Terror tactics in the police war on video
(Doug Kauffman & Ian Thompson) The family of Jeremy Marks awoke on Jan. 26 at 7:00 am to the sound of nearly 30 Los Angeles Police Department cops bursting into their house in full tactical gear, guns drawn. They searched the house, taking all computers, cell phones, cameras and trashing Jeremy’s bedroom, his parent’s bedroom and the living room.
Police vehicles filled the streets of the predominantly African American neighborhood in Lakeview Terrace. Neighbors were prevented from going into or out of their homes. A next door neighbor had guns pointed at him for trying to retrieve his children from Jeremy’s front porch, where they went every morning to be taken to school by Rochelle Pittman, Jeremy’s mother.
Pittman asked to see a search warrant. She knew that, by law, police must show a valid search warrant before entering a home. But there was none. For nearly 45 minutes, neither the police nor the District Attorney’s officers showed her anything. She continued to demand it until a warrant was produced well after the raid had begun.
And when Pittman asked, many of the invading cops refused to provide their names or badge numbers—a requirement under California law.
As the search ended three hours later, the house interior was unrecognizable. In addition to electronic equipment, Jeremy’s notes, papers and legal documents were seized—many of these documents are privileged attorney-client communications.
Every item used to communicate with the outside world about Jeremy’s case was taken from every member of Jeremy’s family, including his parents’ and siblings’ personal possessions.
The raid took place as Jeremy’s mother was attempting to gather herself and bring her kids and the neighbor’s kids to school. The neighbor’s children were at the front door when police came up with shields and shotguns ready.
Pittman recounted to Liberation at the scene that she shouted, “Let me get my granddaughter! Let me get my granddaughter!” as the police barged into the house. Pittman also demanded to wake up her son, Jeremy.
It was less than one year ago that Aiyana Stanley Jones, a seven-year-old girl, was murdered by Detroit police in a similar raid. Pittman knew better than to trust the police with her children and grandchildren. She did not want the cops to startle her son or give them any opportunity to harm him.
The truth behind the racist raid
The pretext for the raid, ordered by Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley’s office, was an attempt to gather evidence surrounding the May 10, 2010 incident near a Verdugo Hills High School bus stop.
That afternoon in May, Los Angeles United School District Police officer, Erin Robles, beat up a 15-year-old African American student, allegedly for smoking a cigarette. Jeremy, 18, quietly videotaped the incident. But because he was on probation at the time, the police arrested him on charges of “attempted lynching.”
The L.A. District Attorney’s office claims Jeremy yelled something during the incident, which they claim amounted to trying to “incite a riot during an attempt to free a suspect from police custody.” This charge is baseless, as bystander videos of the incident show.
For taping the incident, Jeremy was thrown into jail near Santa Clarita and kept there until December 2010. During that time, his mother’s tenacity began to win support for his case.
Now, nine months after the incident, it is hard to understand why D.A. Cooley would need to order a Gestapo-style raid simply to gather evidence. He could have uncovered evidence through simple discovery before trial or by issuing subpoenas. But he did not.
In fact, the same day of Jeremy’s house raid, a community source told Liberation that the home of another Verdugo Hills High School student was raided. This student has no criminal charges pending. He was targeted because he posted videos of the original incident on Youtube. These videos show that Jeremy did nothing illegal.
Why the sudden need to shut down an entire community with an army of heavily armed cops—just to collect some cell phones, computers and video that has been publicly available on the Internet for nine months?
The raids were clearly an act of intimidation and terror with the purpose of instilling fear in those targeted. Jeremy’s pre-trial hearings will begin in February. Cooley and the cops seek to get leverage so that the case will end before going to trial. They want to intimidate Jeremy and potential witnesses in order to influence the outcome.
All along, they have wanted Jeremy to accept an unjust plea deal that would send him to prison for nearly three years. But neither Jeremy nor his mother will admit “guilt” when, in fact, he did absolutely nothing wrong.
After the raid, Pittman told Liberation, “I’m not afraid. We’re not afraid. All this shows is that the D.A. knows that they do not have a case.”
The D.A. and the police are truly fearful of Jeremy’s case because of its potential to spark outrage in the African American community and with progressive people in general. They also want to stop people from exercising their constitutional right to videotape police. That is all that Jeremy did—he recorded a police officer beating a young student.
The powers that be would like to sweep Jeremy’s case under the rug before more people learn about the supreme injustice involved. Videotaping officers throughout the country is exposing an ongoing epidemic of police violence. It is viewed by young people and people of color as a method of self-defense.
Terror tactics utilized by the police expose the role of the state as an instrument of repression aimed at working families. But this harsh reality has not deterred Jeremy, Pittman or the rest of the Marks family. On the contrary, it has strengthened their resolve to fight back.
Just hours after the raid, these Liberation reporters accompanied Pittman to the Foothill Police Station as she filed a police misconduct complaint. And community supporters, including the Congress on Racial Equality, the ANSWER Coalition, the PSL and others are organizing a rally and press conference with Jeremy and his family at D.A. Cooley’s headquarters on Friday, Jan. 28.