A call for Justice, for Leon Ford and the City of Pittsburgh
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Support Justice, for Leon Ford, Jr. and the City of Pittsburgh
Leon Ford, Jr. was shot by Pittsburgh Police officers on November 11, 2012. Since then, Leon and his family have faced numerous injustices at the hands of officials from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
We are generating support for Leon and his family as they prepare for a second Civil Rights trial (in federal court in January 2018). The Elsinore Bennu Think Tank for Restorative Justice publish this factual account of Leon's experiences for our neighbors, as we are witnesses to Leon's struggles, his previous trial, and the strength of his family as they continue to fight against injustice.
Please read or listen to the narrative, and sign the petition to show your support for Leon, his family, and his fight against police brutality, structural racism, and injustice in Pittsburgh.
Please include your Zip code when signing! We will also be accepting photos of individuals who have signed the petition for a later project to show our support for Leon. Pictures, questions, and requests to get involved can be emailed to Voices4Leon@gmail.com. --Thanks, from the EBTT
Petition language: We demand Justice for Leon, and Justice for Pittsburgh. The police are our neighbors, our fathers, our sisters, our students, ourselves. Our destinies are tied together, and we share an equal stake in the safety of our communities today and the health of our children of tomorrow.
Just as Justice seems inseparable from injustice, the bullets that paralyzed Leon fused him with this City and community-police relations in Pittsburgh forever. This is not Leon’s fight alone, but one we must all shoulder as we search, collectively, for Justice, understanding, compassion, and Truth.
We the People of Pittsburgh support a settlement with Leon that respects his emotional, psychological and physical trauma, addresses his needs, and supports his activism for the rest of his life. We ask the Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh and our fellow citizens to join us in our support of Leon Ford, Jr.
A Narrative: Justice, For Leon Ford and Our City.
Celebrating the progress of the city of Pittsburgh, Vanessa German preaches from Mayor Peduto’s podium: Justice is love in action.
Justice is love out loud.
But, Pittsburgh is a place where a nineteen year old son is suspected of packing heat based solely on the color of his skin. Allegheny County’s DA confirmed: a neighborhood’s past relations with the police and high rates of gun crimes are sufficient specific and articulable factors that allow police to detain and frisk a citizen in the name of officer safety, all because he’s wearing sweatpants on a Sunday. A white-washed jury agreed: the attempt to get Leon Ford, Jr. out of his vehicle was an authorized use of force by Pittsburgh Police Officer Andrew Miller.
The police laid their hands on the terrified 19-year-old during a traffic stop many would consider far from routine. Leon was repeatedly told he looks like Lamont Ford, was asked if he’d ever been shot or had his nose broken, and, when Leon asked for his ticket so he could go, he was told “Fuck you, you’re talking to the Cops.” Ultimately, a third officer was called to the scene to identify Leon. Instead of approaching the car, looking the driver in the eyes, and identifying him as Lamont Ford—or as not Lamont Ford— Officer Derbish spoke with his colleague and from the police cruiser the two came to a confirmation of nothing: “It’s gotta be him” they agreed.
Let’s get him out. Open his door, ask, insist, be nice, or not. Noncompliant? Escalate force. One hand of “encouragement” on his shoulder; brace against the door jam, grab under the arm and try to lift him out of the car; two hands. Come on, need some help here. Two officers pull at Leon from the driver’s side. Little fucker is putting up a good fight. GO. Officer Derbish jumps in the passenger side to dislodge the wedged teen from his only hopes of physical safety. In this moment, the car speeds forward. Derbish shoots, “fearing for his life.”
Leon is shot. Pulled from the car, he is handcuffed and left alone while the cops search the car for something illegal. FUCK. Where are the drugs? Where are the guns? FUCK, indeed. Justice.
Leon lives. Focusing on his breath, on his life, Leon ignores the hatred of the officers at the scene and prays paramedics make it before he bleeds out. He is a survivor. A defiant black life that matters. A police officer sits in the hospital room, not saying a word, moving only to change the channel when the news comes on. His family fights to see him in the hospital for days. Finally, a court issues an injunction, allowing the reunion of mother and son. Her visit to the ICU lasts less than an hour. Justice.
Leon is tried. He is charged with aggravated assault against the police officers, as well as other crimes. Found guilty only of traffic crimes, a gag order continues to silence Leon while he waits. The DA decides he will not pursue the charges against Leon a second time. Justice.
Leon is paralyzed. In response to a civil rights case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the City of Pittsburgh offers Leon a settlement less than the minimum amount he needs to support himself medically and physically for the rest of his life. The City of Pittsburgh is released from the lawsuit, which moves forward against the two officers who harmed Leon directly. Justice.
Leon lives to hear his truth told. Two weeks of trial and testimony paints in vivid detail the life Leon lives today, and the truth is finally told about the critical incident in question. Did any of the officers whisper something to Leon? No, each officer testifies. Then what, what on God’s great Earth, was that officer doing when the neighbor watched him lean over Leon’s body—handcuffed and bleeding from eight bullet hole sized wounds?
It appeared he was whispering something, she says. Leon testifies: one of the officers came over to me and whispered, “I hope you fucking die.” Leon breathes. Justice.
A Reflection on Justice: Only cases and controversies can be brought in a court of law. Everyone agrees: to delay Justice is Injustice. Nevertheless, we must wait for an injustice before justice is an option in our system. And even then, our guarantee is rooted in a fair, impartial (nonexistent) jury of peers. We seem to be stuck, running in circles in a nutshell we created to protect ourselves, to protect each other.
Like happiness, Justice is an essential human truth which is only waiting to be found. It always exists. Justice is not earned nor gained; Justice stands firmly in the world of what's right.
For Justice to be realized, it must be pursued relentlessly. Yet our society cannot reach the edge of the abys of Truth and fairness because our systems allow only a half-step towards Justice each time—or a strong-armed wheel forward, in the case of Leon Ford, Jr. Said another way, we take one step forward only after taking two steps back. With this equation, we can run directly at understanding, love, and experience compassion yet never truly reach Justice.
This is American Justice in a nutshell: an unrelenting pursuit of an ultimate truth that can never be realized while we wait for a wrong so we can fight to make right.
We must stop the injustice. Today, together.
Today: Elsinore Bennu Think Tank for Restorative Justice is counting on you
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