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Parents Against Police Brutality founder on...
Rebuilding the struggle

December 8, 2006 | Page 5

MARGARITA ROSARIO'S son Anthony was killed by New York police in 1995--shot 14 times while he lay facedown in a Bronx apartment. The NYPD claimed Anthony and his cousin Hilton Vega were killed in a shootout that they started after a failed robbery.

But when Margarita and Hilton's mother Carmen Morales couldn't get answers from police, they began investigating themselves--and they founded Parents Against Police Brutality, an organization that has led the struggle to protest police brutality in New York. Margarita talked to Socialist Worker about the fight in the wake of Sean Bell's murder.

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HOW DID you get started organizing?

I DON'T remember Martin Luther King personally, but I grew up seeing him on TV, and I remember clearly learning about the struggle he was involved in, and the attacks the police made on people who were marching for their rights.

I grew up knowing that there are two classes of people. There are the people who are poor and struggling, and there are the people who don't care about human life. I was always an outspoken person. I also spoke out about police brutality before anything happened with my son.

PUBLIC MEETING
Bloomberg calls it "excessive." We call it MURDER!

Come to a panel discussion featuring: Yusef Salaam, wrongly convicted and imprisoned in the Central Park jogger case; Margarita Rosario, founder of Parents Against Police Brutality, whose son Anthony was killed by the NYPD; and Brian Jones, an activist, teacher and member of the International Socialist Organization.

Date: Friday, December 8th
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: St. Mary's Church, 521 W. 126th (between Broadway and Amsterdam, 1/A/B/C/D to 125th Street).

Sponsored by the International Socialist Organization. Call 656-554-8592 or email [email protected] for more information.

 

When Anthony Baez was killed [by New York police in 1994], my son said to me, "You know ma, if I was that guy's family, I would go after them with everything I got." Two-and-a-half weeks later, my son was killed.

When they told me that my son had a shootout with the cops, I knew immediately I wasn't going to sit on this. Family members were totally against me taking a stand, but I felt I had to do this. I had to speak for my son, since he no longer had a voice.

If the medical examiner had made me feel okay about what had happened, perhaps I would have stopped there. But to go there to talk with the person who did the autopsy, and to find out that the person was suddenly on vacation for 30 days? And no one has the keys?

I knew right away something was wrong. I wanted to see the facts. Since I didn't get the facts, I decided to pursue this further.

So I decided to form Parents Against Police Brutality. We contacted different organizations like the October 22 Coalition, Congress of Puerto Rican Rights, we contacted Al Sharpton, and through all of them, we were able to get in contact with other parents.

We started building up a movement. It just developed overnight. It was fantastic to be among people who understand your pain, just crying on each other's shoulders. The pain is so severe.

CAN THIS movement make a difference?

IT WAS the commissioner and the mayor who took a step back [after the protests against Abner Louima's torture]. Without them doing that, the police will always be the police.

We need to learn from the past--from things we did in the past, how we approached it, and what came out of it. Diallo was shot 41 times. What came out of it? Did anything change? They used hollow-point bullets in my son, and they used hollow-point bullets to shoot Diallo.

Marc Ferguson was killed two or three weeks after Diallo. So what changed? Nothing. Why? Because we concentrated on the 41 bullets. We didn't concentrate on bringing change in the police department. We made changes in people's minds, perhaps, but not yet in the department. We made people aware of police brutality, but what change came about?

I'm proud of the movement, because we did see some changes as far as people getting involved, and there were a lot of talk shows on TV about police brutality. That was excellent. But we need to do more right now. This is a case that could bring some serious change.

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