Juanita Young is a grandmother who stands maybe 5 feet tall -she is legally blind and also suffers from bad asthma attacks. But that hasn’t stopped police officers from harassing her and her family at all hours of the night–cops from the 43rd Precinct and the Anti-Crime Unit out of the 48th Precinct in the Bronx. Since the end of August, cops have been all over Young, claiming that her sons are wanted for crimes for which they have no explanation.
And over the past three weeks, cops have broken down her door and the main door to her building, attempted to climb through her bathroom window because she wouldn’t open the door, put a gun in her face, and have lied about having warrants for her youngest son.
“Not only have my rights been violated, but I feel physically and psychologically terrorized,” Juanita Young wrote recently on the Internet. “I fear for my safety.”
That is why there is a call to join a vigil starting at 11:30 p.m. on November 19, and ending at 9 a.m. on November 20 at Juanita Young’s home at 1772 East Tremont Ave. (between St. Lawrence and Commonwealth). There is also a petition, which may be found at firstname.lastname@example.org, titled “Hands off Juanita Young and Family.”
Lynne Stewart, the embattled attorney, another grandmother figure and one of NYC’s fighters for justice, stated in a YouTube video in August that they are attacking Juanita Young because she is a “freedom fighter” who has taken on the NYPD on no uncertain terms. “They attack her because we live in a police state, and they know no one in authority will hold them accountable,” Stewart said.
“We must protect our freedom fighters,” Stewart said over and over again.
“Yes, we must protect our freedom fighters,” stated Brother Shaka of the New Black Panther Party in Harlem. He said that a lot of people are concerned about what is happening to Juanita Young, and are asking what they may do to help. “It is important to help her, but equally important that we connect the dots, realizing that harassment of Juanita Young stems from a bigger picture,” Shaka said.
Many of the nation’s activists are remembering that this is the 40th year after the FBI/Chicago Police Department assassination of Black Panther Fred Hampton. On December 3, there is a scheduled panel discussion at the Community Church on East 35th Street on “Racism, Repression and Resistance”–the key topic being the ongoing repression of political dissent.
“What is happening to Juanita Young is a police brutality pandemic, which is worse than the H1N1 virus,” claims Shaka. COINTELPRO is not dead, he argues. “And the people are going to have to organize at the community-level to combat against it,” he adds.
As a reporter, I first met Young in 2000 shortly after an under-cover Bronx cop had killed her son Malcolm Ferguson, 23, on a stairwell in a Bronx apartment building.
The police department first claimed that the two men had tussled and the gun went off accidentally, and that Ferguson was a known drug dealer–leaving the impression that he was a victim of the war on drugs. But Young refused to accept their explanation, and after hearing what the medical examiner said about the wound to her son’s head, she stayed on course, refusing to back off.
The diminutive freedom fighter joined the October22Coalition Against Police Brutality, a left-leaning group with national ties, and the rest is history, as they say. Young united with Iris Baez and Nicholas Heywood Sr. and many others as the voices in the city always on the scene to chastise the police for their constant bad behavior.
It was the AmNews that reported the full story in June 2007 that a Bronx jury awarded Young $10 million in punitive damages for the killing of Ferguson, saying the cop used excessive force. The same jury also cleared his name because there were no drugs found on him or at the scene.
Ferguson had been seen by the police as one of the leaders of the demonstrations in the neighborhood after the four cops who killed Amadou Diallo were found not guilty. Speculation would have it that the cops did not want Ferguson gaining any ground as a community activist.
Young has told me on more than one occasion that before her son’s death, she was just a mom trying to raise her children. “I fear for the lives of my children and grandchildren. We are not safe. I am a target,” she writes.
The one person who can put a stop to this is Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, the Negro in “white-face” who, when this reporter asked him while standing in front of the church where Police Officer Omar Edwards was to be memorialized, what it would take to get him and Juanita to sit down for a talk, Johnson said, “You know Juanita,” and walked into the church.
Why is Johnson the key?
He has wasted taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars on frivolous charges, such as in 2003 when officers evicted Juanita Young and her family from her apartment, charged her with trespassing and physically removed her. A jury determined in October 2007 that the arresting officer used excessive force and she was later acquitted of all charges.
November 2006, Juanita Young is arrested by eight cops who are answering a call for an ambulance. She was beaten, kicked and handcuffed to a hospital bed for four days until supporters held a press conference. The district attorney then sends her a ticket to appear in court.
October 2008, another jury acquits her of all charges.
Now, the cops are breaking down her door, claiming that there is a warrant for her youngest son, Buddy, which may have to do with him not answering a desk appearance summons. The latest fiasco has to do with Buddy being implicated in a robbery, but when they get to court, the people there are only talking about a misdemeanor charge. Johnson can put an end to all of this!
No one at 1 Police Plaza, City Hall or the Bronx district attorney’s office wants to talk about Juanita Young. Is that surprising?
“Though I have been diligently fighting against police brutality for nine years, this most recent string of attacks has left me shaking to the core,” writes Juanita Young.
So, all of us who boast that we put our pants on one leg at a time, best to take Brother Shaka’s advice and realize that this will stop only when we organize and make it stop.
Hands off Juanita Young and family!