The Militant - Vol.64/No.30 - July 31, 2000 -- Tape shows brutality of Philadelphia cops...
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 64/No. 30July 31, 2000

Come to the Active Workers ConferenceCome to the Active Workers Conference
Tape shows brutality of Philadelphia cops...
PHILADELPHIA--"It was 28 seconds of police fury," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the front page two days after city cops brutally beat Thomas Jones, a 30-year-old African-American on July 12 after a police chase.

"For that brief period, 10 Philadelphia police pummeled and kicked a suspected carjacker Wednesday, landing 59 blows on a man already wounded from police gunshots," the paper continued. "With a ring of officers jostling for position, police punched the man at least a dozen times and kicked him at least 46 times. The final blow came when an officer slammed the man on the shin with a police radio."

The police beating was videotaped by a local TV crew flying overhead in a helicopter. The video, reminiscent of the tape of the Los Angeles cop beating of Rodney King, was played numerous times on Philadelphia news that evening and on stations all across the country.

Jones, who was driving a car the cops say was stolen, was chased by the police. He stopped and got out. Witnesses reported that he had his hands in the air and was attempting to surrender when the cops began to hit him with their clubs and then opened fire on him.

More than 40 shell casings were found on the ground after the shooting. Jones attempted to flee the murderous gunfire by jumping into an open cop car and driving off. He was shot five times.

The cops took off in pursuit. After a few minutes, Jones came to a stop, remaining seated in the car. Then a swarm of cops descended on him, dragged him out of the car and began hitting and stomping him. In the video, cops can be seen leaping over cars in order to get their licks in. Finally two plainclothes cops put Jones, shot and beaten, in a headlock, dragged him to their car, and took him away. He is being held in custody at Temple University Hospital where he is reported to be in stable condition.

After swarming over Jones, the cops tried to claim that he had shot at them before they unloosed their barrage of gunfire. Eyewitnesses say there was no gun, and no gun has been found. One cop, Michael Livewell, was injured in the thumb in the police crossfire.

City authorities have reacted by moving to squelch any public outcry against the cop violence. Mayor John Street, who is Black, left the NAACP national convention in Baltimore to hurry home in an effort to head off an explosion of anger against the cops. As part of this move, Street, elected last fall, called Rev. Alfred Sharpton in New York and Jesse Jackson in Chicago. Following Street's lead, many Black clergy made the topic of their Sunday sermons the need for "restraint" and "calm."

While admitting that the videotape was "troubling," Street argued, "We cannot conduct a police witch-hunt by jumping to conclusions in the absence of all the facts."

However, the "facts" on the videotape are hard to ignore, and Street has been moving to defend the cops as a whole even if some have to be sacrificed. "We don't think that the actions taken by the Police Department in that case are typical of the actions of the overall majority of men and women who are on our police force," Street told the media July 14.

City officials have also attempted to deny the incident was racist, claiming that a "frame by frame" study of the videotape showed that the majority of kicks and punches delivered to Jones came from cops who are Black.

The cops have thrown the book at Jones. Besides being charged with stealing the car the cops chased, he has been charged with two counts of attempted murder. One count is for the thumb injury to Livewell and the other is from a cop allegation that in his effort to escape the beating and shooting he drove toward another cop, potentially threatening his life. He has also been charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, a number of recent purse snatchings, and, the cops say, a "host of other offenses." Two days after the assault, the cops claim they have now discovered a "crack pipe" in the car he was driving.

The city's newspapers have obliged the cop campaign to paint Jones as a "career criminal," and, therefore, someone unworthy of protection from police shooting and beating.

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article entitled "Suspect had a long record," along with a box highlighting every time Jones has been arrested or incarcerated.

Many workers, especially those who are Black, members of other oppressed nationalities, or who have had their own experiences with the cops, whether on strike picket lines or while out on a Saturday night, have cried out against the brutal assault.

"Fue abuso" (It was abuse), a Puerto Rican worker interviewed in a hardware store said. "I've always thought the police are abusive."

"I hope they stick it to those police," said Althea Williams, a Black school teacher's aide. "They expect our young people to respect police officers. Their first reaction when they see them is to run."

"They think because they have a gun, they can do whatever they want," said Kim Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American.

Yvette Kenney, a Black worker at Athlete's Foot, said she was among about 30 neighbors who marched on their local police station last summer after a young man was beaten by the cops. "When is this stuff going to end?" she asked.

J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia NAACP, joined members of Jones's family at a July 14 press conference to announce they would be filing a civil-rights lawsuit against the city.  
July 23 protest rally called

Fifty religious figures have announced a protest rally against the police shooting and beating of Thomas Jones, to take place Sunday, July 23, at 6:00 p.m., at the Morris Brown AME Church, at 25th and Montgomery in North Philadelphia. The church is a few blocks from where the brutalization of Jones was videotaped by a local news team.

