side and another officer approached me with a gun. The guy with the gun [Melendez] was at the side of my door and said, ‘Get out of the car or I’ll blow your motherfucking head off.’ The officer with the skullcap then threw me to the ground, grabbing my arm.”
Dent said, “The officer with the gun jumped on me, grabbed me by the throat, and started choking me, then beating me in the head. I saw a shiny object in his hand when he was beating the right side of my head. That’s when I had to cover up my face. . . .He tried to kill me. He choked me so hard I couldn’t breathe. He had me in a strangling position. He had his arm under my throat trying to cut off my windpipe. I was trying to catch my breath and I was moving my head to get his arm from around me . . . .The officer choked me for so long, I passed out for a minute.”
The dashcam video (below) shows that Melendez hit Dent directly in the head 16 times.
Dent testified that other officers who arrived on the scene kicked him in the ribs and tased him at least three to four times, after someone said “tase that motherfucker.” They included other Inkster police, Michigan State troopers and a Dearborn Heights officer, all of them white.
Police dashcam videos of the beating went viral, shocking the nation in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown, Errol Garner, and numerous other Black men across the U.S. the previous year. Prior to Dent’s testimony, a jury of nine Blacks and seven whites watched the videos in real time and slow motion, frame by frame.
First Lt. Twana Powell heads MSP’s internal affairs unit.
The officer in charge of the case, First Lt. Twana Powell, head of the Michigan State Police internal affairs unit, narrated the videos. She firmly withstood defense attempts to say the videos showed Dent resisting arrest, asserting instead that he appeared to be protecting himself.
She also testified that Inkster Police Department “use of force” regulations absolutely forbid the use of chokeholds.
Dent explained that it takes him longer now to process and respond to questions due to permanent head injuries from the beating. However, his testimony in response to questions from Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Donaldson and defense attorney James C. Thomas was understandable and forthright.
Dent said he was coming back from dropping off liquor to friends of his who lived in an apartment complex near Michigan Avenue, not the Budget Inn Zielenewski testified he first saw him at. Dent said he has never been to the Budget Inn. He said bought the liquor where he always does, at a store near Michigan and I-275.
Zielenewski testified earlier without citing statistics that the entire stretch of Michigan Avenue in Inkster, a predominantly Black city, is a “high crime” area, and that cops are always on “high alert” when patrolling the area.
Floyd Dent being handcuffed after beating. Melendez (r).
Dent said he drove on Michigan westbound to a parallel side street, Oak Court, before he noticed the cops put their flashers on. He drove for about 20 seconds more to a well-lit area outside the old Inkster police station and stopped.
Then the beating, kickings and tasings took place, before cops finally dragged Dent off the ground and stood him up in front of Melendez’ car to handcuff him. That resulted in another photo that went viral, showing Dent bleeding profusely from his head onto his white shirt as two officers restrained him.
Dent said he never resisted, struck or bit Melendez or Zielenewski. Zielenewski had testified that while Dent was lying under the two cops, he moved them several feet over trying to “scoot away” and escape. Zielenewski said he was 6 ft. 2 in. tall and weighed 245 lbs. at the time, and that Melendez was even larger. He said they both regularly worked out with weights. Dent testified that he is 5’10” and weighs 225 lbs.
A video showing an extensive search of Dent’s car after that, with cops and a police dog swarming all over it, was also played. One section, which was highligted by Kevin Dietz on Channel Four, showed Melendez pulling a plastic baggie of what the defense claimed to be drugs out of his pocket after his third search of the car. (See above.)
Floyd Dent sits in cell for booking photo, still pleading for medical attention.
“When he [Melendez] stood me up in front on the police car that’s when I told him, ‘Why did you beat me like that?’” Dent testified. “They took me straight to the precinct, not the hospital, even though I begged to go. I was bleeding real bad, my head had swelled up so big. When I got to the precinct, they took me to a jail cell and told me to strip down to my shorts.”
AP Donaldson played a police station video of that incident. It showed cops forcing Dent to kneel on a bench, facing the wall, while his pants were searched and pulled off. One cop gave Dent paper towels to wipe the blood from his face, and removed his bloody outer shirt, before the photo was taken. The cop discarded the towels.
Over Thomas’ unsustained objection, Donaldson also showed a video (above) of Melendez and other cops inside the lobby of the police station, with Dent present before they took him to his cell. They were wiping blood off their clothes with disinfectants and laughing uproariously, knocking their fists with each other. One cop is shown lying on a bench in the room imitating Dent’s position as he lay on the ground, with his left arm outstretched.
