#JusticeforDJ: Prosecute Ryan Pownall and End ‘Stop and Frisk’ in Philly

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Black Lives Matter PA, friends and Family of David Jones, POWER Interfaith, Coalition of Black Clergy, and Socialist Alternative call for #JusticeforDJ outside PPD HQ on July 28 2017
June 8th, 2017 was a warm early summer evening, and David Jones was riding his red dirt-bike up Whitaker Ave in near Northeast in Philadelphia to meet a potential buyer. He was looking to sell the bike, because even though they are commonly ridden throughout the city, they are not ‘street legal.’ He was afraid the bike would bring him and his family problems with the law. He was right.

Like many Philadelphians, David had previous interactions with the legal system as a young person, and he was working hard to turn his life around and take care of his family. David, known as DJ to friends and family, was Black and grew up in Philadelphia. After high school, he was arrested for selling weed. He was convicted and did his time. When he was released on parole, he followed the rules to the letter. He put himself through school to get his Commercial Driver’s License, and with family and community support, he got a job with an over the road trucking company, despite the challenges that having an arrest record bring. The night he was shot and killed by the police, he had just bought a house in Juniata and was looking forward to a new start with his wife and son.

Instead of meeting to talk about selling the bike that night, DJ was shot in the back as he fled on foot from Philadelphia Police Officer Ryan Pownall, who was violating several department protocols to conduct a ‘stop and frisk’ while in the middle of another task. Officer Pownall is assigned to the 15th Police District in Mayfair, but pulled DJ over in Juniata.

When Officer Pownall stopped DJ for riding the dirt-bike, the police officer was transporting 2 young children and their father to the Special Victims Unit. One of the children was the victim of an attempted kidnapping and assault.

During the altercation, DJ was shot in the back 3 times while running away from Officer Pownall. According to the police report, a gun was found at the scene that allegedly belonged to DJ, but none of the witnesses, including the cop, saw him draw a weapon or threaten the officer.

According to PPD protocol, similar to policies in other cities, police officers are prohibited from pursuing anyone riding a dirt-bike, because of the high risk of accident and injury. Police officers are also prohibited from using deadly force “ unless they have an objectively reasonable belief that they must protect themselves or another person from death or serious bodily injury.” DJ was running away from Officer Pownall, attempting to flee and end the conflict. Previously in possession of a gun or not, there was no immediate danger to police or bystanders.

Police video, police reports, and eyewitness accounts differ on details but essentially agree that DJ was running away from the cop when he was shot and killed. DJ was hit by 3 bullets in the back and buttocks. A gun was found at the scene which is reported to belong to DJ. Amazingly, even the Police Commissioner Richard Ross had said that after watching the released video of the shooting that it has “given him pause”. Apparently he is still paused, because the people of Philadelphia, including David Jones family, are still waiting for the prosecution of Ryan Pownall after months of “investigation”.

Shockingly, DJ’s June 2017 murder is not the first time Officer Pownall shot a fleeing suspect in the back. In 2010, Ryan Pownall shot Carnell Williams-Carney, another Black Philadelphia man,  in the back as he fled from an altercation during a ‘stop-and-frisk’ in Frankford. Williams-Carney didn’t die after Pownall lodged a bullet in his spine, but is forever disabled, permanently losing the use of both his arms and legs.

After the 2010 shooting, the City Solicitor’s Office investigated the incident, but dropped their case against Pownall. Afterwards, Williams-Carney’s family filed a civil suit against the PPD, but Pownall was found not guilty again. He returned to his job patrolling Philadelphia streets without consequences.

DJ is not the first Black murder victim of 15th Police District officers. Officer Nicholas Carrelli shot a fleeing Brandon Tate-Brown during a traffic stop in Mayfair in December 2014.  Tate-Brown’s family has brought a federal lawsuit against the PPD after no one was held accountable for Brandon’s killing.

The tenor of recent protests held by DJ’s family and friends outside the 15th District headquarters and outside the District Attorney’s office have been that of grief and anger. Authorities have been silent on details of their purported investigation, but few have any reason to believe that Officer Pownall or the PPD as a whole will be held accountable for DJ’s murder.

The PPD’s systemic violence against Black and Brown people must end. Officers, specifically in the 15th District, have detained, shot and killed community members with complete impunity. Unfortunately, state-sponsored violence will continue unless we unite as a movement against police violence and organize to make concrete demands on this broken system.

To win Justice for DJ and other victims of police brutality and to halt future killings and daily harassment in our neighborhoods, we must exert sustained pressure on public officials and the PPD.

Many of our elected officials, including Mayor Jim Kenney, have made unfulfilled promises to enact important reforms. First, there is immediate action they can take to prosecute Officer Ryan Pownall under the full extent of the law. Mayor Kenney and Police Commissioner Ross can end Stop and Frisk as a PPD policy. Additionally, Philadelphia has a Police Advisory Commission with no legal authority to hold the police accountable. The City can legally empower this Board to act.      

