Interview with Collette Flanagan

Mothers Against Police Brutality: "Our Quest for Justice"

May 5, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


A national strategy meeting was held in New York City in April to plan for the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration. Revolution/ talked with participants at the meeting, including families of those in prison, parents of those who have been killed by the police, and others active in the struggle against mass incarceration. The following is one of those interviews.


Tell me about yourself and what happened to your son.

My name is Collette Flanagan and I'm a founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality. My son, my only son, Clinton Allen, was murdered on March 10, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. Clinton was 25 years old and he was unarmed and he was executed by a Dallas policeman. And what we found out in our quest for justice, in our journey for justice, is a lot of mothers in despair, on the same path, whose sons have been killed. In the city of Dallas there has never, ever been an indictment, except for one time, 41 years ago—41 years ago, of a cop that killed an unarmed man. We're talking about unarmed men. As of 2001 to date, there have been over 68, that number is huge—68 unarmed men over 10 years. And that's not even counting—we found out there's another number, they don't even include in that number policemen that have killed using Tasers. The Dallas Police Department has been so unchecked until we came into place, Mothers Against Police Brutality started holding them accountable. You have policemen running over suspects with their cars so those don't even get counted; suspects beaten to death, those numbers are not even get counted. So it's more deaths that policemen cause.

But we are holding the police department accountable for killing our children. We have been responsible for getting the excessive force training re-written because the one that was in place was horrible, it basically gives policemen license to kill and the processes that are in place to give policemen impunity was just outlandish and unchecked and unapologetic. The police department investigates their own deaths, which I know that happens in a lot of cities. But that's kind of outdated. Most progressive police forces bring in an outside agency or they have a separate unit. With Dallas policy—Dallas is about 10 or 15 years behind, most people don't know, so they romanticize Texas—you know, horses and the ranches. But Texas is not a safe place, Dallas, Houston—and we're working in San Antonio now where Marquise Jones was just killed in February, shot in his back twice. And San Antonio has a lot of immigrants. I call them citizens that are there illegally, right? I don't like to say illegal aliens, but citizens that are there illegally. So a lot of those people don't complain in San Antonio, so the abuse is so horrible. If you go on San Antonio's web page, the police department, it tells you, if you want to file an internals affair complaint on an officer, you might be asked to take a polygraph test. Now who is going to do that?

But our district attorney in Dallas has never indicted a policeman; the grand juries that are put together in Dallas, especially grand juries for the police shootings. So we want to bring that to light. When you ask yourself, you hear about all these police shootings and killings and the one common denominator is that the DA everywhere, in every city, will not indict. That's the common denominator. So when you peel that back and you say OK, why aren't the DAs indicting these officers who kill? Well the DAs don't indict the officers who kill because they have a partnership with the police department. So they just hand it over, they turn a blind eye and they use the grand jury secrecy to circumvent justice for families and to deliver impunity for cops. And so we need to call these DAs out and one thing that Mothers Against Police Brutality is working on doing is filing a complaint with the Justice Department—a multi-complaint with different cities about DAs and grand juries. If that secrecy is being used to circumvent justice and deliver impunity, well, then that's criminal. That's not what it was intended to do. And we know that that's happening. So that's one of the projects that we're working on now.

So we created Mothers Against Police Brutality and also the Clinton R. Allen Foundation, which is named after my son. And it's not just a foundation to say we have a foundation. But I found out from talking to mothers that when they take your children from you, and they kill your children, the families are not even allowed to get anything from the victims' fund that the states have locally. And so a lot of these murders happen in poor neighborhoods. That was my son's crime, he was in the wrong zip code. Cause we know in Dallas there are certain zip codes where these cops kill. We call them the hunting grounds. And so these poor families can't bury these children, you know. And so the mother in San Antonio, her family they were washing cars and cooking and selling dinners—in the midst of grief. Put the grief aside and cook dinners and sell plates, barbeque plates, and wash cars— to bury your son? Your child that was taken from you? Something about that is foul.

Tell me a little more about what happened to your son.

