Revolution #188, January 10, 2010

Rockford, Illinois:

Outrage as Grand Jury Approves Police Murder of Mark Anthony Barmore

We received the following from a correspondent who went to Rockford. (See Revolution #177 and #178 for earlier coverage):

These facts brought a thousand people into the streets in Rockford last summer to protest and demand justice for Mark Barmore. This was another clear-cut case of a young Black man gunned down by armed agents of the system, and people were determined that the killers face justice.

Soon afterward, there was a well-publicized demonstration by a thousand reactionary supporters of the police and open death threats were made against the Brown family. This was a brazen racist challenge to the whole Black community and some were intimidated and effectively silenced, though deep anger over this unjust murder continued to seethe in Rockford.

The local prosecutor announced that a grand jury would decide whether or not the two policemen who killed Mark Barmore would go to trial. And calls to let the system do its work were heard from city officials and leaders in the Black community. One Black woman in Rockford described her reaction: "I knew this was not going to be good, but I still had a glimmer of hope."

That glimmer of hope was shattered on December 23, when the grand jury issued its decision: that the police had used "justifiable force" and would not face any charges. Maryann Barmore, who had raised Mark since childhood, told the local TV station that "it was as if Mark had been killed all over again."

Among many in Rockford, and concentrated in the Black community, faith in the ability of the local "justice system" was further unraveled by the fact that testimony from the eyewitnesses to the police shooting and killing of Mark Barmore was not even considered by the grand jury.

Rev. Shelia Brown and her daughter, Marissa Brown, were in the day care center with the children and saw the whole brutal murder. The Browns’ attorney said that the Browns had all along offered to be interviewed by the State Police and any law enforcement officials. But twice the State Police cancelled scheduled meetings with the eyewitnesses. The authorities did not contact the Browns about their testimony for months—until December 17, when a subpoena arrived for them to appear at the grand jury on December 23. The Browns’ attorney contacted the prosecutor to ask for a continuance because Shelia and Marissa Brown had long been scheduled to be on a Christmas visit to family in Mississippi at that time. This reasonable request was denied and the grand jury went ahead without bothering to hear this eyewitness testimony.

Then, on December 28, the prosecutor announced he would ask a judge to bring contempt charges against Shelia and Marissa Brown for not appearing at the grand jury! As several Black people in Rockford told us, it is as if the Deep South traditions of racist justice lived on in the North.

This came two days after a press conference on December 26 at the very spot where Mark Barmore was murdered. Nearly 100 people, mainly from Rockford’s Black community, along with Black and white religious leaders, Black community activists, revolutionary communists, representatives of the NAACP, LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), and Rev. Jesse Jackson from PUSH, gathered to condemn the grand jury’s verdict and to demand justice for Mark Barmore. Rockford activist Steve Muhammad spoke plainly: "Rockford police: liars. State prosecutor: liar. The grand jury: liars."

Kelli Harrington, Mark Barmore’s mother, told Revolution: "I think people ought to be outraged. They should stand up and fight against this. My son was not only a good man, but to know that the police can come in and shoot and kill an unarmed man, and have no remorse and no type of consequences whatsoever—what is that telling the public? ...This is outrageous, we will not stand for it, and we will get our justice. My son did not die in vain."

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