Revolution #174, August 30, 2009
"They’re going after my children to get at me... But they are not going to make me shut up."
On August 8, 2009, police officers from the 43rd precinct of the New York City Police Department raided the home of Juanita Young, an outspoken activist against police brutality and oppression. Over a dozen plainclothes police officers broke down the door, attacking Juanita’s oldest son, James (JJ) Ferguson. They pulled down JJ’s pants, knocked him to the ground and turned him over face down on the pavement. They pushed their knees into JJ’s neck and back, choked him, punched him, handcuffed him and pepper-sprayed him. JJ was vomiting and had several bumps on his head as he was put into the police car. Police also sexually assaulted Juanita Young’s oldest daughter, Saran, while Saran held her baby in her arms. They arrested seven people including two of Juanita Young’s daughters. JJ Ferguson was charged with several serious charges, the six others were given a summons for disorderly conduct.
This raid is the latest in a history of police attacks and persecution brought down on Juanita Young and her family. Juanita Young is the mother of Malcolm Ferguson. On March 1, 2000, Malcolm Ferguson was shot and killed in the Bronx, by plainclothes officer Louis Rivera. Since that time, Juanita has been fighting for justice for Malcolm and all victims of police brutality. She fought in court for years and in June 2007 a jury awarded her $10.5 million for the killing of her son. The city is planning to appeal. Last year a jury acquitted Young of bogus charges leveled against her by police who brutalized her in her own home in 2006.
Young’s defiance and resistance in the face of this has been a significant front in the fight against police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of a generation.
It was a warm summer evening. Juanita Young, her family, friends and neighbors were enjoying a barbeque outside her apartment in the Bronx. Among those present were other parents whose children have been killed by the police.
As one of the guests, whose son was killed by the police in 2006, described it, the police “came running in here and kicking like storm troopers.” After busting down the door, police attacked and arrested JJ. As he was being put into a squad car, unable to open his eyes from the pepper spray, other officers were in Young’s apartment forcing everyone to get down on the floor. One of Juanita’s daughters told Revolution that when they asked the police why they were being arrested, they were told, “We don’t care, you’re all going.”
One officer followed Juanita’s daughter Saran Young as Saran ran up the stairs with her baby in her arms. As Saran handed her son to someone, the officer ripped off her shirt. She described what happened next. “He follows me upstairs and he try to bum rush me there, I’m like, ‘I’m just trying to go get a shirt. Just let me get a shirt, I’m going wherever you want me to go, just let me get a shirt.’ So he’s still grabbing up on me and touching one of my breasts so I’m like, ‘Stop touching me! Why are you still touching me?! I don’t have on no shirt. Just let me get a shirt, I’m goin with you.’” (She was allowed to get a shirt before being taken to jail.)
It was only after calls to the 43rd precinct from around the country that JJ was taken to a hospital. He was not released until 4 am, Tuesday morning, August 11. The six others arrested were held for hours before they were finally given summons for “disorderly conduct” and released.
Several days after the raid and arrests, Juanita Young told Revolution that achild in the neighborhood told her, “I’m really afraid. What the cops did, they might come back.”
A History of Police Murders
There is a particular history behind this raid that goes all the way back to the murder of Amadou Diallo, and people everywhere need to know about this.
On February 4, 1999, Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea was shot and killed by four white plainclothes New York City police officers on Wheeler Avenue in the Soundview section of the Bronx. The officers claim they thought he matched the description of a rapist and followed him to his apartment building. They did not identify themselves. Amadou Diallo was unarmed. The police fired at him 41 times. Even as Amadou lay dying in his hallway, they continued to pump bullets into him, evidenced by the bullet holes that went through the soles of his shoes. The police would claim Amadou was “reaching” for his wallet.
Thousands of outraged people poured into the streets in protest in the days following the murder of Amadou Diallo. Eleven days after the shooting the cops still had not been arrested. Eventually they would be arrested and charged with murder. The trial was moved to Albany, New York, where the population is 86 percent white. A year later, in February 2000, all four of the officers were acquitted. People came out into the streets again demanding justice.
Malcolm Ferguson, Juanita Young’s son, was among them. On the day of the Diallo verdict, Malcolm took part in one of the marches through the neighborhood to the 43rd precinct that blocked traffic on a major highway at rush hour. He was among those arrested for participating in this protest.
Then, on March 1—just a few blocks from where Amadou was killed, and just five days after the not guilty verdict on those four cops—Malcolm Ferguson was himself gunned down by a plainclothes cop. On that day, five undercover housing cops on narcotics patrol barged into an apartment complex, coming after Ferguson and three others. Officer Louis Rivera chased Ferguson, caught him, and fired a single bullet into the left side of his head. Blood found on the barrel of the gun was evidence of the close range at which Rivera shot.
Juanita Young has boldly and tirelessly fought police brutality and murder, and the criminalizing of a generation from that day forward. She has been ruthlessly hounded by this system for her persistent courage. Legally blind, Juanita is on disability and receives public assistance. In 2003 her ex-cop landlord evicted Juanita without any notice, in the course of which she was arrested in her own home. Making sure there was no misunderstanding over what this was about, one cop told her, “You won’t be going to any rallies today.” She was arrested again in 2005 at an anti-war protest, and again in 2006 while cops were responding to a call for an ambulance at Young’s home for one of her daughters.
After the most recent attack—the August 8 raid on her home—Juanita Young told Revolution, “They’re going after my children to get at me—it’s like they’re saying, ‘We killed one and we can take them all.’ But they are not going to make me shut up.”
This Is Not Acceptable
After the raid, Juanita Young and her support committee immediately called a press conference and rally against police terror. On August 10, people gathered outside her home to rally and speak out against these attacks. They marched from there to the 43rd precinct where another rally was held.
Along with revolutionaries and activists, youth from the neighborhood joined in and rode on their bikes and carried signs. People chanted, “Hands off Juanita Young,” and “Join us, Join us, Stop Police Brutality.” Several people did come out of their houses and down from the housing projects to join in the march, particularly young people.
Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party, and a founder of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, said:
“It is unacceptable that our youth who are our hope for the future are being treated like a criminalized generation, guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. It is not acceptable that people say, ‘Well when our youth confront the police, they should learn to be respectful and polite. They should put their faces down to the ground and not look up with pride. They should be meek and submissive.’ Why don’t you tell them to shuck and jive, and scrape and bow. Why don’t you tell them that they should check their human dignity, until after the cop is gone. Look, I will not accept that, and you shouldn’t either…
“It is not acceptable that this sister Juanita Young is targeted by the police for standing up and speaking out against injustice. See and I’ll tell you, I’m a revolutionary and I’ve been one all my life. I think a system that does this to the masses of people, here in this country and around the world, is no damn good and needs to be gotten rid of through revolution. I think that needs to happen, I think it can happen. I know that ain’t where everybody here is comin’ from, but that’s what I believe and I will tell you that I believe that and why if you want to talk about it. But wherever you’re coming from, you have to say it is wrong for a mother to be having a cookout and to have a dozen undercover cops break her door down, beat up and arrest her children, rip the shirt off her grown daughter’s back in the course of doin’ that. It is wrong and unacceptable for her son to be arrested three times in three days by this precinct. So don’t tell me about what our youth are doin’ wrong. And I do challenge our youth to get out of some of this stuff they’re into, fightin’ and even killing each other, and stand together and take on this system. I will challenge you to do that—Fight the Power and transform yourselves and others for revolution.” (See the Carl Dix video at YouTube: youtube.com/watch?v=CaaGmqnkELo.)
The next court date for those arrested is September 14. Stay tuned to revcom.us for updates.
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