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Burning Spear News

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Pressured Florida governor calls for review of “justified” verdict in police murder of Javon Dawson 

TALLAHASSEE, FL — On Wednesday, August 13, the halls of the Florida governor’s office were filled with chants demanding justice for Javon Dawson, a 17-year-old African murdered by St. Petersburg policeman and battle-scarred, Iraq war veteran Terrance Nemeth on June 9.

The march to and demonstration at the governor’s office follows in a long process of political struggle led by the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee (JJDC) — a committee of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) — to win justice in the face of an “investigation” by State’s Attorney Bernie McCabe who has a history of giving a green light to police to murder African people.

In fact, McCabe has stamped every police murder of an African as “justified” since he’s been in office. The JJDC has been applying constant pressure on the State to have McCabe removed from the investigation on the grounds that McCabe enjoys an incestuous relationship with the police department whose officers are currently testifying for him in more than 100 cases.

Javon Dawson’s killer, Terrance Nemeth himself has testified for McCabe in more than 90 cases. Based on these facts, the JJDC argues that it is a conflict of interest for McCabe to then be responsible for investigating his collaborators, the St. Petersburg Police Department.

McCabe’s office attempts to preempt meeting with governor

The Justice for Javon Dawson Committee had held a press conference the preceding week announcing its intentions to go to Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s office to demand Bernie McCabe’s removal from the investigation based on conflict of interests. Subsequently, 3,000 signatures on a petition supporting the demand had been faxed to the governor’s office.

In a suspiciously preemptive move, McCabe announced a verdict justifying Terrance Nemeth’s murder of Javon Dawson just one day before the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee’s scheduled meeting with the governor. This verdict announcement was accompanied by an eight-page letter from McCabe’s office riddled with contradictions.

The evidence highlighted in the document contradicted the story of the police who claim Javon Dawson pointed a gun at killer cop Terrance Nemeth. The document claims that somehow gunpowder residue was supposedly found in Javon’s pocket while Nemeth’s testimony says Javon dropped the gun after he killed him making it impossible for him to have placed it in his pocket. It also glosses over the fact that no gunpowder residue was found on Javon’s hands. It ignored the fact that the only testimony from the crowd of more than 200 people present that said Javon even had a gun was that of killer cop Terrance Nemeth. These and other numerous contradictions in the document pointed to a cover-up.

Florida governor calls for review

Despite the state attorney’s attempts to preempt the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee’s demonstration and meeting at the Florida governor’s office with the verdict announcement, Uhuru organizers were determined to continue. Demonstrators marched to the governor’s office and delivered 1,700 more signatures demanding an independent investigation.

After JJDC members met with the Florida governor’s chief of staff, they emerged from the office with a copy of a letter faxed to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey calling for a review of the state attorney’s investigation.

State Attorney Bernie McCabe was upset stating, “It’s never happened before and I don’t know why it’s being done now.”

While the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee recognized the review into the state attorney’s investigation a victory, its representatives made clear that the struggle for justice for Javon Dawson does not end with this review and that despite its initiation, the Uhuru Movement will continue to organize and struggle in the streets for justice.

For more information on this case or to contact the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee go to www.inpdum.org or call 727-821-6620

Uhuru organizer speaks out on why the struggle with Obama 

On Friday, August 1st I led a contingent of the Uhuru Movement into Barack Obama’s town hall meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida to raise the question, “what about the black community, Obama?” Without the benefit of a big media budget, our organization attempted to bring the serious issues experienced by African working class people across this country into the national political debate.

These issues include the targeting of African and Latino communities with predatory “sub-prime” mortgages – a scheme that has made millions for people like Obama’s chief financial advisor Penny Pritzker, while stripping black families of billions of dollars, the greatest loss of wealth our community has suffered since being brought in chains to this country. We also challenged Obama to take a stand against the police shootings of unarmed African people, and explain why he has publicly defended the judge’s acquittal of the NYC police who murdered Sean Bell.