William and Kerry Melendez, married Sept. 22, 2015. Photo: Google +
Zielenewski claimed that cop’s action was related to Melendez’s upcoming honeymoon. Melendez’ current wife Kerry Melendez, who he married Sept. 22, 2015, was present in the court, along with a row of what appeared to be other cops.
Court records show that a previous wife, Michelle Melendez, divorced him in 2004 after his trial in federal court with seven other Detroit cops for an L.A. “Ramparts” style scandal involving allegations of frame-ups, beatings, stranglings, and death threats.
Detroit Police Officers Association (DPOA) President Mark Diaz hugged and encouraged Melendez as he sat at the defense bench during a break, but denied that the DPOA had funded his defense.
VOD asked Thomas who was paying him, to which Thomas replied, “What kind of a question is that?” Earlier media reports said Melendez was a member of Teamsters Local 214.
Floyd Dent appears with attorney Gregory Rohl and supporters at press conference after beating.
Thomas told Dent, who admitted to driving on a suspended license, that he had been “arrested or taken in by police on 13 separate occasions for driving while on a suspended license, and stopped 28 times.” Dent said he had been arrested four to five times.
There are no records for Dent of any arrests, charges, or convictions on the Michigan State Police ICHAT website. That site normally leaves arrests online even if they don’t lead to convictions. (See Dent ICHAT.)
Thomas asked Dent how many times he had been on TV about the incident, to which Dent replied, “about five.” Thomas noted that Dent was accompanied by his attorney Gregory Rohl, and reporter Kevin Dietz of Channel Four when he entered the courtroom.
Dietz did a stunning series of stories on the Dent beating, which led to four mass protests in Inkster and Detroit. Dietz told VOD he just happened to be in the hall when Dent and Rohl arrived, and entered the courtroom just after they did, not with them.
WCCC Judge Vonda Evans.
After the hearing, Rohl told VOD, “Justice will be done. I was very pleased with Floyd’s poise on the witness stand. Truth will prevail. I am offended beyond belief at the racism that permeates the Inkster police force. How many times do you have to say you used the “N” word, claiming it is not derogatory, before you become a racist?”
Testimony in the case resumes Monday, Nov. 9 at 9:30 a.m. in Judge Evans courtroom, #802 at the Frank Murphy Hall. The prosecution is expected to call several more witnesses, while the defense has said it has “25-35” witnesses to call.
Rev. Edward Pinkney speaks out against Whirlpool’s corporate takeover of Benton Harbor, Snyder’s Emergency Manager law May 26, 2012.
Political prisoner, who was moved to Marquette Prison, far from his Benton Harbor home and wife Dorothy Pinkney, now has no phone access
Pres. Barack Obama, who is about to address the issue of prisoner re-entry, must pardon Rev. Edward Pinkney
By Ron Seigel
November 1, 2015
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in prison during civil rights movement, during which he gave his life.
DETROIT–Late last month I sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting him to give a presidential pardon to Reverend Edward Pinkney, an African American civil rights activist, an elderly man of God now in a prison in Marquette, Michigan.
I have done so, because of the many irregularities and violations of civil rights in his case. I hope those concerned about civil liberties and due process will make similar requests.
Reverend Pinkney’s plight is frighteningly similar to a situation faced by another clergyman in 1960, when Dr. Martin Luther King was imprisoned in a southern jail for a mere traffic violation.
This elderly man of 67 may face a long imprisonment. His prosecutor Michael Sepic earlier called for a life sentence. Rev. Pinkney is appealing the sentence he received in December, of 2.5-10 years.
The reverend has never been accused of killing anybody or robbing anybody. The prosecutor claims he was trying to avoid a legal technicality.
Rev. Edward Pinkney with his wife Dorothy Pinkney.
Reverend Pinkney, as noted in past articles, was simply organizing a petition drive to recall the Mayor of Benton Harbor, because of what he considered a corrupt giveaway of much of Benton Harbor’s public land to Whirlpool Corporation. Under Michigan law he was in his legal rights to do this. However, there are time limits for signing such petitions. Prosecutor Sepic claims some of the dates were altered and set back in order to conform to these time limits.
On October 3, 2014 the reverend was found guilty of altering these dates. He was never found guilty of forging signatures. From press reports it seems clear the required number of voters expressed a desire for a special election to recall the Mayor. The question is when they did so.
