Tate Brown protest

Ten activists who were charged with disorderly conduct for protesting at a community meeting in March attended by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams were all found not guilty at their trial this week.

— Tribune photo by Samaria Bailey

Ten protestors arrested at a March 19 community meeting that led to a struggle with police rejected a guilty plea deal and will go to trial for disorderly conduct on April 23.

The group had a hearing this week.

They were protesting at a meeting city police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams held to discuss community policing. Earlier that day, Williams announced officers who fatally shot Brandon Tate Brown in the head during a traffic stop on Dec. 15 did not act unlawfully, according to the evidence.

“I declined the plea deal because I felt I needed to be in solidarity with my brothers and sisters,” said Asa Khalif, cousin of Tate-Brown and activist. “We are not guilty and we are going to stand on that.”

Khalif and the other nine who will go to trial are a part of the Philadelphia Coalition for REAL (Racial, Economic and Legal) Justice, the group that organized the protest.

He said activist and attorney Michael Coard will be a part of their counsel team.

“We will present evidence to the attorney. [And] we will have witnesses who will come forward,” he said.

Rufus Farmer, also one of the 10 going to trial said they were offered three plea options to avoid trial, including one that mandated an anger management class.

“From the [beginning] we went in there with the mindset of not guilty,” he said.

Khalif agreed, stating, “I am innocent and I expect me and the rest of the nine to be exonerated. We will continue to ask questions. We will continue to march and rally for ‘Black Lives Matter’ and [ask] for change.”

He added that the demands of the REAL coalition are for city police to release the names of the officers involved in Tate-Brown’s shooting, the release of all video footage of the incident and the establishment of a completely independent review board to investigate such incidents.

“We want the names of the officers involved in the shooting,” said Khalif. “And the reason we want to know is … have they been in any other altercation or have complaints against them? The public needs to know names. And we demand that the full tapes be released to the public and let the public form their own opinion.”

At the March 19 community meeting, Ramsey said he would not release the officer’s name, in fear of retaliation, stating, “We need people who are willing to sit down and discuss very serious issues. You aren’t going to resolve serious issues without serious people. This kind of stuff doesn’t do anything.”

A video of the incident was shown at a press conference at the district attorney’s office, but Cameron Kline, spokesman for the D.A., said that video and two others that were used as evidence will not be released for access to the general public.

“There are some concerns about the safety of the individuals ... in the video,” Kline said. Then in reference to the protests on March 19, he added “Ramsey said it best ... look at how it is right now when it has not been released.”

The REAL coalition members denounced the perception of their “movement” as criminally threatening. They maintain they were not the physical aggressors at the community meeting and they are not advocating for retaliation.

Megan Malachi, one of the 10 protestors arrested stated, “We didn’t go there expecting to be arrested and we didn’t go there to have five minutes of fame as Ramsey said. We went to protest. The most important issue of our time right now is police brutality in Philadelphia, and now is a critical time of the movement to ensure this is no longer a problem for African Americans in the city.”

According to a 2015 report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Although Philadelphia’s population is 42.26 percent white, 43.22 percent Black, and 8.5 percent Hispanic, 80.23 percent of stops were of minorities. The disparity was even greater for frisks, with minority residents accounting for 89.15 percent of frisks.”

And earlier this month, the Department of Justice released a report citing the PPD for nearly 400 shootings, from 2007 to 2014, and more than 80 percent of the victims were Black.

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