He has said that he cannot speak out on behalf of those who have been historically oppressed for fear of offending other people. Yet in Miami, he promised the Jewish community, which considers itself a historically oppressed community, that he supports turning all of Jerusalem over to Israeli control, despite the internationally enforced sharing of that city with the Palestinians. When Obama speaks to black audiences, he attacks us, attributing our community’s poverty, not to systemic oppression, but to bad culture and lack of work ethic.

Barack Obama has criticized African fathers for abandoning our children, although a recent study showed that black fathers stay more involved with their children after a split from the mother than white fathers. And Obama says nothing of the unjust imprisonment of 1 in 9 black men of child-bearing age, the overwhelming majority of whom are locked up on minor drug or other non-violent economic violations stemming from conditions of desperate poverty. He has failed to achieve any meaningful program of economic development for the African community. In speaking to a group of black legislators, Obama said “a good economic development plan for our community would be if we make sure folks weren’t throwing their garbage out of their cars.”

Barack Obama wants to increase military spending and praised Clinton for abolishing AFDC and welfare. He has reversed his position opposing the death penalty and speaks out against reparations. He wants to escalate the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and has threatened Venezuela and Iran with military aggression. He has upheld the FISA, supporting wire-tapping and government spying on citizens. He receives unprecedented financial backing from Wall Street. His close advisors and potential cabinet members include war criminal Richard Clarke, Tri-lateral commission founder Zbigniev Brzezinski, Madeleine ‘it’s worth the price of 1 million dead Iraqi children’ Albright, and Free Trade advocates Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee.

Some argue that we must support Obama or else we are supporting McCain. We in the Uhuru Movement don’t believe our community should restrict our political options to a choice between one white ruling class party or another. In fact, the black community’s most recent experiences in the U.S. electoral arena have resulted not only in the Republican Party’s theft of our votes, but prior to that we suffered some of the worst attacks on our community at the hands of the Democratic Party administration of William Jefferson Clinton, who put 100,000 more police on our streets to murder our people, privatized the prisons to exploit our unpaid labor, and discontinued the public subsidies for impoverished children and families that had been won by African people as a concession to our movement of the 1960s.

African people’s experiences with these last several elections and the desperate conditions facing our community have created a willingness by our people to seek independent political alternatives. In response to this crisis, the white rulers put forward Barack Obama – a pied piper taking African people back into clutches of the Democratic Party. If anyone looks seriously at the positions, programs and advisors of Barack Obama, they will see that he does not stand for any kind of real change, but for the defense of the same old status quo, with a new face. America is in an economic crisis and the white ruling class hopes to save itself by deepening the exploitation of African people in the U.S. and on the continent of Africa, where the world’s biggest reserves of oil and precious minerals lie. How better to do it than with an African face at the head of state?

Our success as a people requires that we achieve our own independent political agenda. African people’s votes should be contingent on the willingness of a candidate to support and fight for that agenda. The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement has invited Barack Obama, John McCain and Cynthia McKinney to attend our annual convention on September 27-28 in St. Petersburg, Florida to clarify their position on the question, “what about the black community?’ Based on their response, we will consider endorsement of a U.S. presidential candidate.

Diop Olugbala is the International Organizer for the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement

www.inpdum.org

"What about the black community, Obama?" 

ST. PETERSBURG, FL — On Friday, August 1, the Barack Obama presidential campaign hit a serious bump in a St. Petersburg, Florida town hall meeting as members of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) challenged Obama on his unwillingness to speak to the interests of the African community.

While demonstrators outside chanted “Obama, McCain, its the same game,” InPDUM members inside raised a banner that read “What about the black community, Obama?”