This seems to be a case of politicians in office ganging up on a citizen who was trying to get another politician out of office. If someone altered dates on a petition to get the Mayor reelected, I doubt that there would be attempts to get such a severe sentence. The case seems tainted with politics and I believe Reverend Pinkney is, in effect, a political prisoner.
If Reverend Pinkney were white, one wonders if such severe measures would ever be considered.
There is good reason to question whether Reverend Pinkney was guilty of the “crime ” he had been accused of. Defense witnesses at his trial said the petitions went through many hands and other people could have altered the dates, if indeed they were altered. In the American system of justice citizens are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In Reverend Pinkney’s case, there are a multitude of reasonable doubts.
Nationally acclaimed book told story of drowning of Black Benton Harbor youth, with chief suspect the Sheriff of Berrien County.
There are also very good reasons to doubt the fairness of the trial itself. It did not take place in Benton Harbor, where the alleged offense was committed, but in the Berrien County Court in St. Joseph, a virtually all-white city across the St. Joseph River from virtually all-Black Benton Harbor.
Reverend Pinkney, who as I noted is an African American, was tried by an all-white jury. There seems good reason to suspect the process was manipulated to make him vulnerable to racial prejudice.
Reverend Pinkney is appealing his conviction for good reason. However, he has been denied the right to post bond while making his appeal. One certainly must wonder why authorities are so anxious for us taxpayers to pay for this man’s imprisonment before his case is concluded, rather than saving the space for rapists and murderers.
Why not let this man prepare his case at home, have better access to his lawyers and some time with his wife and family during this crucial period in his life?
Actually right now it is difficult for his lawyer and family to get in touch with him. He has been transferred against his will to the Marquette Prison, which is nearly 500 miles away from them.
Last week his phone “privileges” were revoked making him almost completely isolated from the outside world.
Chris Gautz, who handles public information for the prison, claims that this was because Reverend Pinkney violated prison rules by arranging to make a three way call to someone that was not on his regulated phone list and calling people on behalf of another inmate.
Marquette Branch Prison
It was impossible to get Reverend Pinkney’s side of the story, because, of course, it was impossible to reach him by phone.
As in the case of Dr. King in 1960, Reverend Pinkney’s friends and family are concerned about his safety.
There is certainly reason to be concerned for this elderly man’s health. It has been said when he first came to Marquette he was placed in a moldy cell, causing dizziness and making it hard for him to breathe. Reports say he was transferred to another cell that was moldy but less moldy.
Now he is cut off from the outside world, no one can find out about his health and safety or even know if he received his letters.
Since Marquette, Michigan today is not a part of the old South (ostensibly), one hopes that if Reverend Pinkney is killed or harmed that those responsible for this situation will face the full weight of the law. If so, some authorities might discover what it is like to be in prison. Such a redress, though, would be far too little and too late.
Pres. Barack Obama touring Chrysler Warren Stamping Plant.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy, simply as a candidate for president, made phone calls on behalf of Dr. King and secured his release.
As president, Gerald Ford gave a presidential pardon to Richard Nixon before he went to trial for anything. More recently President Bush gave a pardon to his aide, Karl Rove, after he was convicted of threatening national security.
It is time for our current president to provide such consideration to an elderly clergyman.
Let him out of jail.
To express your views to the president, call his comment line at (202) 456-1111 or write President Barack Obama, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. 2050.
DETROIT – Former Inkster, Highland Park, and Detroit police officer William “Robocop” Melendez finally faces trial beginning Mon. Nov. 2, in the near-fatal beating of Black Detroit autoworker Floyd Dent, 57, during an Inkster traffic stop Jan. 28. Dent was unarmed.
The dashcam video of the beating (at top of story) went viral, sparking four major protests in Inkster, Highland Park, and Detroit after Channel Four’s Kevin Dietz first aired it. Dietz also aired other videos showing Melendez planting drugs in Dent’s car, and one showing Melendez and his crew taunting the bleeding Dent and ignoring his requests for medical attention, during his booking on charges which were later dismissed.
“I went to the ground, [and Melendez] started choking me,” Dent said at Melendez’ preliminary hearing in August. “He choked me so hard that I couldn’t breathe. … Then he started, he started beating me in the right side of my head.”
Dent and his attorney Gregory Rohl have said he sustained permanent injuries from the beating, including broken ribs and memory loss from bleeding on the brain.
Floyd Dent and his grandchildren on stage after march in Inkster supporting him April 2, 2015.
Melendez faces charges of “Assault with Intent to Do Great Bodily Harm Less than Murder, Common Law Offenses, and Assault by Strangulation.” The charges, brought by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, carry a total of 25 years in prison. None of the other cops shown in the videos kicking, tasing and taunting Dent were charged.
