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‘Show The World That You Will Protect Us’

By Rhodesia Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Jan 11, 2017 - 10:11:34 AM

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New year brings videos of Black girls roughed up by cops and calls for Black men to respond

Video stills show a Wake County, N.C. high school resource officer picking up a 15-year-old girl lifting her into the air and body slamming her onto the floor. According to reports, the girl, later identified as Jasmine Darwin reportedly suffered a concussion.

It was only three days into the new year and two videos had already gone viral on social media with footage of teenage Black girls being attacked by police officers.  Jasmine Darwin, a 15-year-old student at Rolesville High School in Wake County, N.C., about 17 miles from Raleigh, N.C., was slammed to the ground by Ruben De Los Santos, a school resource officer (SRO), while attempting to break up a fight.  The video shows Ms. Darwin stunned as the officer lifts her up.  The young girl’s mother told the media her daughter suffered a concussion as a result of the officer’s actions.

“We are very disturbed by the video,” said Mike Meno of the North Carolina ACLU.  “We have received many complaints over the years about excessive use of force by police in the school system.  It’s just this one was caught on tape,” he added.  Ms. Darwin weighed no more than 100 pounds and is about 5”2 in height. The horrifying episode happened Jan. 3.

North Carolina is one of the few states that still tries 16-and 17-year-olds as adults, which creates a problem beyond any initial police abuses. There is too much of a tendency to turn normal teenage issues into criminal disciplinary actions, in which teens end up in the school-to-prison pipeline for matters that could have been handled within that school system, Mr. Meno stated.  The officer who slammed Jasmine to the ground has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

“This was a great injustice and it continues to be a pattern, particularly, here in North Carolina, a pattern of excessive force and abuse of authority by regular police officers on the streets and in this case … in the school,” said Student Minister Allan X of the Nation of Islam study group in Raleigh, N.C.

Last September, another 16-year-old, Kacee Fleming, was pulled to the ground and landed hard on her back after asking an Asheville, N. Carolina police officer why her teenaged brother was getting arrested.  The officer claimed Ms. Fleming hit him while he was arresting her, which led to her being charged as an adult for resisting and obstructing an officer and a misdemeanor assault on a government official.

In October 2015, a 16-year-old teen at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., was flipped from her desk and tossed across a classroom by a police officer. She allegedly refused to leave the classroom after an administrator said she was disruptive.  The footage of this incident left parents and many in Black America outraged.

Every school that has police officers in schools, who often carry the title school resource officers, have teams to help intervene in situations where students are involved in physical altercations, said Allan X. If multiple people are fighting, they have a first responder and organized staff that are North Carolina Crisis Interventionists who are trained in how to intervene physically and diffuse a situation without harming anyone, he added.  While working in the school system, Allan X said he never had to slam anyone to the ground while breaking up a fight.  “So, I know this is a grave disrespect to the Black woman and Blacks in general,” he noted. “They see us as less than human and for those officers to do that to a female shows that they view our women as animals and less than civilized people.” 

The day before the recent North Carolina video, a similar video surfaced of a young girl being beaten by a cop in Philadelphia.  Sixteen-year-old Johnnaa Pendleton was trying to break up a fight when the unidentified female police officer grabbed her by the hair and slammed her to the ground.  Footage shows the officer sitting on top of her chest and repeatedly punching the teen in her face.  The police officer was responding to a report of a brawl in that area, said authorities.  Johnnaa said she was backing away when the officer attacked her.  The officer has been taken off street duty pending an internal affairs investigation.

Lamond Muhammad, an assistant student minister of the Nation of Islam mosque in Philadelphia, said, “One of the reasons the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, called for us to come to Washington, D.C., on October 10, 2015 for ‘Justice or Else’ was the fratricidal homicide and the mob attacks we see going on by the police. We know and understand that it’s not just Black men being attacked, unfortunately the enemy knows that a nation can rise no higher than its woman and the woman gives birth to our prophets and messengers and our deliverers.  So, he’s using the same excessive force and sometimes deadly force to harm our sisters as he has done our brothers.”

“Unfortunately, there are women on the force, such as that police officer, that has taken on the mindset of our open enemies.  Not all police officers have that mindset, but the problem is that the good police officers don’t condemn the wicked ones. That’s why that type of behavior continues,” said Lamond Muhammad. “To protect and to serve is what you see on police cars, but when it comes to dealing with us, the mindset has been to kill and destroy.”

Dr. Alli Muhammad of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party and other members of the organization have filed a $400 million lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department for attacking them while participating in their daily food program in late December. In the attack, 10-year-old Nia Bryant suffered a busted lip after one of the officer’s put himself in a fighting position and threw a martial arts style elbow to her mouth, he said. “They acted overly aggressive toward us. They attacked our chapter members not caring who was around,” Dr. Muhammad noted.  A video shows the young girl’s mother asking the unapologetic officer, “Can you explain to this child why her mouth is bleeding?” The mother has pressed charges against the officer.

La’Keisha Gray-Sewell, the founder and director of the Chicago-based Girls Like Me mentoring program, was a victim of police brutality.  She was 17 years old and waiting for her little sister after school.  A cop very aggressively demanded that she leave, but she had nowhere to go. She stood near the school, but the officer wanted her to leave.  She noted that the 6 foot, 250 pound officer slapped her, twisted her arm behind her back, pushed her against the wall and handcuffed her while pushing her into his security office.  She was 17 and legally an adult and was told there was nothing she could do about it.

She is now a wife and mother with a teenaged son and a daughter. She sees historical factors at work and the fear instilled in Black women and Black men from slavery on.

“Men can’t stand up for us when they see this happening because they feel powerless,” said Mrs. Gray-Sewell. “They know they’ve been hung from trees for advocating for their woman. This isn’t something new, the lynchings, the castrations, the point-blank shooting deaths, the choke outs, is all tactics used to keep us docile and impotent. Black men must combat this fear. They must move out this paralyzing fear so that if any type of unjust violence is shown toward our girls, Black men will close ranks on their sisters,” she insisted. 

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan called for 10,000 Fearless to protect and restore the Black community October 10, 2015 in Washington, D.C. during the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March.  “I believe he used the word ‘fearless’ because he knew a fearful person or a fearful people would not be able to clean up our communities and make it a decent place to live,” said Abdul Sharrieff Muhammad, interim director of the 10,000 Fearless initiative. “A fearful person would not be able to control our community. We’re taught in the Nation of Islam to fear no one but Allah. If we are patrolling our communities like we have been instructed to do, our sisters wouldn’t need to call the police when she’s in need because we would already be there,” he concluded.

In Mishawaka, Indiana, a Black teen was put in a head lock by a White J.C. Penney employee for knocking over a promotional display after he told her and her family they didn’t belong in his store.  The video captured the bystanders shouting to let her go, but he refused. Clearly people were appalled by this employee’s behavior, yet no one stepped in to help her. When mall police arrived, the teen was taken away in handcuffs.

Dr. Phile’ Chionesu is director of the Million Woman March, likely the largest gathering in the world of any women’s group. Her goal is to bring more awareness to young Black women and police brutality.  This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Million Woman March. She is planning an anniversary march and the theme is “Raising up the Mother of Civilization.” “When our sisters are murdered, or beaten, or manhandled by cops, our people, our community do not adequately respond, if at all, especially in comparison to when something unjust happens to our brothers,” she said. “Brothers, we love you, we honor you, but we’re not getting the representation and response to what’s happening to our women and girls. Stand with us and show the world that you will protect us.”