ALBANY, N.Y. — “I will never stop fighting for the rights of my children,” Beverly Hoggs told an audience of 50 people at a public meeting here May 4, co-sponsored by the Militant Labor Forum and the Stolen Lives Project. Hoggs is the mother of Jamel Pearson, who had been sentenced to 87 years for selling drugs, a nonviolent offense. “Appealing was very expensive,” she said. “They get us because we don’t have a million-dollar lawyer.”
Hoggs, whose brother was killed by Schenectady police in 1992, was joined on a panel by two fighters whose sons had been killed by cops in New York City. Hawa Bah, whose son Mohamed was fatally shot in 2012 by police who came instead of an ambulance she had called; and Juanita Young, a long-time fighter against police brutality and mother of Malcolm Ferguson who was shot and killed by the police in 2000, both spoke.
Messiah James Cooper, whose nephew was shot by police in Troy, and Samantha Hamlin, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of that city, were also on the panel.
“I never knew the real things going on in America until my son was murdered,” said Bah. New York Police Detective Edwin Mateo was found guilty in 2017 after a civil trial on excessive force in the killing of Bah’s son. The city in March finally agreed to drop efforts to overturn the decision and to pay the Bah family and attorneys $1.9 million for the killing, registering a hard-fought victory in a five-year-long fight.
“Police beatings and killings are aimed at the working class as a whole and disproportionately hit workers who are African American. Cop brutality is a necessary part of capitalist exploitation,” Hamlin told the forum. “Its role is to intimidate and punish workers — alongside the entire criminal ‘justice’ system of the cops, courts, plea-bargain system and its prisons.
“Cop brutality and killings will not end until working people can take power and organize society on a whole different footing — one based on human solidarity and not profit,” she said.