InPDUM International Organizer Diop Olugbala challenged Obama asking, “In the face of the numerous attacks that are made against the African community or the black community by the same U.S. government that you aspire to lead — and we are talking about attacks like the subprime mortgage that you spoke of that wasn't just a general ambiguous kind of phenomena, but a phenomena that targeted the African community and Latino community; attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York police department and Javon Dawson right here in St. Petersburg by the St. Petersburg police, and Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina, and the list goes on. In the face of all these attacks that are clearly being made on the African community, why is it that you have not had the ability to not one time speak to the interests and even speak on the behalf of the oppressed and exploited African community or black community in this country?”

After stammering, Obama made the claim that he had addressed all of those issues with public statements, but that he just may not have spoken out in the way desired.

It is well known that he did make a statement after the acquittals of the police who pumped 50 bullets into Sean Bell’s car on his wedding day stating that the unjust verdict needed to be respected.

On the U.S. government’s leaving African people for days to die after Hurricane Katrina he stated on September 6, 2005, “I do not subscribe to the notion that the painfully slow response of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security was racially-based. The ineptitude was colorblind.”

Obama was right that he had not spoken to these issues as would be desired. While he may have conceded that the subprime loans were predatory, he has failed to condemn Penny Pritzker, his national finance advisor, for having made a fortune through the subprime mortgage scheme at the expense of Africans and Latinos.

In fact, Obama’s painting the U.S. as some place on the verge of a “post-racial” society with “race problems” being “90 percent” solved, his opposition to reparations for African people and his liquidating the colonial relationship that African people in the U.S. are held in are disarming. His role as a pied piper — leading African people who are disenchanted with the inability of the U.S. electoral process to provide any solution for them right back to the Democratic Party — is problematic for African people.

His role is one that works against African people’s struggle for self-determination — the loss of which was necessary for the building and maintaining of the United States of America.

The question for African people cannot be confined to whom to vote for in a bourgeois election where freedom and self-determination for African people will never be on the ballot. The question instead must be one of what must be done to win self-determination.

St. Petersburg police murder another African teen! 

/old_site_images/2008-06/st-petersburg-police-murder-another-african-teen/JavonDawson.jpg alt="Javon Dawson"/> Javon Dawson was 17 years old when killer cop Terrance Nemeth murdered him shooting him twice in the back at a graduation party.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL — On Monday, June 9, Keon Dawson turned 14 years old. While many 14-year-olds might spend their birthdays celebrating, Keon spent his in a demonstration in front of the police department because just two nights before, St. Petersburg police murdered his brother, Javon Dawson.

Javon Dawson was at a graduation party at the Shining Light Masonic Lodge on Saturday night when police shot him in the back. According to witnesses, the 17-year-old had his hands up when he was shot twice in the back.

Witnesses say that when one teen tried to stop the bleeding, the police responded by pepper spraying him. Another teen’s attempt to save Javon’s young life brought on threats by police that he too would be shot.

Not surprisingly though, the State has already begun a campaign of slander and cover-up. They could not pull up any rap sheet — a common tactic used to justify when police murder an African — because he had never had any previous contact with police. In fact, everyone who knew him, including his high school principal, knew him as “a good kid.”

Instead, the police painted a picture that implied that this young African who had never had a run in with police became an instant outlaw that night. They claim that this young African who had never been in any trouble decided tonight that as his first criminal act he would commit suicide by aiming and firing a gun at police so they could kill him.

However, the police story contradicts the accounts of all of the witnesses who say that young Javon didn’t even have a gun. But killer cop Terrance Nemeth did. In fact, the bullets he fired into Javon’s back weren’t his first.

Killer cop Terrance Nemeth is a seasoned killer. This battle-worn, former Marine had just recently returned from Iraq where he received awards for occupying Iraq the same way police occupy the African community in St. Petersburg and throughout the U.S.

In fact, some have questioned whether killer cop Terrance Nemeth was even psychologically prepared to return to “civilian life” in the U.S.

Community responds with outrage

/old_site_images/2008-06/st-petersburg-police-murder-another-african-teen/KeonDawson2Cut.jpg alt="Keon Dawson"/> Keon Dawson spent his 14th birthday in a picket line after police murdered his brother just two nights earlier.

