Rally to end police brutality highlights nationwide activism

Project works toward ending mass incarcerations, racial injustices peacefully

By Rodney Woodson, Associate Editor

OAKLAND — Resident Joey Johnson was arrested for his participation in a peaceful protest with city residents in objection to the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

“It can’t be the case that black people have to go through this alone,” Johnson said referring to the latest string of young African-American men gunned downed by aggressive police officers.

“It’s like a slow genocide gathering momentum — if it’s not stopped now, it will only get worse,” he said.

In unison with the Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization organization, co-founded by activist and author Cornel West and activist Carl Dix, Johnson and others will join the San Francisco chapter of the Stop Mass-Incarceration Network in a march and rally demonstration today at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland at 1 p.m.

SMIN is a registered non-profit organization project of the Alliance for Global Justice. The AFGJ supports organizations that seek global, fundamental change in economical and war conditions that leave innocent people impoverished and in danger.

On its website, SMIN state’s that the mission of the organization is to help put an end to police brutality and racially biased police, court and legal systems across the nation.

Frank H. Ogawa plaza is also known as “Oscar Grant Plaza,” mostly referred to as such by protestors and activists.

Just two days after Brown’s murder, Johnson, Oscar Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson and his wife, joined Johnson and went to Ferguson to join with the citizens in protest.

Johnson, a white male, also went to Florida in protest of Trayvon Martin’s murder shortly after the incident.

He talked about the “war on drugs,” and the “war on crime,” and how both loosely deemed law enforcement strategies were just ways to profile people of a certain race and incriminate them, murder them or put them in jail.

“People see genocide as the mass slaughter of a race of people, but they don’t often see the steps preceding,” Johnson said. “How can black people be 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prison population?

“It’s the new ‘Jim Crow,’ it’s just not based on slavery — it’s based on mass incarceration, in particularly the black and Latino inner-city youth.”

He talked about the war-like tanks and armored vehicles the Ferguson Police used to disperse what he described as peaceful protestors.

Oakland resident Anita Wills had more detail regarding a close encounter with the mayhem she said took place on Chambers Road in Missouri one evening.

“The police were coming up the street toward us,” she said, “wearing riot gear, riding in tanks. The crowd was mostly made up of younger people and they were peaceful.”

She said a police helicopter shined a bright white light on the crowd as the police on the ground steadily approach until law enforcement started the violence.

“They started lofting tear gas into the crowd then they hollered, ‘Disperse!’” she said. “Then all hell broke loose.”

Wills is a local activist who said she joined the fight against police brutality after her son, Kerry Baxter Sr., was incarcerated and is currently serving a sentence for a crime she said he did not commit.

She said that one evening Baxter Sr. got into an altercation with a younger gentleman outside of an East Oakland nightspot. The altercation grew more intense and the younger man ended up firing a gun at Baxter, who then fired back. While the two were not hit, someone a couple of blocks away was killed.

Wills said her son was convicted and since 2001 he has been serving a 66 years to life sentence for second-degree murder. Ten years later her grandson, Kerry Baxter Jr., became a victim of murder in what she described as “street violence.”

“I go out and speak to people whose children have been murdered in the streets. I support them as part of the (SMIN) movement,” she said. “I speak to the young people to let them know that someone cares about them, as well as informing them of their (constitutional) rights.”

She said while in Ferguson she was reminded of the old Civil Rights Movement era, except that this time the police had armored vehicles and AK-47s. She said that when they arrived, the following week after Brown’s murder, the residents of Brown’s neighborhood claimed that the electricity and gas had just been restored and had been out since the day of the murder.

She added that the low-income apartment complex only had one waypoint to enter and exit the complex. In the streets at different spots, including where he was murdered, there stood memorials of Brown.

“The police parked at the entrance,” she said. “(Residents said) the Ku Klux Klan would ride through attempting to run over the memorials. I heard them once. They came through hollering (racial slurs). The cops wouldn’t do anything.”

D’Andre Teeter, an activist working with SMIN, said he is the Bay Area organizer for the network who was in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

“We want to stop the massive amount of young African-Americans and Latinos with targets on their backs being murdered by police,” he said. “We’re going to hit this (problem) from many different angles. We want to light a fire under the people. We want to wake up and shake up millions of people.”