They needed help, not brutality

October 4, 2012

Brit Schulte and Noreen McNulty report on another demonstration demanding justice after Chicago-area police claimed more lives.

ANTI-POLICE BRUTALITY activists joined the families of Stephon Watts and Prince Akbar in Calumet City, Ill., south of Chicago, on September 22 for a protest to demand justice for the police murders of the two young African American men.

The protest brought together family members, neighbors, community activists, autism advocates, members of the Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow and representatives of Rainbow PUSH Coalition and South Side NAACP.

The protest started at Stephon Watts' home, where Calumet City Police shot the autistic teen in February. Stephon's mother and uncle told the crowd how Stephon was killed. They explained that the family called for help for their son, who had Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. Police were familiar with Stephon and had been to the home to assist in the past. This time, however, they used deadly and unnecessary force.

Police claim their use of force was justified because Stephon was holding a butter knife, but Stephon's family tell a different story--that Stephon was calm by the time police arrived, and that the police scared him with their aggressive tactics.

Airicka Gordon-Taylor, a cousin of Emmett Till, joins family members and activists in speaking out against murders by Calumet Police
Airicka Gordon-Taylor, a cousin of Emmett Till, joins family members and activists in speaking out against murders by Calumet Police (Illinois Campaign to End the New Jim Crow)

LaJuana Lampkins, the mother of Prince Akbar, spoke about her son, who was killed by Calumet City police in 2010. Prince's brother Sir Gerard also spoke about the profoundly positive influence his brother had on his life while their mother was wrongful imprisoned. Prince was a Chicago Def Jam poet, Columbia College graduate and caretaker for his younger brother when their mother was imprisoned. Prince's mother and brother spoke about his creativity and caring nature.

On the afternoon of January 4, 2010, Prince, who had a bipolar disorder, entered a public school building in Calumet City and asked to use the telephone. When he was asked to leave, he walked outside and began waving at traffic. Police were called, and when they arrived, they Tasered Prince and then shot him. Friends told the press at the time that he was upset because he was about to be evicted from his apartment.

Protesters marched from the home of Stephon Watts to the Calumet Police Station. Outside the police station, family members told their stories, including the father of Flint Farmer, who was killed by Chicago police in June 2011.

Speakers talked about the tragedy of these incidents, in which people who needed help and support instead became the victims of police violence. Supporters also drew attention to the fact that police aren't adequately trained to relate to people with disabilities in crisis.

Neither Stephon nor Prince would be dead today if first responders were trained to respond to crises with compassion and appropriate training, not violence and aggression. Speakers also pointed to the lack of supports--medical or otherwise--for families supporting individuals with disabilities.

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