Report-back on the Journey for Justice

Washington D.C., Feb. 21, 1997

Overall I thought the trip to Washington was a great success and want to thank and congratulate everybody who helped! The fact that we were collectively able to mobilize 2 buses of people plus a van of people from Pittsburgh, a bus from Syracuse and a bus from the Bruderhof community, in less than 2 months, shows that the concern and commitment for justice is strong. It also helped to keep this issue on the front-burner where it belongs and should help maintain the pressure on the government (both in Pgh and in Washington) for some justice. While there were some inevitable chaotic moments, we strengthened our organizational relations with other groups, both in Pittsburgh and in other cities.

In this report I'll describe the press conference at the national press club, the rally at the justice department, and the meeting with the chief of the criminal division of the civil-rights section of the justice department. This is by no means a complete report and people who have more to report are encourage to send them! For more reporting see Saturday's Trib-Review or Post-Gazette.


About 20 press packets were given to the press between the press conference and the subsequent rally, so the press attendance was pretty good. Mauri Saalakhan of Washington of the Peace and Justice Foundation of Washington opened and facilitated. Mr. and Mrs. Gammage and Rev. Larry Ellis from Syracuse spoke, as well as Dorothy Urquhart of UCCAW, Tim Stevens, president of the Pittsburgh NAACP and myself. Supporting statements were made by several people including Will Thompkins of the Urban League of Pittsburgh, a representative of the National Black Police Officers Association, Loretta Renford of the Buffalo Concerned Citizens and Ron Daniels.

The press coverage which I'm aware of is: Nationally - Associated Press, American Urban Network (affiliated with WAMO radio) and Pacifica Radio. Locally - at least one D.C. TV station (ch. 13), and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Trib-Review (front-page articles in both of these 2), TV channels 11, 4 and Fox (perhaps others). Interestingly, the Post-Gazette asked Mayor Murphy's office about the fact that there were at least two city officers on the scene before Jonny Gammage died, to which Murphy's spokesperson responded that they thought that the city cops arrived "only after the incident with Gammage had taken place".


Contrary to Pittsburgh paper reports that only 150 people attended, there were probably closer to 250 given that there were 4 full bus-loads of people, a van and several cars, and several people from the D.C. area. It was a spirited rally despite the fact that federal guards and police forced us to move it around the corner. The Gammages spoke at the rally and got a very warm reception. Somebody (from D.C.?) made a giant banner with a picture of Malcolm X next to one of Jonny Gammage. Thanks to the Bruderhofs who provided the sound system!


	  "We are right here too"  -- Dorothy Urquhart 
The day before the event, Tim Stevens arranged a meeting with a Justice Department representative, Richard Roberts, who is the chief of the criminal division of the Civil-Rights section of the Justice department. He was in charge of the investigation into the burning of the African-American churches. This was the first time that anybody from the Justice Department had met with the Gammages. 11 of us met him: Kweisi Mfume (national NAACP executive director), Mr. and Mrs. Gammage, Cornell Womack (CCPJ), Dorothy Urquhart (UCCAW), Tim Stevens (Pittsburgh NAACP), Ron Daniels (Center for Constitutional Rights, NYC), Mauri Saalakhan (Peace and Justice Foundation, D.C.), Rev. Larry Ellis (Syracuse) and Will Thompkins (Pittsburgh Urban League). We handed him over 300 pages of petitions from Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and the Bruderhofs, representing over 5,000 people demanding that the justice department file criminal civil-rights charges against all of the officers who killed Jonny Gammage. We also gave him some pages from the coroner's transcripts which document the fact that there were city police officers on the scene, contrary to claims by public officials. We met for a little over an hour and each of us spoke. We also requested a meeting with Attorney General Janet Reno within the next 30 days.

We got no commitments or details from him but he did say that there is an on-going investigation into the murder of Jonny Gammage which they started the day after he was killed. Overall I thought there were encouraging signals coming from them. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Roberts said "I want you all to know that I'm right here" to which Dorothy replied, "And Mr. Roberts, we are right here too".


First of all - EVERYBODY WHO HELPED SHOULD TAKE A (SHORT) WELL-DESERVED BREAK and get ready for more actions to come!