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Nation of Islam minister assaulted at anti-violence vigil
Beaten by the LA cops

By Gillian Russom | September 2, 2005 | Page 2

LAST SUMMER, they beat unarmed motorist Stanley Miller with a flashlight. Earlier this year, they murdered 13-year-old Devin Brown. Last month, they killed Joe Raul Peña and his 19-month-old daughter in a hail of 60 bullets.

Now, LA cops have assaulted a leading activist in the Black community, Minister Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. At a press conference the following day, Muhammad--his lip and left eye extremely swollen from the beating--spoke out, saying, "My head is bloodied, but it's unbowed."

The assault took place on August 25, as Muhammad was helping to lead a rally against gang violence in the Hyde Park neighborhood, where 21-year-old Nahum Beaird was killed Wednesday. Some bystanders to Beaird's killing say the paramedics declared him dead even though he appeared to be moving under the sheet.

According to Muhammad, he approached police to ask them to control traffic around the rally so participants wouldn't be harmed.

Danny Bakewell, a longtime activist and publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper, who witnessed the incident, told the Los Angeles Times that Muhammad called LAPD Deputy Chief Earl Paysinger and told the officers, "I'm on the phone with your boss." The cops then began to beat him.

"The attack was unprovoked," said Bakewell. "He was wrestled to the ground, pepper-sprayed in his face, and once he was on the ground, he was kicked brutally and punched in the mouth." "If they can beat him, we're all in danger," Bakewell said. "Can you imagine if this happened to [Los Angeles] Cardinal [Roger] Mahony?"

In typical fashion, the LAPD are trying to paint Muhammad as the aggressor, saying that he provoked the beating by being "belligerent" and joining in an "attack" on police, according to Assistant Police Chief Jim McDonnell. Yet why would Muhammad call the deputy chief of police for help one minute and physically attack police the next?

Police have also released a recording of part of the incident, where officers tell Muhammad, "Back up," and he replies, "Make me." As if this justifies a brutal beating.

The police attack comes at a time when Muhammad has become an increasingly visible activist in Los Angeles. He is one of the leaders of Community Call to Action and Accountability (CCAA), a coalition formed in the aftermath of the killing of Devin Brown. The coalition has a dual focus--opposing police brutality and stopping gang violence.

The August 25 vigil was focused on gang violence. But the CCAA has also organized several rallies against the Police Commission, calling for prosecution of officers involved in the murder of Devin Brown. The CCAA's activism may have helped to force the LAPD to investigate Brown's murder--an investigation that concluded Brown wasn't backing his car toward officers when he was shot, as police originally claimed.

Muhammad has also been at the forefront of organizing in Los Angeles for the Millions More Movement, a national weekend of protest against racism in Washington, D.C. October 14-16.

Why would the LAPD attack a well-known activist and risk more community outrage? Clearly, officers feel emboldened by the fact that no one has been punished for any of the major incidents of police brutality and murder committed in the last several years. On the contrary, Inglewood police who brutally beat Black teenager Donovan Jackson in 2002 received $2.4 million earlier this year, when a court found they were "unfairly disciplined" in the aftermath of the beating.

To stop police brutality, we need a movement strong enough to force real punishment for brutal cops. Activists were planning to rally August 30 in support of Muhammad.

In a cynical attempt to evade criticism, police Capt. Kenneth Garner told the Los Angeles Times that the Muhammad incident "is disappointing in the way it takes us away from...stopping African American young men from killing African American young men and Hispanic young men from killing Hispanic young men. There are far too many murders in [South LA]."

If the police want to reduce murders, they should stop killing innocent Blacks and Latinos. And if the city wants to reduce gang violence, it should put more money into our crumbling public schools and create more jobs with living wages in the inner city.

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