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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bushwick 32' and the Rubberization Process

Bob Herbert (picture) tells us that a group of young people were framed by the New York City police and by Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes on and after May 21 2007. He says this is "Cruel and Gratuitous" treatment.

Mr. Herbert, what about teachers and education professionals who are confined to "rubber rooms" and also have done nothing? This is the same process, with different victims.

February 16, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
NY Times
Cruel and Gratuitous

It happened last spring.

The police commissioner’s office and a New York City police captain tried to convince the public that a marauding band of kids had gotten out of control and terrified residents, motorists and pedestrians on a street in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

The cops were wrong. And they must have known that they were wrong, that the picture they were creating of youngsters climbing on top of cars and blocking vehicular and pedestrian traffic was completely false.

The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes, carried the canard further. That had to have been deliberate, too. He went on the Brian Lehrer radio program on WNYC and said that his office had investigated the matter — had conducted what he described as an “independent inquiry.”

“We had many, many interviews with local store owners and people who live in the neighborhood who are, frankly, scared to death of these kids,” he said. “And they were not just walking on one car; they were trampling on all sorts of cars. It was almost as if they were inviting their arrest.”

Thirty-two people were arrested on that Bushwick street last May 21, including young women and children. They had been walking along a quiet, tree-lined block of Putnam Avenue on their way to a subway station where they had hoped to catch a train to attend a wake for a friend who had been murdered. The police, who have said that the friend was a gang leader, surrounded the group and closed in.

The youngest person arrested was 13. All of the kids were handcuffed, cursed at and humiliated, and several spent 30 hours or more in jail.

To date, there has been no evidence produced — no witnesses, no photographs or videotapes, no dented vehicles or broken mirrors, nothing whatsoever — to indicate that any of the youngsters had done anything at all that was wrong.

How is it that you can have a rampage in broad daylight on a street in New York City and not be able to show in any way that the rampage occurred?

At least 22 of the 32 people arrested have had their charges dismissed or were never formally charged at all. No one has been convicted of anything.

The case against 18-year-old Zezza Anderson was dropped last month after his lawyer, Ron Kuby, filed a motion demanding that Mr. Hynes’s office produce documentary evidence of the youngsters misbehaving. No evidence was produced. Instead, an assistant district attorney moved to have the charges against Mr. Anderson dismissed, acknowledging that the case against the defendant could not be proved.

I’d like to know why, after the better part of a year, the authorities are still tormenting some of these kids. Why are charges still hanging over 10 of them? Why should it take more than nine months to resolve charges of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct?

A number of the kids have missed days at school to show up for court dates at which nothing of consequence happens. Asher Callender, a senior at Bushwick Community High School, had to go to court on Friday, only to have his case postponed again until March 3.

These are not gangsters. These are not drug dealers. These are kids who were trying to go to a wake for a friend. It was not the kids who were out of control, it was the criminal justice system, which can’t seem to tell the difference between right and wrong, between the truth and deliberate lies, or between justice on the one hand and gratuitously cruel behavior by public officials on the other.

All the charges in this case should be dropped and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who apparently wants to be mayor of this city, and District Attorney Hynes should offer the kids a public apology.

The authorities have become accustomed to treating disadvantaged young people in New York City like dirt and getting away with it. In this case, local school officials, community residents and the civic group Make the Road New York rallied to the youngsters’ cause.

Neither the police nor the district attorney expected to be confronted in any kind of sustained way over their treatment of these kids. Mr. Hynes said on the radio program: “None of these kids are going to be prosecuted. They’re not going to go to jail ... We are going to offer every one of them community service.”

What he meant was that he expected the kids to go quietly, to plead guilty and passively accept the blot on their records and what he thought of as mild punishment.

But the kids had a surprise for him. They refused to plead guilty to something they hadn’t done. Ten of them are still paying the price for standing up for themselves.

Bushwick 32’ supporters arrested on phony charges
By Tyneisha Bowens
Brooklyn, N.Y.Published Dec 9, 2007 11:34 PM

On Nov. 30 than 20 Black students were in the Criminal Court of Brooklyn, N.Y., facing charges from their arrest in May while walking peacefully to the wake of a fellow student and friend. The charges they face include “unlawful assembly,” although the students had permission to attend the wake from both their parents and the administration of their high school. Originally these students were the “Bushwick 32” but some of the students had their charges dropped or had been to court before Nov. 30.

The Bushwick youths have had support from fellow students, community members, organizations like Student Coalition Against Racial Profiling and Make the Road since the May arrest, and had planned a news conference for Nov. 30. Unfortunately, no bourgeois news outlet found this incident important enough to dispatch even one news crew, camera person, or reporter.

During the court proceedings four supporters of the Bushwick students—John Mekins, Brian Favors, Mario Cox, and Jesus Gonzalez—were forced out of the courtroom for attempting to have counsel with one of the students’ lawyers and calling out injustice when they saw the court’s treatment of fellow supporters.

Once in the hall a fight between the supporters and the court officers broke out. “We could hear what was going on in the hallway but when we wanted to go out and stop it we were told to sit down before the same thing happened to us,” said one of the Bushwick youths on trial at the time.

The four men were arrested in the hall and held in the courthouse. During the initial time of their holding, Brian Favors’ spouse and Mario Cox’s mother were not allowed to see their loved ones and were unaware of the charges and details of the incident. Due to the circumstances of the case and the arrest of the students’ supporters, the Bushwick youths’ case was moved to Dec. 7.

On Dec. 1, the four supporters were arraigned in the same courthouse where they had been the previous day standing up against racial profiling and the racism of the entire judicial system. More than 60 supporters of the four men packed the courtroom. Most of the crowd in the courtroom consisted of Latin@ and Black community members, while the judge, prosecution and the bulk of the officers present were white.

Mekins, Favors, Cox, and Gonzalez were accused of starting the altercation with court officers and resisting arrest during the prosecution’s statement. The defense teams for the four men used character statements about them to prove that they had no intention of or interest in causing an altercation with the officers and that doing so would have stood in contrast to their community work and past behavior.

Cox, a high school student, was scheduled to take the SAT at the very time he was in court. Favors is a teacher and a trusted advisor to the Buschwick students and their parents. Gonzalez is a dedicated community organizer and college student. And Mekins’ removal from the courtroom was a case of mistaken identity which was cleared up by Favors before the arrest.

The four defendants had visible bruises during the arraignment. They had been taken to the hospital for their injuries after the fight. All four men were released without bail, but the charges were not dropped. Cox and Gonzalez will be in court on Jan.7, and Mekins and Favors on Dec. 12.

After their release the four pillars of the community greeted and thanked each of their supporters outside of the courtroom. The defense team and defendants spoke to supporters outside the courthouse.

Ray Boudreaux of the San Francisco 8, members of the Black Panther Party and political prisoners, came out in support of these men and had this to say: “They attacked these brothers because they are organizers for our community. ... This is the whole U.S. government that we are up against and what we need is a revolution.”

The defendants let tears run down their faces as more supporters joined the crowd outside.

For all those who are against these racist acts of injustice, come out to Criminal Court at 120 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn on Dec. 7, Dec. 12 (room AP1) and Jan. 7 (room AP6) and show your support.

The writer is a Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) youth organizer. Email:

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