Clinton went over to a friend's house to retrieve a television and we think that there was something romantic maybe starting. You know kids; we think that he was supposed to be there, from what we could tell, around 10:30. He didn't get there until around 12. By the time he got there she had another guy there. And he was knocking on the door. I wish every day that Clinton had left. And he was persistent. I guess he figured, hey, we were supposed to meet up. The other guy on the other side of the door was getting agitated, like why is he here. So this young lady calls 911 just to get Clinton to go away. And Clinton's misfortune was that Clark Staller, who had nine excessive charges on his record and falsifying a police record and attempted murder—and he was still a policeman by the way—he showed up. He showed up at, I forget the exact time, but within eight minutes Clinton was dead, [Staller] went directly into excessive force. It was that quick and he was gone. They tried to convince us, they immediately said, they started planting the story that Clinton was high on PCP. I went—I eat lunch, I eat breakfast with this kid, he lives with me, I know about him and I'm a realist. And even if he had been, I would still be fighting for him because if you're on drugs, that's not a death sentence.

What did they say, that he was threatening?

Of course—[they said] he was threatening and he was on PCP. We had to wait until the toxicology report came back and he wasn't high on PCP. But that's the story and so we learn that's what the police departments do. They annihilate the victim's character. And they have this media machine that's a monster. And once they put that out—and reporters, they don't want to touch police shootings. They want to stay in good with the police so they can get all the good stories. So once the police media release a story, I mean, all they have to do is make a statement, the reporters pick it up, and it becomes the story. They don't vet it, they don't dig into it. And so we're trying to change that, even in our city, starting with Dallas. You know and challenging reporters—and we've done this, like "how do you know that happened," "you weren't there." You know, we've changed the verbiage, we've challenged the chief, you know—"you shouldn't be on TV saying the shooting was justified because you said there is an investigation, so you don't know that." So when we take away those little tools that they have to mesmerize the public and to get the public on their side, then people will start to see, hopefully, clearly what is really happening.

And the truth is that there are policemen that should be on medication instead of having a gun. The cop that killed my son was ex-Marine. I have no doubt something is wrong with him. In my spirit I know something is wrong with this man. We found out that police officers are only drug tested one time, that's when they become a police. Now, if you and I wanted to go and drive a bus we would be randomly tested. If I wanted to be a dog catcher, I would be randomly drug tested. So we must require the same thing from people who we entrust our families to. And we will find out that they are on steroids, post-traumatic stress syndrome, Xanax, Zoloft. I mean, they have real problems, they're human too. And we have to stop looking at these policemen as some super-human beings and giving them impunity, even in our own minds, the way we're raised—"policemen are always right" and they're not. They lie, they steal, they rape, they execute. There are sick people among the police force and when these bad apples show us who they are, we must have the courage.

There's a whole structure, it's not just the individual cop...

Right, so when you have a rotten apple, because the way the system embraces them, they thrive in the dysfunctional culture that's created for them. The blue line. And then people say well, there are some good cops. To me a good cop does not watch a bad cop do something bad and not say anything. If you're a good cop you stand up and you don't help hide what that bad cop does. I do believe that there are some good cops out there but they are very few and far between. There are some that if we remove the bad cops, would be better cops. And so these are people that we pay. We pay these people to protect our family and then we allow them to kill our families. That's crazy.

What do you think about this meeting so far and the vision for a month of resistance to mass incarceration in October?

I think it's great. I think bringing all the lines together is really great. And I think getting people to understand that this is a movement, not just a meeting to express what happened to me and my thoughts. This is a movement, that we have to continue this. We have to duplicate this in every city and we have to support each other. Sort of like the Freedom Riders, you know, they were driving buses—we have to duplicate that. And have to—sometimes getting back to good ole basic stuff, of just supporting each other instead of you know, [just being] "in solidarity"—no, we need to physically be there. I think that this movement is going to be very important and I think that it is going to work. I think it's going to work, it's going to get attention and I think that there are a lot of people waiting for this movement that just don't know what to do and would like to be involved. I think people are basically good and when you put a vehicle in place to where they can show you how good they are and what a good spirit they have, I think that they will take advantage to do so. So I'm looking forward to it.


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