Melendez’ defense attorney James C. Thomas, who previously represented former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, plans to call 25-35 witnesses, while Asst. Prosecutor Robert Donaldson said he plans to call only 5-6 witnesses, along with any rebuttal witnesses.
Judge Evans earlier ruled that testimony regarding Dent’s alleged arrest record and drug use would be allowed, likely accounting for the number of defense witnesses. However, there are no crimes or arrests on Dent’s State Police ICHAT record, or in Wayne County Third Judicial Circuit Court records.
“They need to allow testimony from all the people who have been killed, mangled, shot, assaulted and framed by Melendez, or from their families,” Cornell Squires, of We the People for the People, said.
“Detroit paid out millions of dollars for his conduct when he should have been charged long ago. Numerous people went to jail because of his conduct. They need to be compensated for their loss. Hopefully this time, the jury pool will see the truth of the charges. They should bring up everything good and bad—let the jury weigh it out. I would love for my son to testify that Melendez lied on him, and he served time in jail as a result and still has a record. Once a liar, always a liar.”
Squires’ son was tried in 1999 before then Judge Kym Worthy, who refused to allow key defense evidence to be considered.
A state statute does allow evidence of “similar acts,” to be used under certain circumstances, but evidently has not been invoked by the prosecution. It reads:
MCL 768.27 Evidence; proof of intent or motive by similar acts.
“In any criminal case where the defendant’s motive, intent, the absence of, mistake or accident on his part, or the defendant’s scheme, plan or system in doing an act, is material, any like acts or other acts of the defendant which may tend to show his motive, intent, the absence of, mistake or accident on his part, or the defendant’s scheme, plan or system in doing the act, in question, may be proved . . . .”
During his long-term tenure with the Detroit Police Department, Melendez helped shoot to death two unarmed Detroiters, Lou Adkins, during a traffic stop in 1996, and Ernest Crutchfield, in his own kitchen in 2003. “Robocop” has been sued a total of 12 times in federal court, costing Detroit over $1.2 million. The City of Inkster paid $1.3 million to settle Dent’s case.
Melendez and Detroit cop Matthew Zani were the ringleaders of a group of 18 cops who carried out an “L.A. Ramparts”-style campaign of assaults, sexual abuse, frame-ups, and death threats, according to charges brought to trial by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2004. Circuit court judges dropped charges against several of the witnesses after the officers were indicted.
But the first eight cops, including Melendez, were acquitted in what prosecutors called a “jury nullification verdict,” despite the fact that the witnesses against Melendez et. al. included 17 Black Detroit police officers.
“I’ve been a civil rights attorney for 14 years, and never in that time have I seen a police officer testify against another officer, because of the blue code of silence,” Attorney Kevin Ernst told this reporter then. “When you have other officers testifying, it’s hard to believe that it’s not true.” He represented chief witness Clifton White, who had been subjected to constant criminal acts by Melendez and other Third and Fourth precinct cops over a period of 10 years.
But Melendez’ attorney David Lee rejoiced.
“I really do feel that this jury sent a message to Detroit police officers that they can go out and do their jobs without having the federal government looking over their shoulders,” he said. “One juror, a Detroit resident, personally told me to make sure that these young men get back on the street because we need their protection.”
After the verdict, the number of killings by Detroit police spiked dramatically, but Worthy, who took office in January, 2004, refused to bring charges against any Detroit cops in the killings, until Joseph Weekley and a Detroit SWAT-style crew killed seven-year-old Aiyana Jones May 16, 2010.
Sign for Aiyana Jones (center) was carried at every march in support of Floyd Dent. Ron Hereford, whose son was framed by Southfield cops, is at right.
Weekley, charged with involuntary manslaughter, walked free after three trials during which it was clear that the prosecution conspired with the defense and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway. Instead, the little girl’s father and uncle, Charles Jones and Chauncey Owens, were sent to prison for 40-60 years and life, respectively, based on testimony secured largely from jail-house snitches about the killing of Je’Rean Blake, 17.
The NYPD violently arrested a peaceful protester holding his two-year-old child on his shoulders Saturday, Oct. 24, allegedly for standing on a park bench as well as 10 other peaceful protesters at a demonstration against police violence.
Mertilla Jones, grandmother of Aiyana Jones, 7, killed by Detroit police May 16, 2010, speaks at #RiseUpOctober “Say Their Names” rally.
