The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 9      March 7, 2011

(front page)
Houston meeting denounces
brutality by police department
Chad Holley, 15, was beaten by Houston police in March 2010.

HOUSTON—More than 500 people protesting police brutality met at the Community of Faith Church here February 15. Dozens lined up to speak about harassment, beatings, taserings, and shootings they have experienced at the hands of the Houston and Harris County police.

The meeting was the latest in a series of protests over the past few weeks since release of a video showing Chad Holley, a 15-year-old African American, being brutally beaten on March 24, 2010, by several cops while lying on the ground with his hands behind his head.

The video had previously been suppressed by the city and a federal judge. Holley, who was convicted on a burglary charge, was prohibited from showing it at his trial. Since its release, a second video has been shown on TV of a cop beating Henry Madge, 27, in a hospital waiting room two years ago.

Family members of at least two prisoners who died in Harris County jail since the beginning of the year have also raised questions about treatment that led to their deaths.

Eric Lomax, a 38-year-old truck driver, came to the meeting from work after hearing about it on the news. He told the Militant that he was there because “I want them to do what’s right. If police officers committed crimes then they should serve the time for what they have done.”

Michael Lewis was one of the first to speak. He told the story of watching Harris County sheriff’s deputies stopping traffic while sweeping the parking lot of a Kroger grocery store where he worked. They apparently didn’t like being observed. “Next thing I knew I was handcuffed and thrown up against the wall with a gun to my head. They searched and tore up my car causing thousands of dollars of damage,” he said. The company then fired him. Several other workers spoke about similar police harassment costing them their jobs.

Arlene Kelly was one of several people who spoke about police killing one of their relatives. Her daughter was killed by the cops 11 years ago as she was walking along a street.

“None of this is new,” said Janie Torres. When she introduced herself as the younger sister of José Campos Torres, the largely Black audience applauded loudly, with many people rising to their feet. For decades Torres has been a symbol of police brutality. In 1977 he was beaten by Houston cops who then handcuffed and dumped him into the city’s Buffalo Bayou to drown.

“I’m tired of this but I’m not giving up. We can’t give up. We have to stick together to fight this,” Janie Torres said.

Police brutality is the hot topic in workplaces, schools, and elsewhere throughout the area. Ray Soliz, a 31-year-old mill worker, told the Militant that he thought the reason so many people reacted strongly to the video was because it related to their own experiences. His young cousin was shot dead by officers a few years ago when he was walking through a schoolyard. “They said afterwards that they thought the screwdriver he had was a gun. People want justice.”

Houston mayor Annise Parker has announced a reorganization of police review bodies “aimed at restoring public trust in the police department.” The announcement has been met with calls for further protests.
Related articles:
Hundreds protest decision to not prosecute Seattle cop  
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