Watts: Under the Shadow of the Enforcers

Part 2: Effie's Story

By Michael Slate

Revolutionary Worker #1029, November 7, 1999

Even the sounds are different in the autumn heat of Watts--bigger and sharper. The rattle of the carts pushed by men and women, taking cans to the Recycle Center, clang like long chains being dragged down the street. Freight trains headed to and from the harbor let out a long, rumbling whistle when they pass through Watts.

Effie wiped the tears away from her eyes as we sat in the Group Home where she works. She waited for the train whistle to end before she continued telling me the story of her foster son, Rodrick Brown. As Effie tells it, 17-year-old Rodrick was always running here and there. Effie used to talk to him about the streets and how he had to be careful and try to get off the streets. Rodrick was planning to go to the military. Then his life changed forever.

"I was here one day, working, and I got a call, and a policeman ask me if I have a son by the name of Rodrick Brown. I told him yes. I asked them what's wrong and they said nothing. I asked if he was hurt and they said they would get back with me. Then they hung up. An hour or so went by, and then the hospital called and said they needed a Medi-Cal card for him. I asked them what's wrong. They said that the police brought him in here and that he's been hurt. They said it's his legs. I told them to let me talk to him, and I was able to talk to him for about a minute and then the police picked up the phone. When I got to the hospital to give them the card, they said he had been moved. The lady told me that they asked the police not to move Rodrick, that it wasn't safe to move him. But the police moved him anyway.

"I called everywhere and I didn't find out where he was until late at night when I called the jail hospital. And that's where he was. But they told me they couldn't tell me what his condition was and that I couldn't talk to him because they had him for 18 years old. I told them he's not 18, he's 17 years old, and I need to know what's going on. Then the cop told me that, yes, he was in the jail and he was hurt--one of his legs was messed up.

"About 4 in the morning, I got a call from the jail hospital. Rodrick told them he was a minor and that they needed to talk with me. The doctor told me that Rodrick needed to have surgery and that he needed to be operated on right away. So I asked him then what was wrong and that's when he told me that both of Rodrick's legs had been run over by the police.

"They told me his leg bones were shattered from behind, in the back of his knees. They told me a lot of things that night, but I can only remember that they told me one of Rodrick's legs might be shorter than the other and that there was hemorrhaging, some bleeding inside. They said something about a pin in his legs, and they didn't know if he was gonna come out walking. They said it was a very serious operation. I told them to do it, but the next day I went to see Rodrick and he wasn't operated on yet. Two days later he still wasn't operated on, and when I asked them what was happening they said there was people sicker than him and more important than him. It was over a week, maybe even two weeks--I didn't count the days but to a mother it seem like a year went by before they did the operation.

"Time went by and time went by...I didn't know at all what condition Rodrick was in. I never did get no records. I didn't know if he was ever gonna walk again or not. I didn't know how his surgery went. I didn't even know he had a colostomy bag on. Rodrick said he never told me about this because he didn't want to hurt me. I got the shock of my life in court when they rolled him into court and the bag was hanging there. My tears just started up, I couldn't stop myself from crying.''

Nobody has told Effie anything about Rodrick's condition or his case. All she knows is that he is in jail facing 25 years. She was first told that Rodrick was charged with attempted robbery. Then they added a gun charge. Then the police said that Rodrick assaulted them and they feared for their lives. Rodrick told Effie that the police brought a man into the alley and he was saying that Rodrick wasn't the one who robbed him. But the police kept on him--saying that Rodrick was the one--until the man started saying he wasn't sure.

At first they tried to put Rodrick on trial as an adult. When Effie proved he was 17, Rodrick's case was moved to juvenile court. And then the troubles began to grow even bigger. The whole legal system--which is designed to grind up and eat people like Rodrick and Effie--went to work. Effie scraped together $1500 to pay a lawyer, but this lawyer got Rodrick's case transferred back to the adult courts and then abandoned him. She never consulted with Effie and oftentimes left Rodrick to fend for himself in court.

Effie gets angry as she explains that she still knows nothing about Rodrick's legal case and nothing about his medical condition. "All I know is what happened to Rodrick that night. Rodrick was walking through the alley and he heard this loud, speeding kind of noise when the cops came into the alley. When he looked they was just approaching him. He turned...and when he turned they just ran into him. They hit him from behind. They took their car and pinned him into an iron gate in the alley. Then they didn't back off of him. They kept pushing him into the gate. And they left the car pinning him like that for awhile.

"Then one of the sheriffs jumped out the car and said, <96>N*gger--who's your partner?' And they kept hitting on one of Rodrick's legs when they was asking him who his partner was. Rodrick kept telling them he didn't know what they was talking about. The cops kept hitting Rodrick on his knee and he was screaming for them to let him go. This guy who saw it said that Rodrick's leg was just dangling there and the cops hit him on it several times. When they finally rolled the car off of him, Rodrick just fell over backwards onto the police car.

"This happened in October 1998, so Rodrick been in jail a year now. When Rodrick was first arrested and going to trial as a juvenile his bail was $50,000. Now it's $180,000. They fixin' to go to trial now, but now they coming to court and saying they don't even know where his file is at. Now they saying they making up a dummy file. How can they make up a dummy file? They can just put whatever they want into it.

"This is so hard for me to take as a mother. Right now Rodrick cannot walk. He is paralyzed from the waist down and he has a colostomy bag on. He probably will not walk again--he has no feeling in his legs.

"The man who was robbed had $60 taken from him.''

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