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Racism in the Law Everywhere: New Statement on the situation in Toledo
by Toledo Solidarity Saturday, Oct. 06, 2007 at 12:50 AM

Racism in the Law Everywhere: New Statement on the situation in Toledo

Racism in the Law Everywhere: New Statement on the situation in Toledo

As The Reverend Al Sharpton said in Jena, there are Jenas all over the
United States. Toledo Ohio is another of our nation's Jenas and
deserves the utmost attention. Like Jena, the catalyst for the
trouble in Toledo begins at a high school with overt racist
provocations. Like Jena the authorities handled the situation through
the lens of racial preference, waging a campaign of repression and
defamation against the community.
Whereas white students hung 3 nooses in a tree to intimidate and
insult black students, the city of Toledo allowed a full detachment of
uniformed Neo-Nazis to protest "black crime" at a largely black high
school in a largely black working class community. To add insult to
injury a largely white police force was sent to guard these Nazis.
A peaceful counter rally was organized across from the high
school by an ethnically diverse coalition of regional activists. The
rally was well attended by several hundred mostly young community
members and anti-racists from other areas of the Mid-West.
The rally was peaceful, but at a certain point an African
American young person from the community threw eggs over the heads of
the white police officers at the hate spewing Neo Nazis. Here, just
like in Jena we see a systemic, racist, overreaction on behalf of the
authorities that never seems to end. Nearly instantaneously the
police charged on horseback, into the crowd of anti-racist
protesters. This was accompanied by the officers raining tear gas
onto the largely youthful, local crowd. Many of the elders of the
community had been watching the protest from porches and windows. As
the community witnessed its conscious, opinionated young people being
attacked, in their own community, for having the good sense to heckle
something as obviously wrong as Nazism, they could not sit by. As the
police arrested people at random the community reacted in the incident
that came to be known in the media as the "Toledo Riot".
The police arrested over 110 people, many of them juveniles. In
the course of the rioting, another young person, 17 year old Olajadai
Crenshaw allegedly destroyed the lock on a local bar. Later, the bar
was looted and burned to the ground by the angry community. Olajadai,
for this act was not reprimanded in a way that is at all proportionate
to the crime. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to 8 years in
prison, 2 years of which he has already served. Let us not forget
that Michael Bell was unjustly charged with attempted murder and was
facing 15 years. At worst Olajidai destroyed an inanimate object and
will now sacrifice many of the best years of his youth as a result.
Another case is that of Lassandra Burrwell, a wife and mother of
nine who allegedly threw a brick through the windshield of a police
cruiser. The courts, showing a complete disrespect for her children
and husband sentenced her to 5 years in prison, a sentence grossly
disproportionate to any crime she could possibly have committed. All
of the defendants in the crime were slighted into railroad plea
bargains. The low income nature of many of those involved made
protracted court cases seem impossible. The prosecutor in the cases
said he would recommend light sentences in exchange for the pleas of
the defendants. However the judge is in no way obliged to follow
these recommendations, and often issued harsh sentences.
Many community leaders enacted a very successful local petition
campaign, which may have spared many more juveniles from adult
sentences. This however, is a minor success which did not equal the
community's signatures of support.
As the prejudiced municipal authorities thought there troubles
around this incident would be behind them, a new local light of
protest emerged:
Donnell Summers, a young African American man who was arrested at
random by the attacking police as he tried to peacefully protest as
part of the initial rally against racism, decided to attempt to fight
his trumped up charges. He had a felony count of Aggravated Riot.
The charge implies that Donnell participated in some sort of violence,
which he did not. With the help of his family and small groups of
supporters across the country who found out about his case, he
rescinded his initial plea. Unfortunately he and his family thought
they saw a light at the end of the tunnel which was a mere illusion
fabricated by a court system that hoped to prevent the growing
publicity around the case.
The courts dropped Donnell's felony which caused him great
relief. Donnell hoped to volunteer as a little league baseball coach,
and a felony on his record would've made this dream impossible. Now
facing the misdemeanor, non-violent charge of "riot" Donnell and his
attorney felt comfortable about the possibility that they may be
looking at community service if they plead. It should be noted that
Donnell had already accrued thousands in debt to a previous attorney.
Once again however, we saw the judge issue his own harsh sentence.
Donnell was given a 6 month suspended prison sentence, 3 years
probation, and a 3 month work release jail sentence.
Once he turned himself in to this institution to serve his 3
months his troubles began again. He was denied clearance to leave the
facility to pursue work. He has been reprimanded for abusing over the
counter Motrin which he brought into the facility with him. He could
not understand how it was possible to abuse Motrin and was told that
he ought to have read the rule book. He explained that he was never
issued a rule book, and then received one after the fact.
Furthermore, his jailers told him that his conviction was a felony
causing him to be treated differently than if it were a misdemeanor.
His attorney had to bring court documentation to the facility proving
that he did not have a felony conviction so that his treatment would
be changed. Despite this Donnell was still not given his work
He realized that they were waiting for his opportunity to work
to expire so that he could serve the remainder of his sentence in
prison. Desperate, realizing that his good name had been ruined, that
his community would not receive justice, that the right to peaceful
protest was being stripped from Americans, and that the courts
refused to recognize blacks as participants in the political process,
he has decided to give up everything for a final act of protest.
Two weeks ago Donnell walked out of his work release facility
and did not return. He hopes to use his status as a fugitive to give
a new jolt of publicity to the plight of the African American
community in Toledo. He realizes that this leaves him with few legal
options. He also realizes that his risky act of non-violent civil
disobedience must garner enough attention to make his likely eventual
imprisonment worth it. Please don't let his efforts go on in vain!

