SF: Police Run Amok in Hunters Point

Revolutionary Worker #1214, October 5, 2003, posted at rwor.org

"Never mind the statistics. Check the heart rate of a 14-year-old Black male when his eyes meet the side of a police officer. You all got no science or cure for that kind of pure anxiety."

Tone, 21-year-old man living in Hunters Point

San Francisco, August 25--A police car cruises down Middlepoint and West Point Road in the African-American community of Hunters Point around 6 p.m. Like soldiers in enemy territory, the cops eye the youth out on the street in the summer heat.

Lee Collins, 23 years old, is hanging with his friends. Lee lives in the community and is a rap artist known locally as Baby Finsta.

Lee makes a joke about a jersey one of the officers is wearing. The cops stop their car and jump out. "We haven't jacked you in a while," one of the cops says as they grab Lee.

By the end of the incident, Lee is badly beaten by the cops, and he and another youth are arrested. Several other community residents, including a 14-year-old, are also beaten and hospitalized. The cops shove guns in the faces of children as young as 7 years old. Mothers in the community are subjected to humiliating slurs. And the people are filled with angry, righteous determination not to let the police continue to get away with such outrages.

"We're Not Taking that Shit No More"

The RW spoke with Mavis Williams, Lee Collins's aunt, who witnessed the August 25 incident. "They started going through Lee's pockets. He [the police officer] made some sort of comment that put fear in Lee because he started to back up. I guess that's what they call `resisting.' The next thing you know, one of them hits him in the mouth. The other one hits him in the jaw. They hit him in the stomach. They're punching him."

"After the blows started coming he really tried to get away. Wouldn't you? I don't call that resisting arrest. I call that trying to save my ass. So then they grabbed him by the neck. Dragged him literally off of his feet. If you'd have been there you'd have said, `Goddamn, what are they going to do, hang him?' His feet are dangling off the ground. He's passing out. You can tell because his eyes start to roll back in his head."

"They drag him from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill, beating him all the way. Then the three officers are on top of him. Officer Jones runs up to him and puts his knee in his head. He's already down and cuffed. Puts his knee in his head!"

"So I said, `What are you doing? Get up off of him! He's already down. Get your knee out of his face!' So he stands up and tells me, 'Bitch, get out of my face.' I asked for his badge number and he covers it up. I ask his partner for the badge number and he just walks away from me. Then they put Lee in the back of the police car and he's cuffed. You could look in the car and see that he is unconscious. They get in the car and proceed to continuously hit this man. We're seeing this. They can deny it until they are blue in the face...."

"They feel that they're police officers and they can do whatever the hell they want. And we're not taking that shit no more."

"They called for backup. I saw at least 20 of them. There were cars everywhere. They jumped out. The officers told them to grab anyone in a white T-shirt because one of the guys they were after had a white t-shirt. So they just start swinging at anybody with a white T-shirt. They're not asking any questions."

"That's where the 14-year-old came in. He had on a white T-shirt. I was telling them to please stop. They told me to move, and I said I'm not moving. They were just out of control. They pulled their guns out. That's where the 7-year-old came in. He's still in shock because they stuck the gun right at him.... Their attitude is, `It's a Black neighborhood. Fuck them all.' It was unbelievable."

"My son was minding his own business," said Monica Autry, describing what happened to her 14-year-old son, Marcus Law. "He was hit with a baton in the ribs and arm." Monica said that her son is an honors student at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and had never been in trouble with the law. After being assaulted by the police, Marcus required hospital treatment.

The Slavemaster Mentality of the Police

As Mavis Williams pointed out, this police rampage in Hunters Point shows how the cops look at the people in the community: "Their attitude is, `It's a Black neighborhood. Fuck them all.' It was unbelievable."

Sandra Cooper is a relative of Idriss Stelley, an unarmed youth who was shot 27 times by the police in downtown San Francisco in 2001. Sandra talked about her outrage at the cops' actions in Hunters Point: "How can anyone justify a gun in a child's face! This is like the mentality of slavery where you hung us in trees to put fear in our families. We're not going to be afraid. We're going to stand up and fight this."

The terrorizing of kids by the San Francisco police is not a new thing. Last year, the cops brutally beat students at Thurgood Marshall High School. And on the Martin Luther King Birthday holiday last year, cops threatened, beat, and manhandled youth as young as 12 years old in Hunters Point.

Susan McAllister's daughter was one of the victims of that police assault in Hunters Point last year. She has continued to fight for justice for the children and for other victims of police brutality.

"My daughter is terrified," Susan said at a press conference denouncing the latest police attack at Hunters Point. "If she sees a police coming she drops her head or looks in a different direction or walks in a different direction. My daughter is 15 years old. She is an African American, and she has every right to be proud of who she is. And I'll be doggone if I'm going to let anyone take her pride. Our kids are not going to die. Our kids are not going to be beat. I'm not going to stand by and let it happen! And we have got to put a stop to it! This is a disease and we are the cure."

The community's outrage forced the police and city government to attempt damage control. Officials promised that they will listen to people's concerns and that they'll get to the bottom of any wrongdoing by cops. When the police chief asked for a meeting with families and community activists at police headquarters, the people demanded that the meeting be in the Hunters Point community. The chief and other high-ranking cops showed up to two community forums/press conferences in two days.

But time and time again the people have seen cops get away with brutality and murder. Susan McAllister spoke bitterly about the fact that the cops who brutalized her daughter were never punished, and were even reassigned to patrol her street. "How dare you! How dare you send them back up to my street to terrorize my child again! How dare you let them walk the streets so they can do it to someone else's child. I asked you two years ago to do something with these people, and now other lives have suffered. And you're going to sit up here and give us some bull crap in our face like we're stupid!"

Statistics make clear that only a very few cops are ever fired or suspended for brutalizing and mistreating the people. Out of over 10,000 complaints filed with the Office of Citizen Complaints between 1995 and 2001, only two police officers (.02%) were fired, and only 20 (.2%) received a suspension of more than a day or two.

Speaking at the press conference denouncing the August 25 incident, Michael P of the October 22nd Coalition pointed out that attacks like this for a pattern of police harassment and criminalization of youth. Michael P, who is an educator, said: "Can you understand, can you stop and think, what it is like to have a 12, 13, 14 or 15-year-old kid, who you know doesn't cause anyone any problems, coming to you and saying `What do I do when a police officer slams me to the ground and I haven't done anything wrong? What do I do when they are following me home and I haven't done anything wrong--all I am doing is walking with my friends? What do I do when I am a female and I am stopped and frisked--molested--by male police officers?' No student, no human being, no living creature should have to face that. No teacher should have to try and come up with answers for that."

"There is an epidemic going on right now," said Mesha Monge-Irizarry, Idriss Stelley's mother. Mesha heads the Idriss Stelley Foundation, which has played a crucial role in fighting back against the police attacks on the people of Hunters Point. "We're not just talking about Hunters Point. We're not just talking about San Francisco. We're talking about Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, all over the nation.

"There is a direct link between local and global oppression. Since the Patriot Act the authorities are enjoying total impunity, and it's getting harder and harder to seek justice... We are addressing the systemic terrorization of our neighborhood, our city, and our nation."

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