We call on Mayor Kenney, Police Commission Ross, and District Attorney Hodge to:

 

  • Prosecute and Jail killer cops like Ryan Pownall and Nicholas Carrelli. The PPD and the City must move forward as quickly as possible to prosecute Ryan Pownall and hold him accountable for his actions on June 8th and other documented misconduct on the job.  
  • Immediate End to the Racist “Stop and Frisk” policing policy, which overwhelmingly criminalizes and injures people of color and feeds Trump’s deportation machine. Mayor Kenney ran on ending Stop and Frisk as Mayor and he should act NOW to end it.
  • Put the PPD under the control of an elected civilian review board with real teeth: full powers over department policies, enforcement priorities, investigations, and selecting new leadership. Philadelphia needs democratically elected community oversight boards with full powers over the police, including department policies and procedures.

 

Additional Demands:

    • End Cash Bail and Civil Asset Forfeiture, leave money in the hands of families impacted by excessive policing of Black and Brown communities.
    • End the War on Drugs! Stop prosecution for small amount of marijuana, end cooperation with DEA, expand the city’s drug courts and diversion programs for low-level offenders.
    • No Tolerance for White Supremacist police and other law enforcement officers who openly espouse racist ideas or body art or distribute racist literature.
    • End Excessive Sentencing and Solitary Confinement
    • Keep Philly a Sanctuary City and Close Berks Detention Center — no detentions or deportations for our immigrant brothers and sisters. No collaboration with ICE or state or federal immigration authorities.
    • Police out of Philly Schools! Our schools must be safe spaces for children to learn and grow.
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SA at the Refuse Fascism Rally

 

Socialist Alternative stands shoulder to shoulder with all individuals, groups, and organizations who are protesting, organizing and building working class power to drive out Trump and defeat his administration’s right wing agenda. Let’s make Philly a real Sanctuary City for all working people.

 

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The Trump administration is the most racist, reactionary, vicious, climate denying, pro business, homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, anti working-class administration in decades. Along with the chaos and instability coming from the White House, the Republicans have been emboldened at the state and city level to carry out attacks on immigrants, women, lgbtq people, unions, worker health and safety, wages, public education, unions, and environmental regulations.

Trump’s election has invigorated a number of genuinely fascist and semi-fascist forces, the KKK, various Neo-Nazi and white nationalist organizations, and a semi-fascist layer growing out of the forces of the so-called “alt right.” The raised profile and activity of these reactionary organizations is a sharp warning to all progressive forces, unions, targeted minorities, and working people of the need to build mass action to defend our communities and push forward positive progressive demands that will unite the broadest possible movement to defeat Trumpism

Protesting can be an important expression of power that shows our will to fight back. It can help us build our networks and organizational capacity, but to win we need to engage with the millions of working people going through their everyday lives. We need to advocate unity of our daily struggles, stand by each other, and speak in language that is honest but relevant to our lived experience. Through community, neighborhood, and workplace organizing we can build the capacity to organize mass protests, direct actions, civil disobedience and strikes to take down this vicious right-wing administration. But we can’t stop there, we need to build an independent party of the 99% – that takes no corporate money- that can take on, not only the fascists, but Trump and the whole billionaire class. We need to fight, not only the far right, but the conditions that allow the far right to grow. The fight against fascism and the far right is 90% a political struggle:

  • We need an end to ICE raids and police persecution of our immigrant Sisters and Brothers. We need to go beyond simple ‘non cooperation’ with ICE and use our city’s resources to actively defend our immigrant communities. We need a real sanctuary city.
  • We need an end to ‘Stop and Frisk’ now #MayorKenny. We need an end to racial profiling by the police and all government agencies. We demand no tolerance for police and other law enforcement officers who openly espouse racist or white supremacist ideas.
  • We need an end to racist police murders. We demand fully independent investigations, with subpoena powers, in all cases of police killings. We need a real democratically elected community oversight board with full powers to subpoena, hire and fire police officers.
  • We stand with our LGBTQ comrades, fighting discrimination and violence, and all forms of homophobia and transphobia.
  • We must fight discrimination based on race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, age, and all other forms of prejudice. We need equal pay for equal work.
  • We stand with workers organizing and striking for union rights.
  • We need decent jobs and a $15/hour minimum wage.
  • We need full funding for our neighborhood schools. We call for the immediate abolition of the School Reform Commission and the institution of a democratically elected school board that represents students, parents and staff.
  • We need to invest in rehabilitation, job-training, and living-wage jobs, not prisons! Abolish the death penalty.
  • We need clean air, water and access to decent food. We need our polluted neighborhoods cleaned up, the lead out of our water, and the elimination of ‘food deserts’ in our city.
  • We need to tax the rich, the unimaginably wealthy corporations, and the big property developers who are making huge profits gentrifying our neighborhoods and turning our city into a playground for the wealthy. We need decent housing, community control of development and strong tenant rights protections. We need city services, social workers, youth, and community centers to strengthen the solidarity and social bonds in our neighborhoods.
  • We need to organize to stop Trumpcare and the gutting of Medicaid. We need access to affordable quality healthcare, we need improved Medicare for all, regardless of legal status, employment, or income.

