Outrage comes with acquittal of ex-officer in videotape beating of teenBy Jesse Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: May 24, 2012 - 9:50:24 AM
HOUSTON (FinalCall.com) - Anger and outrage in the city was building after a jury acquitted a former city police officer in the controversial videotaped beating of a Black teen.
“This isn’t an individual case, it’s a systemic problem. We have to take this protesting to another level beyond holding press conferences, rallies and meetings,” Kofi Taharka, national chairman of the National Black United Front, told The Final Call.
Andrew Blomberg, who is White, was found not guilty of misdemeanor official oppression by an all-White jury on May 16.
Mr. Blomberg was among the officers fired after a surveillance camera caught them on videotape brutally kicking, punching and stomping then 15-year-old burglary suspect Chad Holley in March 2010.
“I’m just glad this part is finally over,” Mr. Blomberg told the media following the verdict.
Mr. Taharka, Krystal Muhammad of the New Black Panther Party, and attorney Maria Castellanos were placed in handcuffs on May 18 after taking their disgust with the verdict to the office of District Attorney Pat Lykos.
Prior to being arrested, the three activists were denied access to a meeting that Ms. Lykos was having with several Black ministers. They refused to leave, lay down on the floor in defiance and placed their hands behind their heads to mirror the same position that Mr. Holley was in during the beating by Houston Police Department officers.
After blocking a public entrance for over an hour, Ms. Lykos personally came out and demanded the trio be arrested. They were released on bond the same day.
“A group obstructed the lobby of the District Attorney’s Office,” Ms. Lykos wrote in a statement. “Profane language was directed against the employees of this office. They were disruptive and impeded our work.”
“We have to be willing to put something on the line,” said Mr. Taharka. “History tells us that our great servants of the past have been willing to go all the way, even to the death, for the cause.”
Ms. Muhammad said, “This system continues to show us that Black life is worth nothing in this country. We’re demanding that Lykos reconvene a grand jury and charge these officers with aggravated assault on a minor.”
Houston’s ‘Rodney King moment?’
The video of the beating was recorded by a security camera on March 24, 2010 at Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage located in the southwest area. It has had over 250,000 views on YouTube.
The footage shows Mr. Holley being chased by several officers on foot and in patrol cars. After jumping over the hood of a patrol car as it jams into a fence, Mr. Holley lays down in the grass on his stomach with his hands behind his head before officers descend upon him.
Then one officer, Mr. Blomberg, appears first to stomp Mr. Holley’s head and approximately four seconds later can be seen running away to assist with another suspect. However, his defense was able to convince jurors that he used his foot to sweep the teen’s arm, not kick him.
The other officers started landing more kicks and stomps to the face and legs while delivering multiple punches to Mr. Holley’s abdomen. The teen was then escorted to a patrol car. Mr. Holley was later convicted of the crime and spent two years on probation.
Mr. Holley, now 18, testified on the witness stand that he was not resisting arrest. The prosecution told jurors that “one picture is worth 1,000 words. A video is worth a million words.”
Mr. Blomberg’s attorney called him a “hero” for taking part in chasing down Mr. Holley, whom they attempted to portray as a “thug” with the use of still photos and videos of him throwing up gang signs with his hands.
According to a KHOU television news report, records from the Harris County District Clerk’s office shows that 107 cases of official oppression went to a grand jury the past five years. Only 22 percent (24 cases) returned with an indictment.
Police Chief Charles McClelland, who fired seven officers involved, testified that he believed Mr. Blomberg did stomp on Mr. Holley. He came under scrutiny for telling reporters officers involved should have been charged with felonies instead of misdemeanors.
“If you watch the video showing Rodney King’s arrest in 1991 and then watch the 2010 video showing Chad Holley’s arrest, you see similar circumstances. It’s hard to believe this is happening in Houston in 2012,” said Rep. Al Green (D) in a statement following Mr. Blomberg’s acquittal. He wants the Dept. of Justice again to investigate the case.
“We should oppose mob-like behavior by anyone and this includes peace officers acting under the color of law. What we saw on the video recorded in Los Angeles was mob-like behavior by peace officers under the color of law and what we see on the video recorded in our city is mob-like behavior by peace officers under the color of law as well,” said Rep. Green.
“I am not shocked at all by this outcome. No matter if its Sanford, Fla., or Houston, Texas, the Black man can’t find justice anywhere,” said Dennis Jackson, 25, who resides in the Northeast area of the city.
“Although I don’t excuse Chad Holley robbing anyone, there are proper procedures for arresting people. The jury must’ve been blind not to see that Blomberg stomp on that kid. You can’t call Chad Holley a thug while you’re allowing thugs to wear blue uniforms,” said Kelley Reed.
Hundreds rally, call for civilian review board
A diverse crowd of Houstonians rallied downtown on the steps of the Harris County criminal courthouse on May 17. A series of town hall meetings are being planned.
“In this courthouse you sentence more of us to death than any other place in the industrialized world. How long do you think you’ll continue to get away with this? God is on the scene today,” said Student Minister Robert Muhammad of the Nation of Islam.
Former councilmember and criminal defense lawyer Jolanda Jones said the verdict is “normal and business as usual.” She encouraged exercising the right to vote to hold public officials accountable.
Activist Quanell X said he received documentation that over 75 Blacks were subpoenaed to be a part of the jury selection pool in Mr. Blomberg’s trial.
“But only two Black people decided to show up. If you get subpoenaed, bring your behind down here and sit on these juries! Our people are being lynched,” said Quanell X. “All-White juries can never ever happen again. No more all-White juries!”
The Black Justice Tuesday Coalition, made up of various grassroots groups, have been protesting outside the courthouse on Tuesdays for the past 69 consecutive weeks demanding an independent civilian review board with subpoena power.