Outrage at Hunters Point

Revolutionary Worker #1145, April 7, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org

"They keep telling everyone to look out for this gang and that gang but the most dangerous gang is the San Francisco Police Department. That's the biggest gang and it's legal for them to do whatever they want to do to us. And we're not just about to sit back and accept it and say that's OK."

Susan McAllister, mother of 13-year-old Alema,
who was abused by SF police

San Francisco. It's the evening of Monday, January 21, 2002--Martin Luther King holiday. Four children, aged 12 to 14, are sitting in a car in front of their home on Kirkwood Street in the Bay View-Hunters Point neighborhood listening to the radio. Their parents had let them stay up late because it was a holiday.

Bay View-Hunters Point is one of the largest African-American communities in San Francisco (see sidebar). Kirkwood is a quiet street, where children play during the day. It is a close-knit neighborhood where the adults all watch out for the kids. Across the street is the Boys and Girl's Club, one of the few recreational centers for youth in this Black community.

Tenisha Bishop is driving home from her work with her 6-year-old son in the car. As Tenisha parks her car in front of her apartment she sees the police surround the car where the children are listening to music.

In a front-page article in the African-American newspaper San Francisco Bay View Tenisha Bishop described what happened next:

"I began to step out of my car, the police had guns drawn and were on the loudspeaker. I screamed at the police and told them they were making a mistake because those were kids. He ignored me. I started screaming towards my building, saying somebody go and get Janell's mother because the police are about to shoot her."

When Janell's mother came out, her daughter, who is only 12, was out of the car on her knees with her hands on her head. Then her friend, Alema Hoskins, 13, was ordered to do the same.

"I wanted to grab my son and dart across the street, but I was afraid I would get shot or beat up by the police." Tenisha wrote. "This scene was familiar to me; I've seen it done before.

"Police cars, a police van and police officers in army fatigues came onto the scene. Standing where I was, I saw police running with guns drawn on the fence between Milton Meyer Gym and the Hunters Point Boys and Girls Club."

"Jerome Brown, 14, was in the gathering crowd. He was telling the police to take the guns off his `li'l cousin.' Parents, neighbors, passersby and other kids were pleading for the police to put the guns down as well. Jerome, who didn't get an answer or an explanation, asked again.

"Suddenly, one of the officers shouted out, `Take him down.' I saw with my own eyes eight white officers come over and slam Jerome's body to the ground. One of them had come up behind him and pushed his head. He went down head first, with his feet flying in the air. I heard the knock when his head and jaw hit the concrete.

"For at least five minutes, one officer pinned Jerome down with his knee between Jerome's jaw and neck, grinding the boy's face into the pavement.

"Janell's stepfather, Kevin Hall, told the police that Jerome was just a kid and they had no right do him the way they did. So another force of police rushed Kevin without saying anything. The police beat him while forcing him into the police car.

"Jerome was lying on the ground in a pool of blood. His eyes looked glassy, and it didn't look like he was breathing. As I stared at him, his eyes did not blink one time. I thought Jerome was dead."

The police later justified this whole attack by saying that they were responding to a tip that two African-American men had been spotted taking guns out of a red car. The four kids were in a banged-up red Escort.

Jerome Brown's father described his son's injuries at a meeting of the Police Commission: "My son was hospitalized that night. No treatment was given him after he was knocked down and his head slammed into the concrete. I witnessed a puddle of my son's blood on Kirkwood Road where this happened. I was appalled. When I saw my son [in the hospital] he could not even recognize me. ...Three of his teeth were shoved up into his gums. He had a hole in his jaw. He had to have surgery that night and stitches to close up the wounds. He had a concussion. He didn't know what his name was. He didn't even know he was in the hospital."

Tenisha described, to the Bay View , the next outrage: "Then I asked why were there so many police out here for these little kids. [The police officer] replied, "As long as you people are here, we will act like this." I asked, "What the hell did you just say?" I said, "Are we monkeys, baboons, or niggas today?" Inell, Sue, and Leonard said, "What do you mean, `you people'? I then snapped a picture of him with a stupid racist smirk on his face. I said to him, `How dare you say that -- especially on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday holiday.'

