Friday, October 25, 199 Riot rocks St. Petersburg after driver dies - The man was shot after his car hit an officer. Cars and buildings in the Florida city were set ablaze.
FROM INQUIRER WIRE SERVICES
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Mobs throwing rocks and bottles swarmed through the streets here last night, setting fire to businesses and vehicles, attacking police and looting stores after a white officer fatally shot a black man during a traffic stop. At least 11 people were injured. The riot involved more than 200 people and raged until after midnight as more than 350 state and local police officers carrying plastic shields and other riot gear barricaded a 25-square block area. ``I think there's still young folk that are going to encourage each other to keep this up until daylight,'' said St. Petersburg Police Major Gary Hitchcox.
At least 17 fires burned late last night as the violence kept firefighters away for hours. Ablaze were a police >substation, a furniture store and other businesses and homes. Thick smoke clouded the barricaded area, a predominantly black neighborhood just south of downtown. Groups of youths ran back and forth in the night, aiming at the officers as well as businesses and passing cars.
``This is really disappointing. We've made, I think, tremendous strides in the black community,'' said Mayor David Fisher. ``It could happen in any city. Just when you think you're beyond it, it happens.''
But at a news conference early this morning, Police Chief Darrel Stephens said the mobs were dispersing as officers were making arrests.
``What we have on the streets now, we have reports of people breaking into buildings, people looting, roving the streets,'' Stephens said. ``The situation right now is beginning to calm down a great deal.''
Gov. Lawton Chiles offered any assistance the city might need, and the White House expressed immediate concern. Police killings of blacks have sparked civil disturbances at least five times in Florida since 1980.
``We're making inquiries of local officials for an assessment of the situation,'' White House press secretary Mike McCurry said from New Orleans, where he was on a campaign trip with President Clinton.
Three hospitals near downtown treated and released 11 people with minor injuries, including two police officers. A dispatcher said one officer was shot in the arm, but the wound wasn't serious.
The violence erupted after two white officers stopped a black man for speeding at about 5:30 p.m.
Police said officer Jim Knight opened fire, striking the driver, after the car lurched forward, apparently trying to run the officer over. But witnesses said Knight was standing with his hands on the hood when the car inched forward and his partner yelled for him to shoot, the St. Petersburg Times reported.
``There was five shots -- five,'' said Lisa Craft, 19. ``The boy wasn't going fast enough to run them over. He wasn't even going 2 m.p.h.''
The motorist died before reaching Bayfront Medical Center. It was the sixth police shooting of the year in St. Petersburg.
Hundreds of people in the neighborhood began gathering, some shouting and throwing objects at officers. As night fell, hundreds of people took to the streets to confront police, and the violence quickly escalated.
``Where the big mistake was, was when the police put the riot gear on,'' said one area businessman who asked not to be identified. ``That's when all hell broke loose. As soon as it got dark that's when all hell broke loose.''
But Stephens defended his department's reaction.
``Any time you have an encounter between police and a member of the community, particularly when there's gunfire involved and there's loss of life, there are lots and lots of rumors,'' he said. ``We've got a lot to get through before this doesn't happen.''
Some families were caught in the middle of the ensuing violence, grabbing their children and trying to find safe shelter.
A St. Petersburg woman who was taking her two children to a babysitter said she was driving in the area when she noticed fires burning and crowds roaming the streets. As she tried to flee, a truck pulled beside her car and passenger pointed a gun at her children, a nine-month-old and an 18-month-old.
``I just told the kids to get down,'' Phyllis Williams said. `I thought my kids were going to be killed.''
A Tampa Tribune photographer stepped out of his car to photograph the violence and three men attacked him. ``Two guys started beating up on me and third guy started kicking me in the groin,'' said Ron Berard.
Berard said the men stopped after he heard another voice call attention to a new victim nearby..
Another crowd throwing bricks attacked the WTOG news truck while a cameraman was inside. A car belonging to one of the television station's reporters was also set on fire.
``I crouched down. I put my camera on top of my head to avoid cinder blocks coming down and hitting me,' said cameraman David DeJohn, who was struck by glass managed to run away. ``I thought I was going to get killed.''
