Thursday, May 20, 2010

Police Terror Kills 7-Year-Old Girl

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Published May 19, 2010 4:33 PM

At 12:35 a.m. on May 16, more than 20 Detroit police officers staged a raid at a two-family dwelling on the east side where they said a warrant was to be served for a suspect in a recent murder case. The police threw a flash bomb through the front window of the frame house. It caused a fire in the bed where 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones was sleeping alongside her grandmother, Mertilla Jones.

Then the cops kicked in the door of the downstairs flat. A few seconds later Aiyana Jones was shot by a police officer in the neck and head. Her grandmother Mertilla Jones told Workers World she “saw the light go out in her eyes.” Young Aiyana was dead.

The next few hours were harrowing for the families living in the home. Charles Jones, Aiyana’s father, said there was no warning and that the incendiary device thrown into the home was the first sign of a police presence.

Jones said later that sections of the couch where Mertilla and Aiyana Jones were sleeping were “cut up and taken to the police station as evidence.” For more than three hours the police ransacked the house and held several of its residents in detention outside the home.

Charles Jones said that he was held face down for hours by the police. Aiyana’s aunt, Lakrystal Sanders, recalled how she was kept outside in the cold with no shoes for two hours by the police. “Why didn’t the police come when it was daylight, why did they come at night?” she asked.

Sanders also noted that “there was an unmarked vehicle parked in front of the house” for hours the day before the actual raid. She stated the police told her they were looking for her fiancĂ© as a suspect in the killing of a 17-year-old.

“They never knocked and I was coming to open the door when I heard an explosion and the police kicked in the door,” Sanders said.

Mertilla Jones was taken into police custody for several hours after the raid and then released without being charged. Corporate-owned media reported that she was being held because the grandmother had purportedly reached for the officer’s gun, prompting the shooting. Jones denies these allegations.

“I never did anything, they are lying. They killed my grandbaby,” Jones said. “I laid down and put the blanket over Aiyana and the window exploded.”

The raid was filmed by the “The First 48” television show for an episode airing at a later date. In light of the killing of Aiyana, the videotape could prove to be quite revealing in reconstructing the events of the early morning police action.

Repression escalates in city

There is a growing pattern in Detroit of brutality and repression carried out by law-enforcement and other state agencies.

In response to the killing of Aiyana Jones, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality dedicated its entire radio program on May 16 to exposing the incident. “Fighting for Justice” airs every Sunday morning at 10 a.m. on AM station 1310 WDTW. The DCAPB organized a press conference and candlelight vigil for later that day outside the Jones’ home.

The week prior to the Jones’ killing, five Detroit police officers were shot, one fatally, inside a vacant home on the east side. A 25-year-old African-American suspect was wounded at the scene and taken into custody.

Ron Scott, spokesperson for DCAPB and co-host of “Fighting for Justice,” told the media after these shootings that the incident was a reflection of the increasing tension between the Detroit police and people in the city. Police Chief Warren Evans, in response to a question during a press conference on the shooting of the officers, said Scott’s remarks were “insensitive and ignorant.”

There was a flood of attacks from the police against Scott and the DCAPB in the corporate-owned media. Scott contends that his words were taken out of context and refused to issue the apology demanded by law enforcement and the media.

On a local Fox 2 news program called “Let It Rip,” Scott debated the police chief and three other media and legal pundits for the network. The program was widely viewed and the station was inundated with calls asking for the segment to be re-aired. The program was put up in full on the station’s website a few days later.

Other crises face Detroiters

Detroit’s state-appointed emergency financial manager Robert Bobb has not resolved the budget deficit of the public school system. Since Bobb’s appointment in 2009, the Detroit public school system has sunk another $100 million into debt.

A court challenge on behalf of the elected school board, parents, teachers and community organizations won a preliminary injunction in Wayne County Circuit Court against the closing of 45 schools in the district. It also halted numerous policies proposed by Bobb that would further privatize the system and weaken local control.

But this injunction was overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals. It ruled within several hours after the hearing that the Detroit Board of Education did not show that any irreparable harm would be done if Bobb implemented the plans for school closings and downsizing. The appeal to overturn the injunction was litigated by Republican Attorney General Mike Cox, who argued on behalf of Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Granholm had appointed Bobb to gut Detroit’s public schools.

The political significance of this episode in the struggle over the future of public education in Detroit is that both the Democratic and Republican parties held identical positions, siding with state and private interests over the right of the people in a majority African-American city to run their school system.

Private groups such as the Skillman Foundation are playing significant roles in drafting and promoting corporate-oriented plans to remold and liquidate public education in favor of charter schools for profit.

In another issue related to law enforcement, the U.S. Justice Department has not responded to demands by the Muslim community and its supporters for an investigation into the assassination of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who was shot 20 times by FBI agents on Oct. 28. Abdullah and several followers and family members had been lured to a warehouse in neighboring Dearborn under the guise of unloading merchandise from a truck.

On May 15, a group of inter-faith religious leaders announced they were sending a letter to President Barack Obama demanding he direct Attorney General Eric Holder to address the concerns of the Muslim community and others regarding the imam’s unprovoked killing and the subsequent prosecution of a number of his family members and followers.

On May 17 Holder spoke at Wayne State University Law School. Members of the DCAPB and the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice held a demonstration there demanding an end to police terror against the people of Detroit.

The protest drew attention to the killing of Aiyana Jones and also raised other issues concerning the lack of implementation of two federal consent decrees regarding use of lethal force and detention facilities within the Detroit Police Department. Detroit cops have been under a federally appointed monitor for nearly seven years, after a three-year investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. However, police brutality and misconduct continue.

Plans are underway to do further outreach in the community where Aiyana Jones was killed. Brenda Cowans, who lives in the neighborhood where the police raid took place, attended the demonstration outside the WSU Law School and welcomed interest by MECAWI to work with the community to combat police brutality in the area.

“We must speak out and fight injustice because otherwise we will be misused by the system,” said Cowans.

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