The rally and march, organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network was permitted for a rally in Washington Square North, a march up 6th Avenue in one lane of traffic, and another rally on 6th Avenue along Bryant Park. Despite the fact that organizers of the protest jumped through the arduous hoops of obtaining a parade permit, New York City police showed up for the event as if they were prepared for a riot, and deployed numerous questionable tactics, trampling on the demonstrators Constitutional rights to free speech and to peaceably gather.
Staffed almost exclusively by their new protest-specific unit, which has civil libertarians concerned, the NYPD carried and used military-grade sound cannons, which can cause permanent hearing damage, filmed peaceful protesters, which is a violation of a federal decree, and over-reacted to minor and even non-existent offenses, arresting nearly a dozen protests, some brutally (videos below).
First arrest by NYPD, Twitter photo by Keegan Stephan
The rally in Washington Square went unmolested by the police, but as soon as it left the square, the NYPD began shoving metal barricades into protesters as they turned onto 6th Avenue.
As the march proceeded up 6th Avenue, anytime a protester so much as stepped over the line of the far right lane, the NYPD mobilized their fleet of scooters, threatened arrests, and even blared dispersal orders over their ear-shattering sound cannon.
When the march reached Bryant Park, a contingent turned right on 42nd Street toward 5th Avenue, apparently unsure of the final destination. Some protesters crossed 5th Avenue, but others realized they had passed the destination and turned down 5th to circle the block back to the second rallying point.
Protesters in march/Photo by Yvette Johnson, stepmother of Terrance Kellom, killed by Detroit police.
The NYPD, which had been holding back traffic until this point, suddenly instructed traffic to cross 42nd Street and drive behind the protest, creating a dangerous situation for everyone involved and, with barricades along both sidewalks, seeming trapping the protesters in an arrestable position. Indeed, they then immediately began arresting protesters for “obstructing vehicular traffic.”
Journalist Russell Johnson waited for an ambulance for 40 minutes after police arrested him.
The NYPD arrested five protesters on 5th Avenue and shoved the rest onto the sidewalk, injuring at least one person – a member of the press named Russell Johnson, who told PINAC News that the NYPD shoved him over their metal barricades, hurting his back to the point he feared standing up without an ambulance.
While the NYPD was able to maneuver multiple vehicles down the block to arrest the protesters, an ambulance did not arrive for Johnson for more than 40 minutes.
Things remained calm through the rest of the second rally, after which a smaller group took the sidewalks toward Times Square. Many police followed.
When the splinter march reached Times Square, several protesters, including one man with his two-year-old child on his shoulders, stood on the benches around the statue of George M. Cohen in the pedestrian plaza to read the facts of police brutality to the crowd in Times Square.
Police mob protester as arrest is made. Photo: George Joseph
The NYPD vastly over-reacted to this minor infraction (if it even is one) and violently arrested all of the protesters on the statue’s structure, six in total. I was present for the arrest and heard no dispersal order, just saw the police suddenly grabbing the demonstrators, throwing them to the ground, cuffing them, and dragging them away to police vehicles.
Below is video of the NYPD arresting the man who had his child on his shoulders, throwing him to the ground and stomping on him.
The NYPD took all of the protesters arrested at Rise Up October to the 7th Precinct, just south of Delancey Street, some 60 blocks south of where they were arrested, past at least five other precincts. While they did not transfer the protesters again, as they have done without alerting jail support at recent protests, they did take them to a precinct distant enough to prohibit many people from joining jail support who wanted to.
At the time of the writing of this piece, of the 11 people arrested at #RiseUpOctober, seven had been released from the precinct with minor charges. The other four had been taken to Central Booking where the NYPD said they would be held overnight and arraigned in the morning on charges of “resisting arrest” in addition to other charges.
First four protesters to be released/Photo Keegan Stephan
As readers of this site are well aware, charges of “resisting arrest” are generally cover for the cops roughing you up while they arrest you. Last night was not exception. Video of the one person who was arrested on Broadway and charged with “resisting” can be seen below. The NYPD’s protest-specific Strategic Response Group seems particularly well trained at the age old tactic of yelling “stop resisting” for the cameras, when no one is actually resisting.
Rise Up October NYC Police Brutality Protest Results In Multiple Arrests: Report
Activists and concerned citizens marched the streets of Manhattan in New York City Saturday as part of “Rise Up October,” a mass demonstration to protest police brutality in the United States. A number of protesters were reportedly arrested, but it wasn’t immediately clear what the charges were.
Police with dogs confronted Rise Up protesters. Photo: James from the Internet.
