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by Jacqueline Carpenter
Monday, Jul. 15, 2002 at 4:58 AM
Parishioners, leaders and neighbors gathered at Faith United Methodist church this evening to speak out and organize the African American community's response to the police beating of Donovan Jackson-Chavis.
Los Angeles, CA -- Parishioners, speakers and neighbors gathered at a respected community church this evening to speak out and organize the African American community’s response to the police beating of Donovan Jackson-Chavis, and the arrest of Mitchell Crooks. Faith United Methodist Church on 108st Street in Los Angeles hosted the first meeting of the Justice for Donovan Jackson-Chavis Committee. The meeting drew speakers such as Maxine Waters and Dick Gregory, as well as reporters and cameras from all major news networks, including the BBC. A crowd of about 800 filled every pew in the small church and jammed every aisle and doorway.
Cheers erupted as Sister Taleeba Shakur, the cousin of Donovan Jackson-Chavis and a founding member of the committee, read aloud its demands at the beginning of the rally. “All criminal charges against Donovan must be dropped,” she firmly stated, “and criminal charges must be filed against the police,” including those officers who witnessed the incident, but failed to stop it. All of these officers should be suspended without pay, according to Shakur, not with pay, as is the current custom. “We’ve got to hit them in their paycheck,” she shouted, which elicited cheers from the crowd. To this end, the committee wants a civilian review board created to determine police discipline, and they demand that the members of the board be elected. “We don’t want Jesse James to be investigating Frank James,” Shakur sneered, referring to the often corrupt peer review system in place in most police departments. Lastly, the committee sternly warned Steve Cooley that he will be held personally responsible for the treatment in custody of Mitchell Crooks, the amateur videographer who was arrested two days ago on an outstanding warrant.
The speeches that followed gave voice to the community’s frustration with its constant scourge of police racism and brutality, and the failure of whites to accept police brutality as real. In exasperation, legendary civil rights activist Dick Gregory proclaimed, “We’ve got to explain it like this to white people. Police brutality is just as real to me as sun cancer is to you.” Likewise, Congresswoman Maxine Waters dismissed the speculative talk from many whites about the videotape with, “We don’t know what happened before the video, we don’t know what happened after, but we do know what happened during the video, and that’s enough.”
However, much of the speakers’ focus was on the education and organization of the community as a political force that channels its anger and outrage to its benefit. James Simmons of the National Conference of Black Lawyers explained the penal code sections that define the police beating of Donovan Jackson-Chavis as a crime under the Step Act (Street Terrorism Act), while longtime activist and Black Panther Michael Zinzin described the history of police crimes and the penal code sections that keep police discipline secret. “It’s not police brutality, it’s not police abuse,” said Simmons, “stop talking like it’s an administrative problem. Let’s call it what it is…absolutely what happened is a crime.”
Dick Gregory lightened up the crowd with his characteristic racy humor and jabs at the press. He reminded activists not to internalize their anger and lash out at themselves or their families, but to use it to revitalize a movement for change. “Thirty years ago we wouldn’t be in this church without five hundred state troopers outside…but progress is one thing, change is something else.”
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