Reparations and justice for the three black teens murdered by Pinellas Sheriff’s Department

Dear Editor:

The murder of Dejarae Thomas, 16, Jimmie Goshey, 14 and Keontae Brown, 16, by the Sheriff’s Department Aug. 6 in Palm Harbor is another reason WHY reparations to the black community is the ONLY WAY we are ever going to move forward as a city.

When looking at the coverage of what happened yesterday in Palm Harbor, it is impossible to deny the echoes of the March 31, 2016, state-sanctioned lynching of Dominique Battle, Ashaunti Butler and La’Niyah Miller by the murderous gang known as the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department.

Three black teenagers in 2016; three black teenagers Sunday morning. In the case of the three girls, 15 and 16 years old; in the case of the three boys whose lives were violently cut short, as young as 14.

In the case of the three girls, the weapon of choice was death by drowning. In the case of the three boys, the weapon of choice was death by fire.

The role of the white media, without missing a beat, was identical in this case as it was in the grisly murder by drowning that these cold-blooded killers carried out last year.

Within hours of their deaths, Gualtieri held a press conference, and before we even knew their names, or saw their faces, we were told that these three teenaged boys, had “extremely extensive criminal records.” Gualtieri, with the emotionless, blank stare of a serial killer, uttered these words with full confidence that we, especially white people, would automatically accept his explanation. Without a shred of evidence, he informed us that every burglary committed in the area as of late was directly attributable to the three boys whose bodies had just hours earlier been dragged from a vehicle consumed in fire.

And then, like clockwork, we get the “stolen car” line, the now-familiar refrain of the Pinellas County department of sadists, and its supplicant mouthpiece in the form of the Tampa Bay Times.

Stolen car. Stolen car. Stolen car. And we, white people, are supposed to nod our heads and go, “Good, glad they could retrieve that car.” Never mind the grieving families. Never mind trauma for a whole community. Never mind the fact that you cannot charge dead people with crimes and never mind the fact that car theft is not a capital offense. Never mind evidence. We are just supposed to go along with the underlying assumption of Gualtieri and the media that a damn car is more valuable than a human life, as long as that life belonged to a black teenager.

I don’t care if they stole an entire car lot because the truth is that black children and the black community are the real victims of theft and violence. It is they who have seen their futures, neighborhoods and families stolen from them by the ravages of gentrification and predatory economic and social policies.

Because we know that if those three boys had been white, the Sheriff’s Department would have hell to pay. And we would not be hearing about their supposed criminal records, we would be hearing about how they were troubled, depressed youth, loners, with a rough childhood.

Well, I am here as a member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement and as a candidate for mayor, and therefore, as an assumed spokesperson for this entire city, when I say that we reject this offensive double standard.

The Tampa Bay Times is not the voice of the people of this city, and the white nationalist vomit that comprises the comments section of their website does not speak for us either. No vehicle, no private property is more valuable than human life.

In the 1950s, as far as the law was concerned, and as far as the white media was concerned, to accuse a black teenager of whistling at a white woman was sufficient enough to brutally kidnap, mutilate, murder him and discard his body into a river, like what they did to Emmett Till.

Before the consolidation of the contemporary police state, the entity which played the role of the oppressive, colonial enforcer of the oppression of black people were bands of vigilantes derived from the general white population. In other words, it was white people.

It was regular white people who unleashed a virtual hurricane of violence against African people in this country for over a hundred years, to maintain our position on the pedestal of slavery and genocide that nourished our children and guaranteed us a future.

The vigilante white lynch mob of the early 1900s has been replaced by a more official organization. It has been replaced by the police.  It has been replaced by the sheriff’s department.

As a white person, and as a candidate to become our next mayor, I have a responsibility to declare my disunity with the state sanctioned lynchings of black youth, to express my outrage and my fury.

Any other candidate for mayor, including the current Mayor Rick Kriseman and the former Rick Baker, who stays quiet on this matter is exposing themselves as conspirators in Gualtieri’s rampage of terror against black children. And that’s because they ARE.

We cannot move forward as a city, we cannot unite as a city, we cannot claim the title of a progressive city until we address and resolve the rotten core of our social system that is the oppression of the black community

This is why we must embrace an optimistic public policy of reparations versus a pessimistic public policy of police containment and murder

That is the way forward. This is why black community control of the police makes sense. The right of the black community to hire, fire, train and discipline the police who operate in their communities.

This is why we need to bring back the policy that was once in effect years ago in this city after the rebellions of 1996, which prohibited the Sheriff’s Department from operating within the city limits of St. Petersburg, resulting in an unprecedented eight-year stretch where not a single black person was murdered by the police

It was Rick Baker who got rid of this policy. We must bring back this policy. We want the Sheriff’s Department to get the hell out of St. Petersburg. We cannot allow them to kill black children with impunity in our city.

Finally, as the mayor of this city, I will do everything in my power to ensure that Bob Gualtieri, Howard Skaggs and the other deputies involved in these murders are fired, and then arrested, prosecuted, and jailed.

These are murderers. These are killers who prey on children. And there’s going to be a change of management in city government after this election. We have a zero-tolerance policy for cold-blooded murderers marauding the streets of our city, preying on black children and teenagers.

So we’re putting you on notice, Gualtieri. Your days as a free man are numbered. You will experience a measure of the pain that you have caused to so many black families.  And you cannot count on the absolute complicity of the white population any longer.

Because we are uniting with the black community. We are uniting through reparations. Justice and reparations for the families of Dejarae Thomas, Jimmie Goshey, and Keontae Brown, Dominique Battle, Ashaunti Butler, LaNiyah Miller, Javon Dawson, Marquell McCullough, Jarrell Walker, Alton Witchard, TyRon Lewis, and to the entire black community.

Vote Jesse Nevel for Mayor and Eritha Akile Cainion for District 6 City Council on Aug. 29.

Jesse Nevel, Candidate for Mayor of St. Petersburg

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