Florida protesters: Jail killer guards!
Guards found not guilty in death of Black youth
Demonstrators rally October 23 in Tallahassee, Florida, to protest acquittal of boot camp guards in death of 14-year-old Black youth Martin Lee Anderson.|
BY ELLEN BRICKLEY
AND DEBORAH LIATOS
TALLAHASSEE, Florida, October 24About 1,000 people marched to the federal courthouse here yesterday to protest the acquittal of seven boot camp guards and a camp nurse in the death of Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old Black youth.
Protesters came from across Florida. They ranged from college youth attending their first demonstrations to veterans of the civil rights movement.
The NAACP, which organized the protest, demanded the Justice Department investigate the case for possible civil rights violations.
The eight were found not guilty of aggravated manslaughter October 12 in Panama City, 120 miles west of here. An all-white jury returned the verdict after 90 minutes of deliberation.
The day of the acquittals, protests took place outside the Panama City courthouse.
At the October 23 rally, Vanessa Baden, a student at Florida State University and a leader of the Student Coalition for Justice, reported that in Tallahasee, on the day of the verdict, about 300 students walked out of classes and blocked the intersection at the Capitol building. Many of the protesters were Black students from several campuses.
Martin Lee Anderson died on Jan. 6, 2006, the day after he was locked up in the Bay County boot camp. The state of Florida operated five military-style juvenile boot camps as a substitute for prison for children and young teenagers. After Andersons death authorities closed the camps. Anderson had been sent to the camp for a probation violation after trespassing at a school and allegedly stealing his grandmothers car from a church parking lot.
Videotape showed beating
During the induction process Anderson collapsed, and said he had trouble breathing after running around a track. Then, as a widely viewed 30-minute tape showed, the guards punched, kneed, and dragged the limp boy as the nurse watched. They put ammonia capsules under his nose while his mouth was forced shut.
Boot camp supervisor Charles Helms asserted in court that the guards would have stopped beating Anderson if he had just kept exercising as ordered. The video of the incident shows the officers trying to pull him up from the ground by his arms. When they did get him to stand, Anderson took a small step and fell to his knees. He died the next day.
Two autopsies were performed. The first, conducted by Bay Countys chief medical examiner, found that the boy had died of sickle cell trait, a genetic blood disorder that is generally benign. Sickle cell experts called this diagnosis highly improbable. The second autopsy, performed at the request of the family, attributed his death to suffocation. Andersons family received $4.8 million from the state of Florida as compensation for his death. It is very unfair when a white boy gets beat up and a Black boy gets killed, said Brigét Horne, 19, a sophomore at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, who marched in the October 23 protest here along with many others from her campus.
Horne was noting the difference in treatment of six Black youths in Jena, Louisiana, who faced severe charges in the beating a white youth, and the guards acquitted in the death of Martin Lee Anderson.
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