The day after police murdered young Javon Dawson, outraged Africans flooded into the auditorium of the Uhuru House, headquarters of the Uhuru Movement. Frustration was high, and it was clear the African community wanted to stop the police murders and to get justice for this young African.

David Dawson, Javon’s father, was speechless. His mother, Yolanda Baker, was stricken silent with grief. They had lost their son only hours ago and police refused to even let them see him.

Ollie Godfrey, Javon’s stepmother, spoke saying, “This is an injustice in our community because that could have been anybody’s child laying out there that night. They said he was in the hospital. We went to the hospital, and they said that he wasn’t there. We went back out there, and they left him lying out there for four hours like a dog in the streets. We know that the police are going to put it the way they want to to make themselves justified, but it was not justified to shoot somebody in their back. I don’t care what the circumstances were.”

Javon’s little brother, Keon, explained with tears in his eyes how the police threatened to kill him if he tried to help Javon as he lie bleeding to death on the ground. “I saw my brother shaking on the ground, and then I tried to run over there. The police was like, ‘get back, or I’ll shoot you too.’”

“No Justice! No Peace!”

/old_site_images/2008-06/st-petersburg-police-murder-another-african-teen/JavonDemo2.jpeg alt="demonstration"/> The African community demands justice for Javon Dawson and an end to the city of St. Petersburg's attacks on the African community.

A powerful demonstration was held on the morning of Monday, June 9 in front of the St. Petersburg police headquarters. Chants of “Jail the Killer Cops Now!” and “No Justice, No Peace!” could be heard blocks away.

The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM), which led the demonstration, released a press statement that said, “InPDUM stands in total opposition to the public policy of police containment being imposed on our community. Police containment is when the police are given an open license to kill, harass, intimidate and arrest us in an effort to keep the African community silenced and docile. This reckless public policy of police containment has resulted in the police murders of young African men, with 17-year-old Javon Dawson being the most recent victim.”

The statement also connected Javon’s murder with police murders of other teens. Javon’s murder is reminiscent of the police murder of 18-year-old TyRon Lewis by the St. Petersburg Police Department in 1996. Then the city recklessly started a rebellion as a result of its vicious policy against the African community.

Immediately after the October 1996 police murder of TyRon Lewis, the Uhuru Movement launched a successful campaign within the African community and entire city that challenged the city’s negative public policy of police containment. As a consequence of our community’s unified demands, the city of St. Petersburg was forced to go eight years without a police killing of a single African person while at the same time giving lip service to the notion of economic development for the African community.

Then, as a process of reinitiating the brutal public policy of police containment while simultaneously trying to hide its hand in it, the city brought in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department to brutalize the African community. This resulted in the Sheriff’s Department’s murders of 17-year-old Marquell McCullough in May 2004 in a hail of 19 bullets and the murder of Jarrell Walker who was shot in the back three times in April 2005.

Now, eager to carry out its plans to turn St. Petersburg into a different kind of city with no place for its current residents, the city is intensifying its attack on the African community using the St. Petersburg Police Department directly to facilitate its containment and removal.

The city of St. Petersburg has not been able to murder an African without invoking a serious resistance in response. Rebellions erupted following the murders of TyRon Lewis, Marquell McCullough, and Jarrell Walker.

Even now, a powder keg is being created by the government of the city. The reckless public policy that is being guided by violence from the police and the land grabs and gentrification backed by the city government are fueling this powder keg.

In fact, it seems like the city is trying to provoke a rebellion by murdering another African teenager so that it could create an excuse to intensify its brutal assault against the African community.