According to a tweet, a police officer allegedly smacked the cell phone out of the hand of the first woman arrested. It was not immediately clear how many protesters marched the streets, which were filled with chants of “justice now” and signs saying “Stop police terror!” and “Which side are you on.”
Demonstrators gathered in Washington Square Park Saturday morning and marched to a closing rally at Bryant Park near Times Square, according to the group’s website. Activists predicted in August that Saturday’s Rise Up October event could attract about 100,000 people.
Lead banner shows some of 960 people killed by law enforcement in 2015 alone.
“What I see it accomplishing is radically transforming the way people look at this question [which side are you on] getting them to go from sympathy with people who are suffering this to actively siding with them and acting together with them, and then getting other sections of people to go from, ‘This doesn’t have any effect on me. It’s not my problem,’ to seeing that it is all of our problem,” Carl Dix, a Rise Up October co-founder, said in a radio interview in August.
Saturday’s event came one day after demonstrators gathered in Queens to protest Rikers Island, saying it should be shut down, according to a Bronx news station. About a dozen protesters were arrested outside the jail’s entrance Friday.
Among those in the crowd Saturday were prominent civil rights activist and scholar Cornel West, who along with Dix founded the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, a national protest group. Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino was also marching.
Tears glistened in the eyes of some protesters and others gave voice to the dissatisfaction many have felt in the past two years over police tactics and use of force, according to the TeleSUR news network. Deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police across the country have led many to call into question how the police do their job.
#RISEUPOCTOBER DEMANDS DIRECT ACTION TO COMBAT POLICE VIOLENCE
October 24, 2015
Protester at #RiseUpOctober: “I will shoot back.” This photo was used to decry rally in mainstream media, in wake of a cop being shot. What other choice is there?
Centering the narratives of family members of the victims of police violence, protesters are calling for a radical change in U.S. policing and are creating a diverse coalition.
Celebrities, university students, religious congregations, activists, and community housing projects commenced the final day of the Rise Up October campaign against police brutality marching to the heart of Manhattan on Saturday morning, defiantly condemning “police terror” against U.S. citizens just a day after protesters were arrested for trying to shut down New York’s notorious Rikers prison.
Local and international media followed protesters as they chanted slogans like “Justice Now!” and “The Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell!.” While, quiet tears and sometimes painful screams could be heard among the crowd as mothers who lost their children lamented the lack of justice in the United States when it comes to police brutality.
Tensions and emotions of pain and anger were clearly high as the protests unfolded. One young Black woman activist on a megaphone condemned the Black police officers on patrol at the protest, calling one officer a “House Negro.” The emotions reflect how many communities of color in the United States are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Cornel West marches with families of police terror victims.
The march is the culmination of a three-day action in New York that sought to keep the focus on police harassment and brutality that activists say targets the most vulnerable in United States, especially economically marginalized communities of color, leading to a culture of impunity for police violence.
“Millions of people all across the country and around the world will hear our powerful cry – WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? Millions more are gonna say, okay, I gotta choose sides and many of them will decide they have to be with the ones trying to STOP this,” read a statement by organizers of the protest on The Stop Mass Incarceration Network’s Facebook page.
Speaking out against police murders; national movement began in Ferguson after the police murder of Michael Brown.
The group also said the action would be supported in various cities across the United States, including Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, New Orleans and Mississippi. On Friday, at least 10 people were arrested in protests calling for the closure New York prison facility Rikers, sources told teleSUR, as part of a three-day demonstration across the United States against police brutality.
Under the #RiseUpOctober banner, around 200 protesters gathered in Queens to disrupt the detention center by lying on the ground outside. Critics say detainees are systematically abused at the center. Eyewitnesses said that demonstrators were then zip-tied and dragged away to a prison bus by waiting police.
“They went for the front gate to the prison and police deployed officers wearing gas masks with dogs,” independent video journalist James Woods told teleSUR.
Kimberly Griffin (r) speaks about her son’s death after a high-speed police chase in Ohio, at the Detroit March for Justice Oct 3. Mertilla Jones (l), grandmother of Aiyana Jones, and Monica Lewis-Patrick (center) listen. Photo: Detroit People’s Platform
DETROIT – Kimberly Griffin of Detroit will be among hundreds traveling to New York City this week-end to protest the deaths of their loved ones at the hands of law enforcement, during #RiseUpOctober events Oct. 22-24. She and Mertilla Jones, whose granddaughter Aiyana Jones, 7, was killed by Detroit police May 16, 2010, left together Oct. 20.