At the root of this issue is the fact that the City of Toledo is
incapable of recognizing black folks from certain parts of town as
political actors. This includes the city's mayor in 2005 who was
black himself. His orientation was towards big business, not social
justice. Black folks were arrested in October 2005 for protesting
hate, and again in December of that year when the Nazis were allowed
to return to the city. This time things were totally non-violent and
there were a greater proportion of white supporters. However, police
still arrested over twenty people. Many again, were black. Four of
the people arrested were white anti-racist from Chicago. They were
arrested in the city for gathering at a library before the protest
ever began. They were able to sue the city and have all their charges
dropped. The support of these anti-racists from Chicago is greatly
appreciated, as the struggle against racism ought to be the cause of
all people. However, their treatment by the city was markedly
different than that given to the local black residents. They were
recognized as being arrested for acting in a political capacity. They
were able to secure competent legal representation.
Conversely, many of those arrested in October 2005 on riot related
charges had to submit to drug testing indefinitely before being
granted reasonable bond (many people had bonds in excess of $30,000.)
Donnell Summers submitted urine samples twice a week for 6 months
after his arrest on riot charges. He never failed a single drug test.
We believe this was done to humiliate the community and associate
them with unrelated crimes in the eyes of the public. All these
things were part of the price for daring to take direct political
The power of the people to come together and rectify situations
such as this was evidenced recently in the massive mobilizations in
support of the Jena 6. As people descended on Louisiana, Olajidai
Crenshaw's mother, Kay voiced support for her son at a rally in
solidarity with the Jena 6 that took place in Toledo. "There are
Jena's everywhere" she said. This is something that black folks and
their allies realized simultaneously all over the country on September
Let us get justice in order to make sure that the movements for
human rights in the United States really does visit all of our
nation's Jena's

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aizhengzhiliao cnaizheng Thursday, Sep. 11, 2008 at 10:45 PM
Racism and coverup at the UN Committee for the Elimination of ALL forms of RACISM (CERD) justme Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2008 at 5:56 AM
So the Story goes Joseph Lamperth Thursday, Jun. 12, 2008 at 9:22 AM
Why Are Prisoners Largely Ignored by Anti-Fascists? Harold H. Thompson Monday, Jun. 02, 2008 at 6:16 PM
correction to previous post Anonymous Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2008 at 10:28 AM
Link to Mumia Fact-Sheet Anonymous Monday, Feb. 25, 2008 at 12:32 AM
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