Community in motion

/old_site_images/2008-06/st-petersburg-police-murder-another-african-teen/Justice4JavonCommitteeCut.jpg alt="committee"/> Four members of the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee at a press conference; Ollie Godfrey, Diop Olugbala, Brenda Dawson and Kimberly Fritts (left to right)

On Wednesday, June 10, a meeting was held at the Uhuru House where the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee was built. Led by Javon’s stepmother Ollie Godfrey as its president, the committee also includes Javon’s cousin, Laketa Dawson, as its secretary; Brenda Dawson, Javon’s aunt, as its fundraiser; and Javon’s cousins Kimberly Fritts and Felicia King as its outreach coordinators. Diop Olugbala, InPDUM’s International Organizer is functioning as the committee’s political action coordinator.

The committee immediately got to work, scheduling a press conference the following morning and holding a candlelight vigil immediately after the meeting at the site where the police murdered Javon Dawson. Africans from throughout the community came raising their candles and pledging to not allow a moment of peace in the city of St. Petersburg until justice is won.

One sister led the crowd in the song “Victory is Mine” exemplifying the committee and the African community’s determination to win the struggle for justice for Javon Dawson and to end the city’s attacks against our community.

Javon’s murder is part of larger plan

The murder of Javon Dawson does not happen in isolation. The public policy of police containment that caused his murder is part of an overall plan to change the face of the city of St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker plans to turn St. Petersburg into a haven for wealthy white people, and this vision of a new city has no place in it for African people or poor people in general.

The razing of an entire African community and African businesses so that the Tropicana Field dome could be built on its ashes was part of this process. This process saw an entire section of the African community historically called the south side because of its proximity to Central Avenue renamed “Midtown” followed by a serious gentrification to extend the downtown area.

This process of creating this new African-free St. Petersburg is being continued now with a plan to build a $500 million dollar waterfront stadium to replace the dome that was built on the ashes of the African community. The city’s plan for economic development comes at the expense of the African community.

Organized resistance is the only way to stop it

The police, which function as an occupying army in the African community, will continue to murder African people as long as there is no consequence. They will continue to kill African people one by one so long as we are unorganized.

The African community must get organized in its own interest to defend itself. It cannot stand by and allow the police to attack our community. Nor can it simply react whenever the police kill or brutalize another one of our children.

What must be understood is that police murder is but a symptom of our fundamental problem, which is the fact that we are not free. African people have not had self-determination — or control over our own lives — since Europe’s attack on Africa that stole us from Africa and Africa from us.

Since that attack, African people have been held under colonial domination in a parasitic relationship for the political, social and economic benefit of the U.S. and Europe. This is why no matter how hard we work or how long we work, our work doesn’t build wealth for us. It builds wealth for the white community.

Africans within U.S. borders are a domestic colony, held within the borders of a colonizing country.

To prevent Africans from trying to free ourselves from this parasitic relationship, there is an organized entity called the State. The State uses brute force to maintain this parasitic relationship. The police who contain our community through violence are part of the State. The courts that justify the violence committed against our people are also part of the State. So are the military and the school systems.

The State is an apparatus whose sole purpose is to maintain the relationship between those who have and those who don’t have because everything that belongs to them has been stolen by those who have. So the solution to our problems is not to just try to stop police violence because it’s only a symptom of our condition.

We have to take power over our own lives, and to do this African people have to be organized. African people in St. Petersburg, Florida and everywhere else around the world where we have been dispersed must join the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, the organization representing the African working class’ demand for self-determination.

So any demand for justice for our community must be a demand ultimately for power over our own lives. It must be a demand for State power.

Only when we are organized to take State power in the hands of the African working class can we end the attacks on African people.

In the case of the murder of Javon Dawson, InPDUM has put forward demands for:

• Reparations now to the families of Javon Dawson, Jarrell Walker, Marquell McCullough and TyRon Lewis!

• Prosecution of the killer cop who murdered Javon Dawson!

• Real economic development, an infusion of millions of dollars of both private and public monies to develop commerce and businesses owned and controlled by African people!

Stand with InPDUM for justice for Javon Dawson!

Join the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee! Call InPDUM at 727-821-6620 or email [email protected].

Jail the Killer Cops!

Reparations to the Family of Javon Dawson!

Self-determination for the African Community!