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African American Protesters Criticize Police in California - 2002-07-13


African American protesters are criticizing the police for their treatment of a black youngster in Inglewood, California. The protests came after the widespread airing of a videotape of the the young man being roughed up by officers.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Inglewood city hall in suburban Los Angeles to demand that up to four officers involved in incident be fired.

"Let them go now. Let them go now"

The videotape, made last Saturday, shows the handcuffed youth being punched by one of the officers. The youth also had his head slammed against the police car.

The confrontation began with a minor traffic violation. The boy's father had stopped for gas and police noticed that his car had expired license tags. As they spoke with the father, police say the boy became agitated and attacked them.

The policeman who hit the youngster, 24-year-old Jeremy Morse, has been suspended pending the results of a police department investigation. The Los Angeles district attorney and federal authorities are also investigating.

Demonstrators call this a case of racial profiling and say the father and son were targeted because they are black.

Leo Terrell, a Los Angeles civil rights lawyer, said "everyone knows that black motorists and black pedestrians are treated differently by the police every time they're stopped by the police department."

Officer Morse is white. The other officers in the incident include a Latino, a black and one of East Indian descent.

Inglewood's mayor has expressed anger over the incident and is also calling on the department to fire the suspended officer. Police chief Ronald Banks says he is concerned and disappointed with what he saw on the tape, but says he will not make other comments until his department's investigation is completed.

Both the mayor and police chief, like the young man in question, are African American. So are two of four members of the Inglewood city council. Chief Banks said there is no evidence the youngster was targeted because of his race. "We serve a heavily minority community. We serve them on a daily basis, well within the guidelines of our policy," he said. "And to take this particular incident and characterize it as a example of racial profiling, to me is unwarranted."

In a curious twist in the case, the man who made the videotape has been arrested and jailed on charges unrelated to the incident. He had outstanding warrants in northern California for petty theft, driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident.