Revolution #196, March 28, 2010
The following is excerpted from a statement by the Revolutionary Communist Party, Chicago Branch:
DEMAND THAT ALL CHARGES BE DROPPED AGAINST EYEWITNESSES MARISSA AND SHELIA BROWN AND THAT THEIR TESTIMONY BE HEARD!
Mark Anthony Barmore, an unarmed Black man, was shot in the back, at point blank range, and killed by Police Officers Oda Poole and Stan North inside a church day care center located in the Black community in Rockford, Illinois on August 24, 2009. Seventeen year old Marissa Brown and her mother Shelia, who is a pastor at the church, were both working in the day care at the time. They witnessed the police gun down Barmore, which took place in front of a dozen children, putting all of their lives in danger as well.
Marissa and Shelia Brown gave statements to investigators that day about what they had seen. But from day one, it has been the Browns (and even the children!) who have been treated like suspects and criminals by the authorities, who went so far as to separately interrogate each child at the scene, without parents, lawyers or DCFS [Department of Children & Family Services] representatives being present.
December 26, 2009 press conference at the church day care center where Mark Barmore was killed by police. His father and mother are seated at left.
Since then, the Browns have never been interviewed by a single state, local or federal investigator. After waiting around for four months without interviewing the key witnesses, Winnebago County State's Attorney, Joe Bruscato, hastily took the case to the Grand Jury right before Christmas while the Browns were to be out of town. Judge Joseph McGraw, 17th Judicial Circuit Court, denied their emergency motion for a postponement. Two birds were killed with one stone. Insured that the cops would be exonerated by the Grand Jury who had no opportunity to hear what really happened from the Browns. And created a pretext to go after these two eyewitnesses who dared to tell the truth. Yes, in December, State's Attorney Bruscato charged Marissa and Shelia Brown with criminal contempt of court for failing to appear before the Grand Jury.
On February 20, 2010, the Court of Appeals in Elgin, Illinois granted the Browns emergency motion to stay the Circuit Court proceedings on the criminal contempt charges for Shelia and Marissa Brown that had been set for a hearing on March 1. This means that there will be no future court dates before Judge McGraw until the Court of Appeals first rules on the Browns appeal of their request to have that Christmas postponement of their Grand Jury subpoenas issued. This is a temporary stay which is expected to last only a month or so.
But in the meantime, Winnebago County authorities who had been playing hardball decided to ratchet it up to the level of shock and awe. They brought a new "unrelated" felony case against Marissa Brown. On February 19, 2010, amidst the fanfare of a press conference at the Winnebago County Courthouse, Bruscato charged Marissa Brown with four felony counts of filing a false report, stemming from an incident that she reported at her school, Roosevelt Alternative High School. On January 5, before classes started, Marissa reports she was held at gunpoint by a man who came into the school bathroom. She immediately called her father, Melvin Brown, also a pastor of Kingdom Authority International Ministries, the church where the police executed Barmore. Brown has been key in initiating mass rallies, speak outs, press conferences, church services involving thousands of people in the struggle to get justice for Mark Anthony. The Browns immediately reported this incident to school officials.
At the press conference, Bruscato said that the police had investigated the January 5 attack that Marissa reported and found that there was no evidence supporting her allegations. Bruscato said that his office charged Marissa with four felony counts of false reports because the Browns went to four different school and police officials.
But initially, the school principal told Marissa's parents that the school could confirm that four men who didn't attend the school had been seen in the hallway about that time that morning. Later the principal denied telling the Browns that. The principal of Roosevelt Alternative High School is named Angela Hite Carter. Many in the Black community in Rockford claim that she is the sister of Marilyn Hite Ross, Deputy State's Attorney to Bruscato. Marilyn Hite appeared at Bruscato's right hand in Judge McGraw's courtroom, arguing that Marissa and Shelia Brown ought not be granted their emergency continuance in order so that the key eyewitness testimony might be heard before the Grand Jury and she also appeared in behalf of the state's attorney's office against the Browns at the initial hearing on their contempt charges in January.
This is an extremely serious escalation against Marissa—each felony count in the new indictment against Marissa is punishable by up to three years in prison.
This is totally outrageous and totally wrong! And it must STOP!
Imagine that you are a seventeen-year-old young woman. You witnessed a person who you knew, ("Skip," his friends called him), being shot to death in front of you and while you had twelve little kids in your charge. You decided you had to speak up and tell the truth of what happened. Thousands of people, predominantly Black but also whites and Latinos, initially rallied to your church and out in the streets, again and again, in outrage at this murder.
But soon after, a reactionary onslaught in support of the killer cops followed—with almost a thousand people, this time almost all white. Skip's family and neighbors woke up to find their cars painted with swastikas and KKK slogans, a gun with bullets coming out. Horrible racist comments are being made about you and your parents on the radio, on internet blogs, and you get calls on your cell phone threatening to kill you! Someone assaults you in the bathroom at school. You have to go into the courtroom again and again and you are surrounded by all these sheriffs, cops, clerks. And now you have to go turn yourself in to jail. When you come out on bail you have four felonies! You know that you and your family have gone far out on a limb! But like your dad says, if they can get away with just coming in a church and shooting a Black man down like that, how is it any different than slavery times, or when they lynched people?
You know they are saying you filed a false report to make you look like a liar so that no one will believe you when you say the police shot Skip when his hands were up. And to scare you, and your family and to send a discouraging message to all the people who marched and any others who might march in the future for justice. The thing that makes you feel the best is that a lot of people came to court to support you. You don't want to back down and you and your family decide to keep on fighting.
The Browns (and the Black community of Rockford) can not be in this alone! In the face of these attacks, this struggle for justice must get stronger, and become something that people around the whole country take up.
Take action now!
–Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Chicago Branch
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