Cleveland's Anti-Duke 4

Revolutionary Worker #916, July 20, 1997

May 18, Cleveland: The police brutally attacked people demonstrating against David Duke--once "Grand Wizard" of the KKK and now head of the "National Association for the Advancement of White People." Four people were arrested, beaten and jailed and now face serious charges and the possibility of many years in prison.

The protest of about 50 people, across the street from where Duke was speaking, included people from Refuse & Resist!, Anti-Racist Action, International Socialist Organization, National Women's Rights Organizing Coalition, Workers World, the RCP, and others. When people took a couple of steps into the street, the police attacked without warning. They immediately targeted Cheryl Lessin, the local spokesperson for the RCP, Cleveland Branch and a Refuse & Resist! activist. One cop came up to her and pushed himself against her. As Cheryl tried to back up from the cop, about six cops jumped her and threw her to the ground. Cheryl was handcuffed, arrested and charged with aggravated disorderly conduct and felony aggravated riot.

Michael "Malikee" Gingerich, a R&R! activist and member of Urban Guerrilla Poets, was also arrested and wrote to the RW about what happened next: "This one Black cop had been directing traffic and punching his one hand into his open fist and stretching his shoulders--like the dude was getting ready to fight. He waded through the demonstrators looking for someone. He found him and that someone was Abdullah `Papo' Washington. Papo is a Black member of Refuse & Resist! and also a founding member of the Urban Guerrilla Poets, a revolutionary multi-national spoken word group. UGP has developed a considerable local following. UGP has opened for KRS-1, Sonia Sanchez, the Mad Professor and the Black Poetic Society, all within the last six months. Papo was also the MC at the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality in Cleveland (so this might have been payback). The cop grabs Papo by his dreads and starts real violently pulling his hair up and down real fast while another cop stands behind him, hitting him in the back of the neck with his nightstick." Papo was charged with misdemeanor first degree aggravated disorderly conduct, felonious aggravated riot, felonious assault on a police officer and felonious escape.

The cops then went after Malikee. They beat him, broke his nose, slammed him against the hood of a car, handcuffed him and sprayed him with pepper spray--holding his mouth open, forcing the spray into his windpipe so he could barely breath. Malikee is charged with misdemeanor first degree aggravated disorderly conduct, felonious aggravated riot, felonious assault on a police officer, carrying a maximum sentence of 30 years. Keiran Knutson, a member of Detroit Anti-Racist Action (a national organization fighting racism), was also grabbed by the police, thrown into a police van and charged with felony aggravated riot and misdemeanor aggravated disorderly conduct.

Even though Papo was seriously injured, he was not taken to a hospital. In jail, when Papo asked to see a doctor, a guard told him, "This is a jail, not a hospital." When Papo saw a doctor four days later after getting out of jail, the doctor told him he should have been in intensive care for 24 hours after the beatings because of the danger of a fatal blood clot to the brain. Papo still cannot walk without a cane. He has lots of pain and nerve tingling in one arm and many back, neck, tailbone and hip injuries. He has to get help to even get out of a chair and remains unable to work.

The four defendants were initially held on $100,000 cash bond each! The judge and prosecutors received calls denouncing the charges and high bail. And on May 20 there was a rally to demand the charges be dropped. The action included activists from the October 22 Coalition, the Uhuru movement, Black-on-Black Crime (a community activist group), a Black woman minister and others. This had an effect--bail was lowered and within a few days, bail was raised with all kinds of people sending in money. The four were released on May 22.

Many people are outraged at the brutal attack on the Anti-Duke demo and a lot of support is being built for the Anti-Dukkke Four. A college radio station interviewed some of the demonstrators. Malikee was interviewed by Keith McHenry, founder of Food Not Bombs, on San Francisco Liberation Radio. And the local NAACP is submitting a formal complaint about the police attack. Cheryl Lessin and Papo spoke about their case at a rally against police murder called by Black-on-Black Crime, the October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality and the family of James Rhodes, who was murdered by the police.

When Minister Benjamin Mohammad came through Cleveland on tour for the Nation of Islam, Abdullah Papo Washington was a speaker at the main event before 300 to 400 people. Papo talked about the Anti-Dukkke Four case, the need to build resistance to police brutality and the role of groups like Refuse & Resist! Papo got a wonderful reception as he exposed the racism of the system and the brutality of the police. Papo called on people to take up the struggle around the Anti-Dukkke Four case and the struggle against racism and police brutality. Papo was also invited to speak at the Mosque 18 Nation of Islam in Cleveland.

Over 100 people attended a benefit for the Anti-Dukkke Four Defense Fund and R&R! People, old and young and of many different nationalities, gathered at the Cleveland Public Theater (a radical theater) for an exciting night of rebellious culture. There were spoken word poets, break dancers, older radical poets, and drummers. Malikee opened a set of the Urban Guerrilla Poets by saying, "The only `crime' we committed was to take a stand against the repressive agenda and the Nazi David Duke."

At one point, Papo rose up from his chair with help, walked across the stage with his cane and began chanting, fist in the air, "All My Life, All I Gave, Struggle and Strife, To Liberate the Slave." These powerful words of liberation coming from this beloved dreadlocked warrior filled the air, like a beam of light on a mostly darkened stage. After the chant hit the ears of the audience a few times, people stepped onto the stage and began dancing, stomping and chanting, arms in the air. During breaks and at the end of the program, people signed up to be contacted by R&R! and the Anti-Dukkke Four. Word about the case and R&R! also got out at a rave, called Family Affair in Canton, Ohio.

The county prosecutor's office has not put through the felony charges to the grand jury to decide on the indictments. But charges have not been officially dropped. A pretrial is scheduled for July 17 before Judge Adrine, a city judge, about the misdemeanor charge of aggravated disorderly conduct. These charges carry a maximum six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A rally is being called by R&R! for July 17 at the Justice Center at 10 a.m.

Papo told the RW, "Activists and non-activists have come out on this. The intensity of the times has led people to begin to challenge and oppose the attacks on human rights in this country, the politics of cruelty. This case has helped the political atmosphere. Groups that were not close are now working together. Look, the police attacked people right in front of all the media here. It all showed that the people would have no rights if it wasn't for protest."

To support the Anti-Dukkke Four, send money to the Defense Fund, c/o Refuse & Resist! P.O. Box 60682, Cleveland, OH 44106, 216-556-3512. The Defense Fund is also asking people to write/fax in protest and demand the charges be dropped: Judge Adrine, Cleveland Municipal Court, Judicial Division,
P.O. Box 94894, Cleveland, OH, 44101-4894, 216-664-4283.

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