The mayor asked community leaders to meet with him at City Hall today to discuss how to stop the violence from continuing through the weekend.
Perkins T. Shelton, former director of branch affairs for the local chapter of the NAACP, decried the violence, but said race relations in the area had been tense for some time. ``It's like it is in Miami,'' said Shelton, a community leader for many of his 26 years in St. Petersburg. ``There's joblessness, there's polarization of the races, the dope being brought into the community.
``St. Petersburg is no different from the rest of America. You'd have to be black in St. Petersburg to feel it. It's something you have to live with every day.''
Shelton said he would attend the meeting with city leaders today to discuss solutions to the unrest.
Philadelphia Online -- The Philadelphia Inquirer, Page One -- Copyright Friday, October 25, 1996
STATE ATTACKS THE UHURU MOVEMENT FOR THE REBELLION AS A COVER FOR KILLER COPS!
* In the days following the Treibunal the St. Petersburg police threw cocaine in front of the Uhuru House in an attempt to justify an attack on the Uhuru Movement but the Afrikan community exposed it as a set up.
* On November 13, 1996 the Grand Jury was to present its verdict of acquittal and prior to the verdict being delivered the St. Petersburg police began practicing military maneuvers around the Uhuru House. They later announced in a press conference that they intentionally targeted 3 Uhuru members to "prevent violence" following the verdict. The police arrested Uhuru members: -Keith Stewart as he drove up to the Uhuru House, he was surrounded by Green Team SWAT police who arrested him and took him to jail because they said the tags on his car expired. -David Willard was arrested earlier in the day on trumped up charges. -At the same time they were attacking Keith Stewart, Chairman Omali Yeshitela pulled up to the Uhuru House and began to exit his car with a security person. As this happened the St. Petersburg NPDUM local president Kinara Zima(who is the niece of Lil' Bobby Hutton) came out of the Uhuru House to see what was going on the police proceeded to spray pepper mace into the faces of both chairman Omali and Kinara Zima as they arrested Chairman Omali's security.
* That night was to be the regualarly scheduled NPDUM mass community meeting and approximately 100 people were in attendance. * The police declared it an "illegal meeting" and told people they had 5 minutes to leave the Uhuru House. About 30 seconds after the announcement the police proceeded to shoot tear gas into the from and sides of the Uhuru House and into the public Gym causing men, women and children participants to become sick and disoriented. Everyone escaped out of the building through the back.
* Then the police began setting fires. They shot tear gas canisters that set a tree in the back of the Uhuru House on fire. As people in the community attempted to put out the fire, the police shot more into the tree in a deliberate attempt to burn down the Uhuru House and provoke the community.
* There are also eyewitnesses to the police deliberately setting fire to an Afrikan run auto repair shop. When the owner attempted to put out the fire he was threatened with arrest.
It is clear that the state is not about to take responsibility for the brutal murder of young Tyron Lewis. Nor is the state willing to expose the brutal conditions they are forcing Afrikan people to live under. NPDUM and the Uhuru Movement and the courageious Afrikan community of St. Petersburg take the responsibility to expose and defeat the U.S. government counterinsurgency on the Afrikan community and to hold the St. Petersburg police and city governement responsible and demand proper justice and accountability for the vicious murder of Tyron Lewis.
1) AN END TO THE MILITARY OCCUPATION OF THE AFRIKAN COMMUNITY BY THE VARIOUS POLICE FORCES! 2) AN END TO THE ATTACKS ON THE UHURU MOVEMENT! 3) THE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF ALL THOSE ARRESTED AND CHARGED IN CONNECTION WITH THE REBELLION AND NOT GUILTY VERDICT INCLUDING; DAVID WILLARD!
We say all roads lead to Chicago! Defend the National Democratic Rights of the Afrikan community! Attend the 5th NPDUM Annual convention to be held Dec. 6-8, 1996 at the Fred Hampton Uhuru House: 5409 S. Halsted, Chicago,Illinois 60609 773-924-7072