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News :: Human Rights
Springfield communities respond to police commission decision in Greer police brutality case
25 Feb 2005
Once again Springfield cops have been let off after brutally beating a Black man. But, as this outrage resonates in the community and more police terror is brought to light, a multi-faceted campaign led by oppressed communities and their allies are fighting back.
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Springfield communities respond to police commission decision in Greer police brutality case
Actions promised to protest increasing police terror

By Bryan G. Pfeifer

SPRINGFIELD, MA -- Once again Springfield cops have been let off after brutally beating a Black man.

But, as this outrage resonates in the community and more police terror is brought to light, a multi-faceted campaign led by oppressed communities and their allies are fighting back.

The Springfield Police Commission voted 3-2 on Jan. 31 to let off four white cops accused of beating and choking Mr. Douglas Greer, a principal at a local charter school Nov. 4.

According to Greer, principal of Robert M. Hughes Academy Charter School, he was viciously beaten by the cops Nov. 4. Greer, who has diabetes, drove his car into a South End gas station after feeling ill. A worker at the gas station called police after he failed to rouse Greer, who had lapsed into the early stages of a diabetic seizure.

When the cops arrived, according to multiple eyewitnesses, they smashed Greer’s window, dragged him through it and beat him unconscious on the pavement. Greer said he repeatedly attempted to tell the cops about his medical condition, but the four cops accused him of being "on drugs" and used this as an excuse to beat him.

Greer needed 18 stitches to close lacerations in his head. The police report on the beating claims Greer became violent and they had to use force and pepper spray. The cops also claim that while police were subduing Greer, he smashed his own head on the pavement.

At least two of the cops have long track records of racist terrorist activity in the Black and other oppressed communities. Jeffrey Asher was suspended from the police force for a year in 1997 after a a videotape showing Asher kicking an African American man broadcast on local tv.

James Shewchuck, another cop involved in the Greer beating, has been accused of organizing a "welcome back" party for the cop who shot and killed Ben Schoolfield, an unarmed Black youth, during a traffic stop in 1994. Although Schoolfield’s family, after years of litigation, won some minimal monetary compensation due to a civil suit, all the cops involved in this murder were let off.

Greer is exploring legal and other avenues for justice with Springfield's Nation of Islam, among others.

Two days after the commission’s decision on the Greer beating, a videotape obtained by local media showed three members of a Black Springfield family being beaten and arrested in the Springfield police headquarters lobby in September 2004. While filing a complaint at the lobby window, the family, which has a long history of being harassed by the Springfield cops, was descended upon by at least 10 cops coming from two side doors. The video shows police swinging batons and placing one of the family members in a choke hold.

Resistance

"Pastors have always been in the forefront when it comes to seeking justice," said the Rev. J. Williard Cofield, president of the Pastors’ Council of Greater Springfield at a press conference Feb. 9 announcing the council’s complaint filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The council, with about 30 mostly Black pastors as members, filed the complaint concerning the Greer and family members’ beating and as a response to the increasing complaints of police terror issued by their parishioners (masslive.com).

"We have heard the cries of our community, and it is our business to speak up so the truth can come forward," said Rev. Cofield.

A probable-cause finding by the commission would force a public hearing. If the commission’s investigation renders a lack of probable cause the complaint will be moot.

The U.S. Justice Department has requested that the FBI investigate the complaint. Since this is like asking the fox to guard the chicken coop, independent community organizations like the Springfield Technical Community College-based Urban Awareness Group is planning more independent actions like the Nov. 20 demonstration the group sponsored after the Greer beating.

The STCC students, with other community residents and organizations, hope to engage in anti-police brutality actions this spring and to conduct a people’s commission to investigate and protest police brutality, terror, and occupations of oppressed communities in the city.

And, humorist, social commentator and activist Dick Gregory who spoke at STCC in early February denounced the Springfield police department’s racist actions.

In the progressive communities in Western Massachusetts there’s a dawning awareness that the anti-war movement must connect the U.S. war in Iraq with the war on working-class and oppressed communities in the U.S.

A central component of these struggles must be anti-racism especially in the struggle against the cops, the courts and the prison-industrial complex which affects the oppressed communities most directly.

– 30 --

Nick Camerota, Springfield Technical Community College professor and member of the Western Mass International Action Center, contributed to this report.

(c) 2005 Bryan G. Pfeifer. Article may be printed in full or in part provided full attribution given to author.

Union labor donated

-- END --
See also:
http://www.october22.org
http://www.troopsoutnow.org

This work is in the public domain