Saturday, February 6, 2010

Walking While Black in Pittsburgh

By Sean Schafron
Published Feb 4, 2010 10:11 PM

Around 11 p.m. on Jan. 12, another tragic incident demonstrated the racist establishment’s brutal punshment of the crime of “walking while Black” in Pittsburgh.

Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old viola player and honors student at the prestigious Creative and Performing Arts High School (CAPA), was walking from his mother’s home to his grandmother’s home where he frequently stayed, when he was inexplicably and brutally attacked by three white Pittsburgh police officers.

According to the police report, Miles was standing against a building “as if he was trying to avoid being seen.” The police said they observed something under the young man’s jacket which they thought to be a gun but turned out, according to their report, to be a bottle of Mountain Dew.

Miles maintains he had nothing in his jacket and seldom even drinks the beverage. He relates a different and more terrifying story. As he was walking he noticed a white car with three men inside. They jumped out of the vehicle and shouted, “Where’s the money?” “Where’s the gun?” and “Where’s the drugs?” Afraid of being robbed, Miles turned towards his mother’s home when he slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk.

Before he could get back up, Miles reported, “That’s when they started beating me, punching, kicking me, choking me.” It wasn’t until about 15 minutes later, when uniformed officers arrived in a police van, that Miles realized he was being arrested. The attackers never identified themselves as police, and when he was handcuffed Miles assumed he was being abducted.

The officers have been identified as Richard Ewing, David Sisak and Michael Saldutte. All three failed to appear at Miles’ Jan. 18 hearing on charges of resisting arrest and aggravated assault.

Miles had no criminal record prior to the attack.

Pictures taken and released by his mother, Terez Miles, show the young man’s face covered with bruises, with his right eye swollen shut and a bald spot where officers tore dreadlocks from his head. “My son is 150 pounds and 5-foot-6. There was no need for this degree of violence and brutality for someone of this stature,” she said. He was treated twice at West Penn Hospital for his injuries.

The media picked up on this horrific story, prompting Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to state, “The incident was very troubling to me, and we’re taking it very seriously.” Ravenstahl also told reporters, “It seems as if there was a tremendous amount of force used.” However, not only have the offending thugs not been fired or even suspended, they were merely taken off of plainclothes duty and reassigned in uniform.

With nationwide attention increasing, the FBI opened a fact-finding investigation to determine if Miles’ civil rights were violated.

The public outrage against this crime has been swift. On Jan. 26 about 60 CAPA students were joined by concerned residents and activists on a march through downtown Pittsburgh chanting, “Justice for Jordan!”

Outside Pittsburgh City Council chambers, Black Political Empowerment Project Director Tim Stevens spoke passionately as many of Miles’ schoolmates and others pushed back tears. “I cannot fathom how the Pittsburgh police could, in any reasonable way, defend the beating, stomping, choking and kicking of an unarmed, 5′6″, 150-pound teenager by three armed police officers. Simply moving the police officers from their former undercover status to uniform status does not properly handle this very troubling situation. These officers are still on the street to possibly brutalize other innocent, nonsuspecting citizens.”

Believing her son was racially profiled, Miles’ mother may file a civil rights lawsuit once the criminal case is resolved. Pittsburgh’s NAACP chapter has called for the three brutal officers to be fired and for all charges against Miles to be dropped. Chapter President M. Gayle Moss said, “He had robbed no one — no bank, no establishment, hijacked no car or caused anyone any harm. He was simply walking while Black.”
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