By Diane Bukowski
DETROIT – A mother and child from New York City led a march of hundreds from Detroit and across the nation down Woodward Avenue June 26 to condemn the police killing of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones May 16.
They carried dozens of signs displaying Aiyana’s photo, which declared in bright red, “Redeem Aiyana’s Dream,” and “We Say No to No-Knock Raids. They chanted, “Don’t kill our kids, don’t shoot our kids,” and “The system is wrong, we’ve got to be strong, Aiyana Jones, she has a name, her family is not to blame.”
Jewel Allison, the founder of the International Aiyana Alliance, said, “People all over New York City, and from London, Africa, Germany and Peru have contacted me in outrage over this child’s death.” She and her daughter Honesti, 11, held hands during the march.
“New York is Detroit and Detroit is New York. Out of the love I have for my daughter, I say, oh no, you cannot shoot our children in the head and get away with it,” Allison declared. “I began grieving myself when I heard of Aiyana’s killing, this totally upset our household. For the last four weeks, we have organized non-stop to bring our message to the world on the streets of this city where Aiyana was killed.”
Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley shot Aiyana to death during a military-style assault on her home in a poverty-stricken east-side neighborhood May 16. He fired as other officers lobbed an incendiary stun grenade through a front window of the Jones family’s home, according to the family’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger. Aiyana and her grandmother Vertilla Jones were sleeping on a couch directly below that window.
“The First 48,” an Arts and Entertainment (A&E) reality show which features Weekley on its website as a regular star, was filming the episode.
The International Aiyana Alliance has also called for a march on the U.S. Department of Justice to demand a stop to no-knock raids in the near future.
“At the heart of the Washington march will be a demand for the Justice Department to pull money and grants from local police departments that are using them to carry out no-knock raids,” Allison said. “These raids are only carried out in poor neighborhoods of color, which don’t have the means to fight back, not in rich white suburbs.”
Regarding the notion that a general atmosphere of violence in Detroit led to Aiyana’s death, Allison said, “We are powerless as relates to any type of real violence. The whole system needs to be renovated. The recession has caused mass unemployment, which linked with internalized self-hatred results in violent crime within our communities. Black people are only 12 percent of the population nationally, and Black women and children make up the majority of that. What you have left is maybe five percent of the population being Black males, and they want us to believe they are all strapped and violent and a threat to the country. That is ridiculous.”
Makeisha Harris, a young Detroit mother who is head of “Healing Detroit,” led a grass roots march of hundreds throughout the city in May to bring community members together in the wake of Aiyana’s death. Harris participated in the I.A.A. march, as did Joyce Johnson, a leader of the City Airport Renaissance Association (CARA), which is calling attention to the unsolved murders of twelve women in that east-side neighborhood.
Also present were members of Call ‘em Out, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality (DCAPB), and other local organizations. Many protesters who came from other parts of the country had just attended the U.S. Social Forum, held June 22-26 at Cobo Hall. That event brought out thousands of activists.
Myla Johnson of Gary, Indiana, who leads the Central District Organizing Project there, brought her six children to the USSF and the march.
“How come this officer has not been charged?” she asked. “He’s not God, to take a life like he did. It’s becoming so common, and the police just get a pass. We have our share of police-instigated violence in Gary. I am so happy that we were able to come out to support Aiyana. Everyone in Gary has heard about her case and we are devastated by it.”
Luther Allen of Providence, Rhode Island said, “I think it’s disgusting to see law enforcement not held accountable in the killing of this child. The police culture itself is responsible. I just can’t believe they did this because they wanted to be on TV.”
“Racist police brutality and harassment are happening all over the country,” said Hoku Jeffrey of Los Angeles. “A mass community campaign against the police killing of Oscar Grant succeeded in getting his killer tried for murder.”
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer Johannes Mehersle shot the unarmed Grant, a 22-year-old father, in the back in 2009. Cell phone photos and videos of Grant’s murder which went world-wide, led to three community rebellions in Oakland. Mehersle’s trial is currently ongoing.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in published remarks that the investigation into Aiyana’s killing is still “ongoing,” and would not comment on the possibility of charges being brought against Weekley.
Detroit youth Arthur Bowman, the grandson of the local leader of the same name, said he and others visited the neighborhood where Aiyana’s family lived.
“A lot of people are blaming the man who lived in the upstairs flat, who was arrested for the earlier killing of a 17-year-old, and they are trying to link Aiyana’s father in as well,” Bowman said. “But wouldn’t there be a reason for a system of dirty cops to try and blame her father to take attention away from the fact that they threw a flash grenade through the window and shot a seven-year-old child to death?”
The June 26 and national marches were endorsed in the Alliance’s founding flier by Allison, Rev. Omar Wilks of Unison Pentecostal Church and Rev. Darryl Young of the Siloam Presbyterian Church in New York, Jaylaco Media, The Native Detroiter Magazine, and Salaam Ismial, President of the National United Youth Council & Street Organizing Coalition.
Speakers at the rally which concluded the march included Wilks, Detroit poet Aurora Harris, Ron Scott and Sandra Hines of the DCAPB, Abiyomi Azikiwe of the Michigan Emergency Committee against War and Injustice, and Carl Dix of the New York based Oct. 22 Coalition Against Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
For further information call: Coordinator Jewel Allison: President of International Aiyana Alliance (I.A.A) at 212-615-6877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.