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Vol. 76/No. 34      September 24, 2012

Newburgh, NY, rally: ‘Broaden
fight against killings by police’
(front page)
NEWBURGH, N.Y.—This city of 28,000 people nearly 70 miles north of New York City became a rallying point Aug. 27 for fighters against cop killings. Families from around New York state and New Jersey got together to share experiences and organize.

“We hope you will all be at the Bronx courthouse Sept. 13, when a hearing for the cop who killed my son takes place,” said Frank Graham, addressing the rally. “We want this cop in jail. … Wherever it takes us, we’ll go there.”

Ramarley Graham, 18, was shot Feb. 2 in the bathroom of his apartment by New York undercover narcotics cop Richard Haste. After failing to get into the house through the front door, Haste and his supervisor, Scott Morris, went into the building through the back, then kicked in the door to the apartment. The cops claim they shot because they thought he was armed. No gun was found anywhere in the house.

Constance Malcolm, Graham’s mother, described to rally participants how the family has organized vigils, demonstrations and other activities on Thursdays since the Thursday her son was shot. They traveled to Chicago and Detroit to link up with fights against police brutality before coming to Newburgh.

The rally here was organized by the family of Michael Lembhard, who was killed by Newburgh cops March 7—shot with 15 bullets, eight in the back. After being chased by four officers, Lembhard, 22, fled into his sister’s house. Cops claim they shot after he came after them with a knife. The rally was the culmination of a 15-day-vigil, 15 days for the 15 shots.

Convinced that the cops were lying, relatives decided to press for an indictment. Gov. Andrew Cuomo denied a special investigation requested by the Newburgh City Council. On July 10, a grand jury ruled the cops acted in self-defense.

“With the vigil and the rally we want to broaden the fight and reach out to others who’ve gone through the same thing,” Arlene Lembhard, Michael’s mother, told the Militant.

The date of the rally was Michael Lembhard’s birthday. The family and supporters organized a barbecue and set up tables and chairs under a picnic tent. The platform of a big flatbed truck functioned as a speaker’s stage.

Omari Shakur chaired the rally. His son Antonio Bryant was killed by Newburgh cops in 2006 at the age of 23. Shakur has been active in the Lembhard fight from the beginning. He reported that a bus will be chartered from Newburgh to go to the Bronx Sept. 13.

“Police killings are a pandemic disease. It’s all over the world,” said Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., in his remarks.

His father, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., from White Plains, N.Y., accidentally hit his cardiac alert system Nov. 19. The medical alert company asked the police to respond. When the cops arrived Chamberlain insisted he was fine and refused to open the door. After being kept out for an hour the cops took the door off the hinges, shot Chamberlain with a Taser and beanbag gun before fatally shooting him in the chest. On May 3 a grand jury cleared the cops of any wrongdoing.

Cops paint victim as the criminal

Chamberlain Jr. pointed to a common tactic used by the cops—painting the victim as the criminal. “They claim my father was the aggressor, that he attacked them. But he didn’t take down the door.”

Margarita Rosario and Juanita Young came from New York. Rosario’s son Antonio, then 18, and nephew Hilton Vega, 21, were killed in 1995 by city cops in the Bronx.

“I’ve fought ever since. Don’t let them cover up what happened by being quiet. The way they’re killing our children is getting crazier,” Rosario said. “And don’t do what the lawyers tell you to, all they ever told me was to give up.”

Juanita Young’s son Malcolm Ferguson, was killed at age 23 in March 2000. He had been arrested a week before, charged with resisting arrest while participating in a protest against the acquittals of the New York cops who killed Amadou Diallo in a hail of 41 bullets in 1999. Young got a conviction in a civil suit in 2007 and was awarded damages.

“But no criminal charges were ever brought,” she told the Militant. “They won’t touch that cop. He’s still walking the streets of the Bronx.” Young has joined the Graham family’s fight.

Other speakers included Lembhard family lawyer Michael Sussman, Sundiata Sadiq from the Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, and Cynthia McKinney, former congresswoman from Georgia. Damon Jones, New York state representative for Blacks in Law Enforcement, and Carlton Berkley, retired police officer from New York, also spoke.

Shirley Williams came to the rally from Garfield, N.J., together with three other members of URGENT (United Residents of Garfield Engaged in Neighborhood Transformation). The group was formed after Malik Williams, 19, Shirley’s son, was killed by Garfield cops Dec. 10. A grand jury decided June 27 not to indict the cops. Members have held demonstrations and other protests since the killing.

“I thought this rally was amazing,” Miguel Reyes, who is active in the group, told the Militant. “Just the stories all the people told, they were so real, all so different and yet all so much the same. It was really uplifting. I’m glad we came.”

“We’re really doing something. It was wonderful,” Edith King, Arlene Lembhard’s sister, told the Militant.

Juanita King, one of Michael Lembhard’s cousins and a leader of the fight to indict his killers, closed the rally.

After reading a poem in his honor she said, “I wasn’t here when Omari’s son was killed. I wasn’t here when other children were killed by Newburgh cops. But when it happened to us, it hit home.

“And now I’m here. And here I’ll stay. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here when the next family is hit.”
Related articles:
UK protests condemn deaths in police custody  
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