Activist and Organizer with PACA – Pan-African Community Action – discusses the latest developments in the mysterious death of Alonzo Smith while in private police custody.
JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome, everyone, back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore. On November 1, Alonzo Smith was found handcuffed and unconscious while in custody of his Washington, DC apartment complex’s private police security. He would later be taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Many in the community have been asking questions, rallying, and organizing community responses to yet another death of a black woman or man in police custody. Among the organizers involved is the group Pan-African Community Action, or PACA, and joining us now is one of their key organizers, members, and activists, Adwoa Masozi. Welcome back to the Real News. ADWOA MASOZI: Thank you so much for having me. BALL: So please, just update us on the case and what took place at the press conference you all held on Tuesday. MASOZI: Sure. On Tuesday we had held a press conference outside of Marbury Plaza, where Alonzo was murdered. And his mother, Ms. Beverly Smith, she spoke to the public, informing them that she has, in fact, agreed to–or decided to exhume Alonzo’s body and have an independent autopsy, because the original medical reports tell us that–excuse me, the original medical reports are actually inaccurate. At least there are a lot of inaccuracies there. Down to his age, his gender. The different types of bruising, bruisings that were there. The report, the coroner’s report didn’t report everything that was there. And so there are a number of–. BALL: I’m sorry, you said the coroner’s report misidentified his gender? MASOZI: His gender. And you know, you know, it’s not–it’s not that difficult. It’s not that–it’s a technical thing, that you identify someone’s gender, you know. And so at least in–you know, in passing. And so they somehow managed to do that. So it, it made Ms. Smith question whether or not it was even, it was even the report of her son. So she has no faith, she has no faith that the coroner is working in her best interest, and that whatever happened that fateful evening, they are trying to cover it up. So she’s going to have his body exhumed, and have his body re-examined, and produce a different, a different report, that’s more accurate and telling of what actually happened. BALL: Now, if you could just quickly remind us, there was, there’s a lot of confusion over exactly what happened. Why he was in custody in the first place, what happened to him while he was in custody, how exactly he ended up dying as a result of that custody. Could you update us on what exactly is and is not known about this case? MASOZI: Well actually, there–see, that’s the biggest challenge, right. Because the special, the special police force, MPD, have done very little in terms of revealing what actually happened. And that really is at the heart of this issue. The special police are a private police force, essentially contractors that, they’re contracted by the MPD or any other company who have the authority and the powers of MPD, but they have no oversight, no accountability, and they can essentially do what they want to you. But as a citizen, you cannot investigate them, you cannot track their history, you cannot [find] their history because it is all private. So what occurred on November 1 in Marbury Plaza, we don’t fully know. A lot that has come out to date is because of, is because one, the pressing of Ms. Smith and the family, and in looking at his body. His neck was broken, he has, he had bruises to his groin, to his back, to his chest. He was, there were two videos released by the MPD that show an officer showing up after he seemed to be deceased, or he was unconscious and on his way to dying, and trying to resuscitate him. At that point he was already in a very, very, very terrible situation. And looking at that video–and again, from what Ms. Smith, Alonzo’s mother was able to find after examining her son’s body, we’ve been able to piece together what has happened. So at this point in the case the–it is going to grand jury, but it’s all very quiet. The details, the details of what has happened still have yet to be revealed, and that’s what we’re fighting to find out. That’s at least one thing among many that we’re fighting for, to find out. BALL: Adwoa, there was also some discussion of Ms. Smith and other supporters of her case here taking the issue of Alonzo’s death beyond the jurisdiction of DC locally, the local government and DC police. Could you tell us a little bit about the, what efforts are being made there? MASOZI: Absolutely. So in addition to revealing who the police officer, who the special police officers were responsible for the murder of Alonzo Smith, we’re also calling for a UN investigation of this case. But more broadly, the UN investigation of human rights abuses against African people in the United States. That is a big, big thing we’re calling for. PACA: we are–one of the things that we say and believe is that black people in this country are a domestic colony, which means we have no control of our resources. And the way society has been set up, it has been set up to benefit the ruling–the ruling class, the ruling elite. And part of that, part of that includes if we are, if we’re calling for the UN–we’re calling for the UN, again, and we’re also looking to control, have community control of the police. So as a domestic [colony], as I said, we have no control of our resources. Our local economy, we don’t have control over the police, the other institutions in our community. We can’t determine–rather, we can’t create jobs for ourselves. So we have to begin somewhere, shifting power and taking control back. And in addition to calling for the United Nations, we also want to call for the control of the police. That is not–that is very different from setting up a civilian review board that launches investigations and reports on police violence. That’s something that’s already being done anyway, but it often doesn’t have any teeth. Community control of the police means that there are people in our community who are, who are selected randomly, just like a jury, and they are responsible for a certain stretch of time for reviewing policies of the police, for setting the priorities of the police. They are responsible for also punishing police when in fact, when in fact they violate the law themselves. The police are not above the law, and the police are not above the people. They are the people, and they’re here to protect and serve. So again, the press conference touched on many of those points. But also what wasn’t addressed in the press conference was the very important piece of community control of the police. BALL: Well, Adwoa Masozi, thank you very much for updating us and keeping us in touch with what’s going on there, and joining us here at the Real News. MASOZI: Thank you so much for having me again. BALL: And thank you for joining us as well. For all involved, again, I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore saying, as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.
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