Kevin Kellom, father of Terrance Kellom, killed by police in Detroit April 27, was also going, Griffin told VOD.
Mrs. Griffin’s son Kimoni Calvon “Kodak” Davis, 19, died June 29, 2015, a day after a 20-mile high-speed police chase on US 52 in Ohio, initiated by Damon J. Caruso, 24, a Hanging Rock Village, Ohio cop who has conducted four such chases.
Kimoni “Kodak” Davis and son. Facebook
“When you have a baby, you tend to protect your child from dangers that you know, like gangs, drugs, and ill-minded people,” Mrs. Griffin said on the #RiseUpOctober website. “The question is, when your baby is killed by law enforcement, those who took an oath to protect and serve, who protects you when the proposed protector is the one causing the harm?”
Davis had a young son who will not grow up under his dad’s protection either.
Airshaan Warren of Nitro, VA, 17, a passenger in the car, also died in the chase, his body cruelly crumpled after the car allegedly became airborne and flew down a steep embankment outside Chesapeake, Ohio. Davis died the next day in a Virginia hospital.
Christie Snow, mother of Airshaan Warren/Facebook
Warren’s mother, Christie Snow, said of her son, “Airshaan was a good kid. He played football, basketball, he was excellent in sports. He kept his grades to a certain level so he could play. He would have been playing for the school football team this year.”
However, she said, Warren ran away from home due to threats from a gang at his school.
“He was a lost kid,” she said. “He didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he didn’t want anyone telling him what to do. He wanted his freedom. Ever since he left, he’s texted me often, telling me ‘It’s me, I’m OK.” He has four brothers and two sisters. The community here has been very supportive of me. My Facebook friends tell me they will do anything for me at the drop of a hat.”
She said she stays in contact with Davis’ mother Kimberly Griffin.
Caruso said in his report that he started chasing Davis and Warren because they were traveling 77 mph in a 60 mph zone.
Airshaan Warren, 17, dead in Ohio chase.
Airshaan Warren after crash.
Hanging Rock Village, just west of the Ohio/W. Virginia state line, is nationally known as a speed trap where motorists are arrested and taken before a local “mayor’s court” instead of just being ticketed. Hanging Rock’s population is 221, 98.6 percent white.
No drugs or weapons were found in the car or at the scene, and there were no warrants outstanding for the two youths, according to police reports.
“Kimoni was not a drug dealer, thug, or a menace to society, he didn’t have a record!” Patricia Edison said on the “Voice for Kimoni” Facebook page, which has 630 supporters.
Hanging Rock Village cop Damon Caruso, 24 (Facebook).
“He was a son, father, brother, nephew, cousin and friend to many. The story in the media doesn’t add up for it is full of holes and unanswered questions. Two young lives were lost in yet another uncalled for police chase. Please don’t forget about Kimoni. Be his voice and demand Justice for him, his son, family, friends, and our community.”
Caruso claimed that he never came closer to the car than 100 ft., and was pursuing it at 80-90 mph to try to get its license plate number, solely because it was exceeding the speed limit by 17 miles.
Photos obtained from the Ohio State Highway Patrol tell a different story, showing TWO SETS of tire tracks going up the embankment next to the ramp, raising the possibility that Caruso hit Davis’ car during the pursuit, sending it out of control and airborne.
Ohio Highway patrol investigators reported that no drugs or weapons were found in or around the car, which landed in a thickly wooded area after, incredibly, flying over four lanes of traffic and dropping over a steep embankment on the other side.
Davis car after it was brought up from downhill. OHP photo
“When we arrived on the scene, we could not identify the front of the vehicle from the back of the vehicle,” Chesapeake, Ohio Fire Chief Ed Webb told WSAV TV of Charleston, W. Virginia on the day of the crash (video at top of story).
The station reported that Warren was dead at the scene, but that Davis was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington, W. VA. He died the next day, in his mother’s arms.
Caruso’s report, given to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, says in part:
Rectangular dirt “gouge” in embankment from which Davis car allegedly went airborne. OHP photo.
According to Highway Patrol officer Darrin Webb, the 2004 Ford Explorer Davis was driving “lost control trying to exit into West Virginia, going off the left side of the roadway, striking an embankment and going airborne. While in the air, unit 1 (Davis’ car) struck the top of a guard rail post. Unit 1 then struck the roadway, hitting a guard rail and a light post, causing it to turn over a steep embankment.”
