Just two days after a vicious police raid on the home of Jeremy Marks and his family, community organizations held a press conference and rally at the office of Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley to denounce the raid.
The press conference, organized by the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), the Congress on Racial Equality-California, the PSL and the family and supporters of Marks, drew local television and print media coverage.
Speakers stood in front of the doors of the D.A.'s office building. They included Celes King of CORE-California, Peta Lindsay and Doug Kauffman of ANSWER, Lisette Lasso of the Labor Community Strategy Center; Lydia Grant, an activist in Lakeview Terrace where Marks lives; Marks's attorneys and his mother, Rochelle Pittman; and others.
ANSWER Coalition organizer and civil rights attorney Ian Thompson facilitated the press conference. He gave background on the case: "On Wednesday, Jan. 26, the Los Angeles Police Department carried out Gestapo-style police raids on the home of Jeremy Marks, 18-year-old African American falsely accused of 'attempted lynching' for videotaping an L.A. school police officer beating another student in May 2010. That day, the police also raided the home of a youth who witnessed the incident and posted videos on YouTube."
Letter to the Editor
NYPD: “It's not illegal ... but I could turn it into something”
A Liberation News reader reacts to the Jeremy Marks case and shares his experience with the NYPD.
This whole case is absolutely infuriating.
I'm a filmmaker who was threatened by an NYPD when I was taking pictures inside of Union Square station. He asked why I was taking 'surveillance footage'. I told him I was just taking pictures and took out my "Photographers Bill of Rights" and repeatedly asked him if I was doing something illegal.
He said 'no' but then said that he could 'turn it into something'. I asked him what that meant and he said that since my behavior could be considered 'suspicious activity', he could arrest me based on that.
The raids were ordered by D.A. Cooley. His office filed the charges Marks is now facing. Under the pretext of gathering "evidence," nearly 30 officers burst into Marks's home with guns drawn at 7:00 a.m. on the day of the raid. When asked for a warrant by Jeremy’s mother, Rochelle Pittman, the police failed to produce one for 45 minutes. Officers also refused to give their names. They ransacked the home and confiscated computers, cell phones, as well as protected communications between Jeremy and his attorney.
Thompson continued: “This is not justice. This is intimidation and harassment. It is an attempt to scare Jeremy and his family right before pre-trial hearings begin.”
Marks's case has received some attention because of the obvious injustice involved. He spent nine months in adult jail simply for videotaping police misconduct. The Jan. 28 press conference was a big step forward in spreading the word.
With Jeremy Marks at his side, his attorney Mark Ravis discussed his dismay at the police raid. "This was uncalled for," he said. Ravis also criticized the L.A. school police for their general harassment of Marks and other students at Verdugo Hills High School. Ravis said, "The L.A. school police need to be investigated--changes need to be made."
Mark's mother, Rochelle Pittman, gave an emotional statement. She described the scene during the police raid: "They had guns drawn-- at our neighbor and his small children; at my family; my granddaughter. And they entered my house and took my things. They took my son's things. They want me to be afraid, but I am not afraid." Pittman pledged to continue the fight to get all of the charges dropped against her son.
Celes King, director of CORE-LA, recounted a letter that his organization sent to D.A. Cooley to condemn the raid: "This blatant action clearly sends a message to the communities of color that due process and fairness are not applicable to the people of this community. Actually, the entire population of Los Angeles County is being served notice that any reporting of police abuse shall have dire consequences."
The case of Jeremy Marks is not an isolated incident. It is the result of the criminalization of youth, especially youth of color. It is also an attempt by law enforcement to stop people from recording or videotaping police misconduct.
Marks is being targeted because he captured police abuse on camera. He was exposing the oppressive nature of law enforcement in Los Angeles schools. Marks is not a criminal.
As the press conference came to a close, activists chanted "Drop all the charges now!"