Ignoring injustice: Philly Black Officials Silent On Police Brutality
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Philadelphia -- Back in 1978, a respected newspaper columnist in in this city blasted local black elected officials for their failure to criticize police brutality – the scourge that ravaged blacks for decades, often with the sanction of white elected officials like then Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, a former city police commissioner.
“Those black elected officials lack courage,” respected journalist Chuck Stone wrote three-decades ago, slamming Philadelphia’s four top black officials as servile, betraying their constituents.
During the weeks before publication of Stone’s July 18, 1978 news commentary, Philadelphia police had killed two unarmed black men and viciously beat scores of people including a group of black teens attending a party at the home of a Methodist minister.
Now, 36 years later in 2014, Philadelphia black elected officials again face harsh criticism for their failures both to publicly condemn continued police brutality and to utilize their electoral clout to end that festering scourge.
Once again, black officials are being disparaged as servile and and betraying the people who elected them. And once again, the trigger for this latest volley of criticism against Philadelphia’s black elected officials is their collective failure to publicly condemn a high-profile incident of alleged police abuse. That incident in question was a vicious January 7 police assault on a teenage honor-roll student that left the 16-year-old needing emergency surgery for a damaged testicle.
“We are outraged by their silence,” activist Paula Peeples said as she castigated the muted criticism about police abuses like that recent teen assault on the part of too many of Philadelphia’s black elected officials.
Peeples is an official in the Philadelphia chapter of NAN – the National Action Network founded by civil rights leader, Rev. Al Sharpton. Since 2008, Philly NAN has unsuccessfully petitioned the White House three times for a federal probe into brutality by Philadelphia police – each time without support from Philadelphia’s top black elected officials.
Peeples was a part of efforts in the late 1970s to end abuses by Philadelphia Police that ironically helped energized a wave of political activism that elected many more blacks to pivotal posts in Philadelphia’s City Hall plus seats in the state legislature.
Black elected officials in Philadelphia now occupy the top posts of mayor, City Council president and district attorney plus the appointed position of police commissioner. Philadelphia’s 17-member City Council includes eight blacks on that governing body. Sixteen blacks from Philadelphia serve in the Pa state legislature, 12 in the state House and four in the state Senate. There are also many more blacks serving in the police department compared to in 1978, when they were a rarity...
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