For 73 years before his killing by a white police officer, Bernard Monroe’s life in this little town was as quiet as they come… Rendered mute after losing his larynx to cancer, the 73-year-old retired power company lineman was in his usual spot on the mild February day: a chair by the gate that led to his Adams Street home. A barbecue cooker smoked beside a picnic table in the yard as a dozen or so family members talked and played nearby.
In a report to state authorities, Homer police said Officer Tim Cox and another officer they have refused to identify chased Monroe’s son, Shaun, from a suspected drug deal blocks away to his father’s house... Seeing the commotion, Bernard Monroe confronted the officer. Police said that he advanced on them with a pistol and that Cox, who was still inside the house, shot at him through a screen door. Monroe fell dead along a walkway. How many shots were fired isn’t clear; the coroner has refused to release an autopsy report, citing the active investigation.
Police said Monroe was shot after he pointed a gun at them, though no one claims Monroe fired shots. But friends and family said he was holding a bottle of sports water. They accuse police of planting a gun he owned next to his body. “Mr. Ben didn’t have a gun,” said 32-year-old neighbor Marcus Frazier, who was there that day. “I saw that other officer pick up the gun from out of a chair on the porch and put it by him.”
Full article (April 10, 2009, AP).
Cliff Note: The sad reality is that when it comes to police brutality, little has changed since the mid 1960s when beatings and murders by the police, combined with worsening economic conditions, led to rebellions in cities like Detroit, Newark and many others. Little has changed since the Black Panthers saw the need to include the following as point # 7 of their Ten Point Program: “We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people”. By the way, if you’ve never actually read the Ten Point Program, you really should click on the link; you may be surprised to learn that the Panthers also dealt with the issues of employment, housing, education, health care and wars of aggression. Sound familiar?
Most of the officers who get caught beating or killing folks usually get a slap on the wrist. They rarely face criminal charges (thanks to police friendly district attorneys), and when they do they’re usually found not guilty due to manipulation of the jury selection process combined with police friendly laws.
As bad as that is, it’s even worse in situations where the police brutality doesn’t make it to the national media. In those situations, not only do the offending officers avoid criminal charges, they usually get a promotion. This is especially the case in smaller towns throughout this country. The ability of smaller towns like Homer and Jena to get national attention is the exception to the rule. The sad reality is that you could probably find a Bernard Monroe every week in some town in the United States.
During my nine years in Selma, Alabama I saw my fair share of such cases, including situations where prisoners have died mysteriously while in police custody. In spite of our efforts, you never got to see those stories on CNN.
If having a Black President and Black Attorney General is to mean anything beyond a symbolic source of pride, it must mean that these types of incidents end, and the only way for that to happen is if the perpetrators are dealt with more seriously.
But Black President or not, at some point we’re going to have to realize that there’s but so much justice we can get as long as we continue to define our struggle in terms of civil rights instead of human rights. That’s one of the lessons Brother Malcolm tried to teach us years ago, and that’s one of the reasons the Panthers ended their Ten Point Program by quoting not from the Constitution, but from the Declaration of Independence.
So what can we do right here and right now?
1) You can call the District Attorney’s office in Homer at (318) 927-4862 and demand that they file charges against the officers in the Bernard Monroe shooting.
2) You can sign an online petition to end racial profiling that will be sent to the Obama administration. In addition to calling for action on racial profiling in general, the petition calls for specific action on the policie shootings of Oscar Grant, Adolph Grimes and Robbie Tolan.
Power concedes nothing without a demand. What's your demand?
On that "note", i'm outta here!