Whether or not we face the immediate threat of a fascist government is debatable, but we take the vicious attacks on working people, immigrants, women, people of color, and LGBTQ people by Trump’s administration very seriously. Socialist Alternative stands shoulder to shoulder with all individuals, groups, and organizations who are protesting, organizing and building working class power to drive out Trump and defeat his administration’s right wing agenda. Let’s make Philly a real Sanctuary City for all working people.

15 Now Philly Statement on HB 1520 – $15 Minimum Wage Legislation

15 Now Philly stands with workers, their unions and other community and faith organizations pushing for the $15 minimum wage in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Representative Kim’s bill is the result of the tireless and brave work of low wage workers who repeatedly took the risk to go on strike in fast food restaurants, airports, healthcare facilities, and retail stores across the country and across the state. In Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, hundreds of workers walked off the job to demand $15 and a union. Thousands of local activists and faith leaders in groups like POWER and the MLK Dare Coalition took the streets to support striking workers. In City Hall, 15 Now Philly members pushed City Council for a local minimum wage hike to at least $15 an hour, in defiance of state opposition to local wage hikes.

Together our organizing brought the $15 minimum wage in Philly from an inconceivable pipe dream to a mainstream demand. In 2015, Mayor Kenney campaigned on $15 an hour; and now Representative Kim and Senator Daylin Leach have both introduced statewide legislation to raise the wage in PA to $15. This is a victory for workers, and we are hopeful HB 1520 is signed into law as part of the 2017-2018 budget negotiations.

Despite these years of hard work, Philadelphia is in crisis. We have the lowest minimum wage in the nation–$7.25 for untipped workers and $2.83 for tipped workers. A full third of our neighbors live in poverty, and 12% live in deep poverty. Every day, working class people and our families are facing life or death choices between housing and medical attention, buying food or maintaining their phone service.

Every single surrounding state has taken action on raising the minimum wage; and in the face of income inequality crises like ours, cities across the nation are daring to fight for workers wages. New York city and state fast food workers are on a path to $15. Washington DC voters easily passed a referendum for $15 in 2016. West Coast workers have achieved $15 nearly universally.

In Minneapolis, workers won $15 just last week after a tough campaign that lasted several years. The victory was won by building a broad grassroots movement that grew out of an airport struggle for $15. The fight included unions and community organizations and was propelled forward by a third-party electoral challenge to City Council by Socialist Alternative candidate Ginger Jentzen, who is also the executive director of 15 Now Minnesota.

In Philadelphia, now is the time for serious action. Jim Kenney and many City Council members campaigned and were elected overwhelmingly on the demand for $15 an hour. In fact, polls show 87% of Philadelphians support a $15 minimum wage.

15 Now Philly is fully aware Harrisburg believes it holds the legal monopoly on passing minimum wage legislation. Republicans, corporate Democrats, and big business have intentionally constructed barriers to a minimum wage hike in Philadelphia with the 2009 preemption law. They intend to keep our city powerless to confront our own wage crisis.

It is Philadelphia’s extreme poverty, however, that places our whole city in a state of emergency. We cannot settle for politicians unwilling to take dramatic action to face this emergency.

If Harrisburg lawmakers do not pass this bill as part of the closed-door budget negotiations, we call on Pennsylvania Democrats to continue to push this stand-alone bill forward after the budget is settled. Pennsylvania workers demand a raise, and our State legislators must prioritize minimum wage legislation all year long, not just as leverage in the yearly budget negotiations.

Locally, we again call on our local Democratic elected officials in City Council and Mayor Jim Kenney to pass binding $15 minimum wage legislation immediately, in defiance of the Pennsylvania’s preemption law. We must confront this unjust law head on. 

Workers, unions and community organizations must build and maintain a mass movement in the streets to win any wage hike in Philadelphia. We know Trump and the GOP in Washington, DC and Harrisburg will continue to reduce our wages, assault our health care, deport our immigrant neighbors, and expand mass incarceration and police violence in our communities until we unite and expand our fight back.

Philadelphia’s elected officials, however, can stand up to these attacks with us and make Philadelphia a true sanctuary city. Doing whatever it takes to win a $15 minimum wage is a critical piece of making our city a safe haven for working people.