Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cleveland Meetings Target Racism, Injustice

By Workers World Cleveland bureau
Published Feb 5, 2011 4:16 PM

The level of passionate determination expressed by the speakers at two meetings in Cleveland on Jan. 29, and the enthusiasm of the crowds in attendance show that the movement is growing to fight back against injustice.

A speakout at an East Side church heard riveting testimony on various miscarriages of justice, which were addressed to Stanley Miller, executive director of the Cleveland NAACP. Speakers asked for the NAACP’s involvement in supporting their cases.

Presenters included Denise Taylor, an aunt of Joaquin Hicks who was sentenced to 61 years to life in prison on a false conviction. Tina Bronaugh also spoke. She is the mother of two high school students who were brutalized by Cleveland police during a peaceful protest against school closings. One of these students is still facing charges.

Another speaker was Rebecca Whitby, who is the mother of a young woman who was beaten without provocation by Cleveland police. Whitby faces charges along with her daughter for reporting this brutality. Kevin Mitchell, who is a union activist wrongfully fired by Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, also spoke. Sharon Danann addressed the group on behalf of the wrongfully convicted Lucasville uprising prisoners, and John Hunter spoke as the brother and cousin of two of several women murdered on nearby Imperial Avenue.

In a key moment, Miller revealed that the police testimony regarding the Whitbys, which was presented to the grand jury — of which he had been the foreperson — was at odds with the reality presented by the family about the night of horrors in April 2009 and with the sworn statements that form the basis for the current indictments. This revelation of false statements by the police is extremely helpful since the Whitbys’ trial begins on Jan. 31.

A church on the West Side was standing-room-only for a program in support of wrongfully convicted Arthur Tyler, who has been on death row for 27 years. One of the speakers, Joe D’Ambrosio, was released last year after spending 20 years on death row on a false conviction.

The crowd cheered the announcement that some public figures have recently made statements opposing the death penalty. Retired director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Terry Collins, and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeiffer urged Gov. John Kasich to commute all death sentences to life in prison without parole.

Also celebrated was the victory of the Lucasville uprising hunger strikers in achieving more humane conditions of confinement. The spirit of unity in calling for overturning all convictions that are based solely on “snitch” testimony was electric.

This dynamic movement to challenge injustice will come together again on Feb. 26 for a Prison Emergency Summit at Cleveland State University’s Black Studies Department. The event is being co-sponsored by many of the coalitions whose activists filled the churches on both sides of Cleveland, along with prisoner advocacy organizations and several fired-up student groups. For more information, call 216-925-9108 or e-mail

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