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Monday, 11 November 2013

Standing up to police racism

Joe Feeney reports from a Temple University demonstration against police violence.
Temple University students rally in Philadelphia against police brutality (Bernard Jones) 
Temple University students rally in Philadelphia against police brutality (Bernard Jones)
MORE THAN 100 students at Temple University in Philadelphia and their community supporters held an evening speak-out and march November 4 to protest police brutality.
The protest began with Sabrina Sample explaining that one month earlier, she and another student, Jalyn McClain, were walking home and got involved in a verbal dispute with someone. Sample said several police from both the university and city forces set after the two students pushed them down on the ground in what she described as a football tackle, piled on top of them and arrested them.
Both Sample and McClain are active in the student organization People Utilizing Real Power (PURP), which sponsored the November 4 speak-out. Sample followed McClain to address the need to protest such attacks. Representatives of the legal collective Up Against the Law explained what to do when confronted by the police. Lilian Wehbe, representing the International Socialist Organization, spoke of the need to organize action such as the protests for justice for Trayvon Martin.
For several years, Temple has been changing from an overwhelmingly commuter campus to one where a majority of students live in dorms or off-campus housing in the middle of the Black community of North Philadelphia. Students of color are experiencing the treatment that police have always dealt out to neighborhood residents.
At the rally, five students spoke about their own experiences with police, and those of their friends.
The first talked about a woman student who had been drinking, and was harassed and solicited twice by police while walking home. Another student had a blown-up photograph of his swollen face after he was beaten by cops and left chained to a hospital bed. A third spoke about the experiences of high school students arrested by police in the nearby suburb of Cheltenham. Another Temple student talked about how he was thrown against an iron fence by a cop while on his way to class--he was taken to jail, and he charged with disorderly conduct. The last student described being assaulted by police and put in the hospital.
Chanting "No justice, no peace, fight the racist police," the protesters marched to the local city police station to picket. Sample spoke here about PURP and its list of demands. The group is pushing in particular for a community-elected Police Accountability Council to investigate cases of police brutality.
PURP activist Mia Reed said in an interview that she wants Temple students to know "that they have a voice--they have rights. Just because a police officer assaults you, attacks you, you still have right to address it. It's not over after the altercation ends...
"Going forward means police accountability--that when you walk down the street you don't have to worry about 'stop-and-frisk.' You don't have to worry about being harassed for no reason other than the way you look. That's moving forward."
Lilian Wehbe contributed to this article.

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