On May 14 Luis Jimenez was speaking on his cell phone while driving near Criscuolo Park in Fair Haven. Ordered out of his vehicle by the police and slammed against it, he was beaten about the head with batons, he said, thrown on the ground and arrested in full view of his young children Michael and Flor; as a result they now are both in therapy.
Jiminez told that story Saturday as he and 40 other New Haveners marched against what they call routine police mistreatment and use of excessive force. They marched from Kimberly Square to the Wilson Library.
The marchers took to the streets in the midst of an ongoing public controversy on cops and cameras and citizens’ rights to record police conduct.
The three-month-old umbrella group that orchestrated the march, which attracted a handful of tooting cars in support, was New Haven Against Police Brutality.
The group calls for, in addition to an end to alleged brutality, a more powerful and independent Civilian Review Board, and reaffirmed citizens’ right to document police conduct without intimidation.
Luis G. Luna (far left in photo) who spent a night in jail for recording with his cell phone police arrests on Crown Street, joined the march. The assistant police chief ordered his arrest for refusing to stop using his camera; police erased his camera’s memory. Click here for that story.
Marching with him were former East Rock Alderman Alan Brison and Quinnipiac University second-year law student Mario Cerame.
Apart from calling attention to what he termed pervasive problems of police misconduct in the Hill, where the group spent the week prior to the march leafletting, Brison said his aim in marching was to help effect “a return to the community policing of ten years ago. Then it was noticeably better,” he said.
Cerame (in center of photo with Luna) said his personal passion is “the citizen’s right to record police in the exercise of their everyday duties. Transparency in government is critical to a working and free democratic society,” he said.
Although the group had not pulled a permit, they marched peacefully on the sidewalk (making sure to obey the lights, one of the organizers said). “From the Hill to the Ville to City Hall, police brutality affects us all,” they chanted.
Without incident they carried signs and hailed motorists as they passed two manned police cruisers idling at the substation on Howard at Kimberley.
Arriving at the Wilson Library, Jimenez and others “testified” about what had happened to them. Click here for an article in the Spanish language newspaper La Voz on his arrest and case.
A member of a group called Front Line Soldiers said in effect that incidents such as the one Jimenez described have been routine in the lives of African-Americans in the Hill and the city for years.
Another Front Line Soldier Omar Ryan had expected more members of that community to be in attendance. “I passed out a lot of flyers, and not many members of the community are here. They’re truly scared they’ll be targeted by the police [if they were spotted in the march]. What does that say?”
“People are getting punched in the face, tasered, handcuffed, uncalled for,” ewu Richardson, another organizer with New Haven Against Police Brutality said,
Richardson, Brison, and Chris Garaffa (center in photo with banner), another group organizer, said that in a week of leafleting in the Hill in preparation for the meeting, they talked to about 100 people. They said 90 had detailed stories, including dates and names of officers, of the use of excessive or inappropriate conduct or some other complaint.
Sixth Ward Democratic Co-chair Helen Martin Dawson (pictured with Luna and Cerame) got exercised enough to participate for less philosophical and political reasons: Last summer her grandson was followed home by a police cruiser from his job to where he lives in Trowbridge Square, she said.
They kept on asking him where he lives, right in front of the place where he lives, she said. “There was no explanation why he was stopped.”
Her story has a more positive ending. She went to Sgt. Richard Miller, the neighborhood’ss district manager. He promised he’d look into the matter, and did so to to Dawson’s satisfaction. “Other than that I don’t have many problems, and I can rely on Sgt. Miller.”
Megan Fountain, a volunteer for New Haven Against Police Brutality, translated for Luis Jimenez as he told his story Saturday. IJimenez is after school sports coach at the Clinton Avenue School, which his kids attend, and a stalwart organizer of ecuavolley, the Ecuadorean volleyball league in New Haven.)
Although a public defender helped more serious charges against him be dropped, Jimenez said, he must appear in court on Jan. 4 for a charge of disturbing the peace.
“We pay the police to protect and care for us, and what they do is terrorize us. There are many Hispanics who are afraid to be here. My message: stop being afraid,” he said.