"Brian's cuffs were so tight he was screaming to the officers to loosen them. So one officer pulled him to his feet by his cuffs and slammed him back down on the ground. Tyrell, Alema, and Janell were upset at what they had just seen the police do to Brian. They were saying they hated the police. I also heard the kids say that all they had been doing was sitting in the car listening to music, so what was all of this for?

"As I was crossing the street, Sue and Inell were asking the police if they could cross the street and be with their kids. The police told them that if they crossed the street they would get shot.

"The police searched the girls, rubbing them on the breast, hip, buttock, and between the thighs. Imagine seeing these helpless, violated, innocent beautiful black babies. Alema, who just made 14 the following Friday, is the curvier of the two. The officers lifted up her sweater because it was tied around her waist and rubbed and fondled instead of searching. The whole while Alema was being searched, her mother was screaming across the street saying, `That's not right. Y'all can't search my baby like that. Call for a female officer. She is just a baby,' as she broke down in tears."

Susan McAllister, Alema's mother, described the police sexually abusing her daughter. "One of the officers took the palm of his hand and went across my daughter's breast. I started screaming that they needed to get a female police officer out here. The police officer continued to feel down my daughter. He went up between her legs to her crotch and lifted her sweater and felt on her behind with the palm of his hand. I broke down in tears because of the pain and humiliation my daughter was going through."

Community Outrage

The Bay View newspaper has played an important role in exposing this attack. And there is a lot of outrage in the community both about this incident and about the police brutality and harassment that is a part of daily life for the people, especially the youth.

"The community is very, very angry," Susan McAllister told the RW . "And it's not just this case. It's other cases too, and how easily it gets swept under the rug, locked in the closet and that's it, you don't hear any more about it. Well, they're going to continue to hear about this. And I'm going to be in their face until they do something about it. We're taking our community back. If you're going to treat us like this we want you out. We can handle our situations ourselves."

The police have promised an investigation but they have refused community demands that the cops involved in the incident be taken off active duty. Instead, the cops have just been transferred to do their dirty deeds in another part of San Francisco.

"You should not allow these police officers to go into any other community to do these things to other children," an older woman from the community told the Police Commission.

In a further outrage, the police have assigned Commander Greg Suhr to deal with the community about the incident. Suhr was the officer in charge six years ago when a group of cops beat and pepper-sprayed Mark Garcia, placed him faced down on hot concrete with their boot on his back. Though the police violated many of their own policies and procedures causing Mark's death, no cop has received more than a token slap on the wrist in that incident. And Suhr has climbed up the cop chain of command while the Mark Garcia case has been swept under the rug.

On February 27, some 80 people confronted the San Francisco Police Commission to protest the police attack in Hunters Point. The incident has brought together older residents and youth, community activists, and long-time homeowners who are determined that this police brutality must be stopped.

At the police commission, Mesha Monge-Irizarry described how the police killed her son, 23- year-old Bay View resident Idriss Stelley, outside the Sony Metreon Theatre in downtown San Francisco on June 13, 2001. The police fired more than 20 bullets into Idriss, who was unarmed.

An older Black woman who has lived in Hunters Point since 1943 also got up to speak: "Don't say to me there's two sides to every coin. Not this one. All those children had never been in any trouble and the only thing the parents asked is why are you doing this. Now I'm the mother of six. I'm the grandmother of 21, great-grandmother of 40. If it was me that night I would have been shot. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Because it was unacceptable and it still is."

"This whole situation is fucked up. This takes me back to when I was beat up by the police and there wasn't no camera back there," a Black youth told the commission. "You all got to stop coming into our communities and harassing us, beating us up and killing us like we ain't gonna do nothing about it. That's fucked up. You motherfuckers better put them motherfuckers on trial and put them motherfuckers in jail or something...and another thing, you talk about it's a couple of bad apples in the police force. No, it's the whole system. It's the way that you're trained, the way that you handle yourselves out there on the streets. You aren't there to `protect and serve' us. You all really is there to do what you all are doing. You all are going to stop this shit or we're going to make you stop it."

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