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
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.
PRESS CONFERENCE/PRESS COVERAGE
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!
MEETING AT THE JUSTICE DEPT.
"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
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".
NEXT STEPS ON THE JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE:
First of all - EVERYBODY WHO HELPED SHOULD TAKE A (SHORT) WELL-DESERVED
BREAK and get ready for more actions to come!
- There will be a BENEFIT CONCERT for the Gammage family this coming
Friday at Pitt., more info to come.
- Judge Cashman is expected to announce his ruling soon on whether the
local trial of Mulholland and Albert will go on. In case he decides
to cancel the trial, we will have an emergency protest at 5:00 pm at
the court-house following the ruling (we don't know when the ruling
will be but the protest will be after the ruling at 5pm whenever it
- The next CCPJ meeting is this Tuesday at 6pm at the COR in Oakland.
- Kweisi Mfume and Tim Stevens of the NAACP plan to hold a
town-meeting in Pittsburgh so people can talk about the problem of
police brutality, no date set yet.
- Several national conferences on police brutality and related issues:
- CCR and Hunter College on April 25-27.
- MOVE/Lorenzo Komboa in Phili. on May 3.
- NAACP/Urban League national summit on police brutality, no
date yet set.