"We want to symbolize through the broader public, both African-Americans as well as whites, the outrage, the disgust that many people feel about this beating," Philadelphia NAACP leader J. Whyatt Mondesire told the press as the meeting was announced.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported July 18 that local cops were selling a T-shirt with a picture of the beating of Jones and the slogan "Welcome America." Alongside it the paper ran a picture of a police badge that read "RNC Welcoming Committee 2000," referring to the Republican national convention scheduled to start here July 31.

The same day, an Amtrak cop shot and killed Robert Brown in the 30th Street train station. The cops allege Brown, a homeless man living in the station, was menacing them with a chair. Glenda Langley, one of numerous witnesses, said, "Everyone screamed: 'You didn't have to shoot him!' "

John Studer is an airport worker and member of the International Association of Machinists. police send agents to spy on activists
PHILADELPHIA--City officials here have complained that the timing of the outcry over the videotaped police attack on Thomas Jones couldn't be worse.

The vicious assault, the Philadelphia Inquirer said, is "an incident that has thrust the issue of police brutality into the national spotlight and threatened the city's image just weeks before the Republican National Convention." The convention, where George W. Bush will be nominated as the party's candidate for president, is scheduled to take place in Philadelphia the week of August 1.

A number of demonstrations are planned leading up to and during the convention, with the aim of aiding the election campaign of the Democrats as a "lesser evil." Unity 2000, an umbrella coalition of labor unions and protest groups, is focusing on a large march on July 30, the Sunday before the convention. Other groups are aiming to protest during the convention itself. Some have announced the intention to try to halt the functioning of the convention.

The Philadelphia cops and city government have been on a campaign to raise the specter of potential disruption and violence during the demonstrations in order to justify curtailing democratic rights and winning more leeway for cop violence against demonstrators. They have pointed to reports of "violence" during protests against the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and other institutions, held in Seattle and in Washington, D.C., earlier this year.

The city has adopted policies for the convention to force demonstrators to protest within specially created "protest pits." The city council voted to make it a crime to wear a mask covering your face during protests.

The Philadelphia cops have sent agents around the country to spy on protest activities, claiming they were trying to "identify troublemakers" who might come to march during the Republican convention.

They sent cops to Washington for the demonstrations there. They sent spies to a May Day rally in New York City, where they conducted what the New York Daily News called a "cloak-and-dagger surveillance" of demonstrators. They took pictures to assemble dossiers on activists.

The cops have also been spying on political organizations, bookstores, and activists in Philadelphia, where the convention is going to take place.

Members of the Unity 2000 coalition have sent a letter to the police protesting the fact that two people have been parked outside their offices for weeks taking photos of those who come and go. The TV news has reported that bookstores like the Wooden Shoe and groups such as the Kensington Welfare Rights Organization have also been placed under open police surveillance.

At some times the cops have admitted they were the ones snapping photos, saying that since they were doing it openly, there was no violation of anyone's rights. At other times they have denied it. "What makes [the activists] think the people taking pictures are police officers," one cop spokesperson told a reporter.

A national march on Washington against police violence and "racial profiling" has been called for noon on Saturday, August 26. (See calendar.)  

'Cops are the criminals,' says socialist candidate

John P. Crysdale, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress in the First District, issued a strong condemnation of the cop assault on Thomas Jones, and encouraged his supporters and all working people to demand the jailing of all the cops responsible. "There is no excuse for police brutality," he said after the beating. Crysdale, a textile worker and unionist, said, "Like the death penalty, cop violence is a tool used by the rulers to intimidate and attack working people, to send the message that if you resist the economic and political attacks of the employers, you will be victimized."

"The videotape makes it perfectly clear--Jones was the victim, the cops were the criminals. No 'investigation' is needed. The city authorities are stalling in the hopes our outcry will dissipate. Meanwhile, they try to paint Thomas Jones as a subhuman brute who got what he deserved. This is just what the politicians and cops in New York tried to do to Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond.

"This is not a case of a couple of 'bad apples' on the police force," the socialist candidate said. "Police violence is a necessity for the cops of the capitalist system. The goal of this brutality is to intimidate workers and farmers from fighting for our rights and for a decent living. As the crisis of capitalism deepens, their brutality will escalate.

"I say: Jail the cops who beat Thomas Jones! Help mobilize public protest to force action against the brutal cops," Crysdale said.

"Join the Socialist Workers campaign to help promote the idea of combining our struggles into a revolutionary movement to fight for our own government, a workers and farmers government, that will dismantle the employers' police and begin to construct a socialist society that puts human needs before profits." --J.S.

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