VOD obtained a CD of numerous photos of the scene taken immediately after the crash from the Ohio State Highway Patrol. One shows a perfectly rectangular plot of dirt in the grassy embankment, which is called a “gouge” in the report. The report says that this was the point from which the car went airborne, although the area appears relatively level.
Two sets of tire tracks leading up embankment. Was one made by Caruso car? OHP photo.
It is unclear how such a perfect rectangle of dirt could have been produced by the chase, unless it was raked over afterwards in a cover-up.
A photo taken from the top of the guardrail looking downward toward the rectangle shows TWO setsof tire tracks in the grass leading up to it.
Did Caruso’s car actually hit Davis’ car, causing it to go airborne?
An editorial published June 30 in the Herald Dispatch of Huntington, VA after the deaths of Davis and Wallace, said such high speed police chases are a danger. It said many states are setting limits on them, such as requiring “reasonable suspicion that the person fleeing has committed or is attempting to commit a violent felony.”
OHP map shows Davis vehicle flying over four lanes of highway traffic before landing down a steep drop-off at right.
“One study showed about 75 percent of chases begin with traffic violations, stolen vehicles or drunk driving and only about 9 percent involved a violent felony,” the Herald Dispatch reported. “Apparently, a large percentage of those fleeing are young male drivers with bad driving records. . . . A National Institute of Justice report found that once the pursuit is abandoned, most offenders quickly return to a normal driving speed, reducing the risk to themselves and other motorists.”
In fact, South Point, Ohio police officers who joined the chase reported that they stopped their pursuit due to its dangerously high rate of speed.
Officers from Coal Grove, Ohio continued, following Caruso’s lead. Caruso is on a football team in that town. State troopers arrived at the scene shortly after the crash.
Caruso was allegedly put on administrative leave after the crash. VOD left a message with the Hanging Rock Village city office inquiring whether he has returned to active duty, but received no response before press time. That office includes the police department, the court, and other administrative units.
James Crowder with ticket in hand heads into mayor’s court in Hanging Rock May 17, 2012. James planned to hire a attorney to fight the ticket.(Dispatch photo by Eric Albrecht)
VOD has sent detailed Ohio Open Records requests to all police, fire and EMT agencies involved with the chase. Mrs. Griffin told VOD earlier that police told Attorney David Robinson, who is considering whether to file suit, that the dash-cam video from Caruso’s car was “lost.”
However, dash-cam videos from South Point and Coal Grove should be available, as well as a more detailed analysis from the Ohio State Highway Patrol of tire tracks, the condition of Caruso’s car, which was not included in the photographs released, and other evidence.
Michaelangelo, 6, and Makiah Jackson, 3, died June 24, 2014 as result of high speed Detroit “Special Ops” chase.
Four days before this chase, on June 24 on Detroit’s east side, a similar chase ended with the tragic deaths of children Michaelangelo and Makiah Jackson, 6 and 3 years old, respectively, as they played outside their home.
Detroit Special Ops officers Steven Feltz, Richard Billingslea, and Hakeem Patterson chased a Camaro driven by Lorenzo Harris over a lengthy route, according to VOD’s investigation. His car nearly hit other children near Nottingham and Mack, with the police car directly on its tail, witnesses told VOD.
The chase proceeded north past E. Warren and Nottingham. There, a witness told VOD said she saw the police car bump the Camaro, sending it out of control into the Jackson children after it hit a large rock in the street, and then into three other children in the next block who were injured.
Some of hundreds of Detroit-area people dead at the hands of law enforcement.
The alleged bump may have been a “Precision Immobilization Technique,” or PIT, as described by Michigan State Police in another report (see video at end of story).
After the Jackson children’s death, USA Today reported that “More than 5,000 bystanders and passengers have been killed in police car chases since 1979, and tens of thousands more were injured as officers repeatedly pursued drivers at high speeds and in hazardous conditions, often for minor infractions . . . .Police across the USA chase tens of thousands of people each year — usually for traffic violations or misdemeanors — often causing drivers to speed away recklessly. Recent cases show the danger of the longstanding police practice of chasing minor offenders.” See: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/07/30/police-pursuits-fatal-injuries/30187827/
Meanwhile, the families of Aiyana Jones, 7, Terrance Kellom, 19, and Kimoni “Kodak” Davis, 19 are pledging to continue the battle for justice for their loved ones. They are to report back to VOD next week after their return from #RiseUpOctober in New York.
Kevin Kellom and wife Yvette Johnson, Kimberly Griffin and Mertilla Jones heading out for New York City’s #RiseUpOctober events. Photo: Fred Engels.