Friday, October 15, 2010

Student Protester Acquitted in Cleveland Juvenile Court

By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Oct 14, 2010 10:07 PM

DeAsia Bronaugh, a Black high school student, was acquitted on all charges on Oct. 7 in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court.

The charges, including felonious assault on a police officer, stemmed from an incident on May 13 when she and fellow students walked out of Collinwood High School to protest plans to close more than 40 Cleveland schools and lay off hundreds of teachers.

DeAsia and her sister, Destini, assembled on the sidewalk to demonstrate with classmates and community members who had come to support the student-organized protest.

A school security guard testified that inside the school a crowd of approximately 200 students were trying to join the demonstration outside. Fearing that the student protest could turn into a much larger confrontation with the powers that be, he called the cops.

Three police cars met the small crowd of students rallying outside the school. A video taken at the scene showed that the officers began roughly grabbing students and arresting them for violating Cleveland’s daytime curfew law that applies specifically to school-age youth.

DeAsia was arrested, although she was not in violation of the curfew, since she was being escorted by her older sister, who was 19 years old. She was therefore legally outside of school. When DeAsia, who was 16 at the time, was grabbed by an officer, she embraced her sister as Destini attempted to explain the situation.

Rather than listen, the police roughly pulled them apart. Destini called out, “We were protesting at our school, and they’re trying to arrest us!”

They were both slammed against a car. Then they were thrown to the ground. Officers shoved their knees into the necks of both young women. Destini cried out, “I’m having an asthma attack.”

The officer responded, “You’re about to get tased!”

Both young women sustained serious injuries as a result of the violent arrest.

Two organizers from Cleveland FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) had heard about the walkout and came to support the students. One videotaped the entire confrontation and alerted the media. Soon the images of police brutality were widely circulated by local television and newspapers.

A defense committee was established. The International Action Center set up an online petition that alerted the press, local officials and others that thousands of people around the country were greatly concerned about the events at Collinwood.

Terry Gilbert, a well-known radical attorney who has famously represented Leonard Peltier and other members of the American Indian Movement, took the case of the young women. The Oppressed People’s Nation, a local group of young community organizers, came to the aid of the family as well.

At the trial of DeAsia Bronaugh on Oct. 6 and 7, it came out that Officer Robert Taylor, one of those who brutalized DeAsia, had also shot a 16-year-old boy in the back in 2002. The family of Ricardo Mason, the young man Taylor had killed, sued and won a settlement of more than $1 million.

The video of the confrontation was a key piece of evidence at DeAsia’s trial. The prosecution tried to claim that while both her feet were in the air, DeAsia had tried to kick the police officers.

Magistrate Jeffrey Ehrbar wasn’t buying it. Right after the prosecution finished presenting its case, he dismissed all the charges on a motion from Gilbert.

Ehrbar told the prosecutor, “I watch professional wrestling.” He said he found it extremely unlikely that young DeAsia had carried out a dropkick, a difficult feat of athleticism when confronted by three police officers each weighing more than 200 pounds.

After the charges were dismissed, DeAsia and her mother, Tina Bronaugh, embraced with tears of joy.

On Nov. 15 Destini Bronaugh will face charges of resisting arrest and obstructing an official proceeding in Cleveland Municipal Court.

Organizers in Cleveland are gearing up for another victory, when this young woman is also acquitted and the Cleveland police are once again called out for their brutality.

Maupin, a member of Cleveland FIST, took the video used in DeAsia Bronaugh’s trial.

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