DC Actions Against Police Brutality

Revolutionary Worker #924, September 21, 1997

On September 12, hundreds of people marched in Washington, D.C. against police brutality.

A press statement announcing the event, from Ron Daniels of the Center for Constitutional Rights, had said in part: "The brutal assault and sodomizing of Abner Louima by police officers from the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn, New York has once again forcefully brought the issue of police brutality to the nation's attention. The case of Abner Louima, however, is not some heinous aberration, it is symptomatic of a growing epidemic of police brutality and misconduct which is afflicting communities of color and poor communities across this nation. Indeed, one of the most frightening dimensions of this epidemic is the number of people, particularly young African American, Latino and Asian men, who have been killed by police officers in recent years under highly suspicious circumstances."

"All across the country community-based organizations and concerned citizens like those assembled here today are demanding that government-sanctioned police violence and misconduct be stopped. As an outgrowth of the National Emergency Conference on Police Brutality and Misconduct held in New York City last April, this Day of Action is designed to press the demand for police reform and accountability and social justice."

Many organizations and individuals came together to sponsor and endorse this action including: National Black Police Association, NAACP Washington Branch, UAW New York Area CAP Council, WBAI, National Coalition on Police Accountability, National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, National Lawyers Guild, Amnesty International, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, National Conference of Black Lawyers, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Black Panther Collective, Concerned Citizens Against Police Abuse, United Concerned Christians At Work, Bay Area Police Watch, Coalition Against Police Abuse, December 12th Movement, National Association of Korean Americans.

Participants and speakers included: Samuel Nicholas, cousin of and spokesman for Abner Louima, Ron Daniels, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights; Ron Hampton, National Black Police Association; Richie Perez, National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez, killed by NYPO Frances Livoti in 1994; Margarita and Antonio Rosario, parents of Anthony Rosario, killed by two New York City detectives; Narves Gammage, mother of Jonny Gammage killed by police in Pittsburgh in 1995; Clifton Petteway, representative of the family of Malik Jones, killed in New Haven, CT in April 1997.

A press conference and rally was held at the First Congregational Church. People had come from as far away as New York, New Jersey, Syracuse, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Albuquerque, SF Bay Area and Los Angeles. And there were a number of family members of people murdered by the police.

After the press conference people marched to the Justice Department and a delegation went inside to meet with the head of the criminal division of the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice. They demanded that the Justice Department compile data on police brutality and misconduct, investigate areas where there are chronic complaints about the police, and vigorously investigate possible civil rights violations in cases of police brutality.

People then marched to the DC convention center where the Congressional Black Caucus Hearings/Braintrust on Police Misconduct were being held, chaired by Congressman John Conyers. A number of people testified at the hearing, including Iris Baez, Margarita Rosario and Narves Gammage. Ron Hampton from the National Black Police Association spoke at the hearing and told the RW, "If it (police brutality) is gonna stop we got to do some real basic things. For example there must have been over 20 something commissions, maybe 25, that have rendered recommendations on this issue. And I don't believe that one set of recommendations have ever been implemented."

Michael Zinzun, from the Coalition Against Police Abuse in L.A., also spoke at the hearing. He told the RW: "Part of my presentation was dealing with the civilian police review board and also the Stolen Lives Project which is part of the October 22nd Campaign against police brutality. Stolen Lives represents the lives taken at the hands of police officers and it documents all the various police incidents of police abuse and it was that particular document that I submitted to Congressmen Conyers--a list of names of those who have been killed by the police." Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt was also present to give his support and he spoke about the need for people to continue to struggle against police brutality.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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