Malcolm X march in Harlem (304770)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

As Malcolm X’s 96th bornday anniversary was recognized on Wednesday, May 19th, we look into some of his remarks regarding police brutality. As the Nation of Islam national representative he utilized that platform to address many socio-political issues.

Police brutality had been running rampant in Harlem then, just as it had prior to, and ever since. On April 26, 1957, a young African American man named Reece Poe was being beaten by NYPD officers at the intersection of 125th St. and 7th Ave., when NOI member Johnson X Hinton reportedly shouted, “You’re not in Alabama! This is New York!” causing them to pummel him with their nightsticks, and haul him to the 28th Precinct at 123rd St. and 8th Ave.

Malcolm X rallied several hundred irate, yet disciplined, demonstrators and marched to the 28th Precinct, demanding Hinton be treated at Harlem Hospital, with which they complied.

“It was the beginning of a new kind of relationship between Blacks and the police in the city of New York,” T. J. English wrote in his book “The Savage City.” “Malcolm X had stood up to the NYPD and won. No one in Harlem would soon forget that.”

Whether from Temple No. 7’s pulpit, or on various Harlem street corners, Malcolm X was realizing that police violence against African Americans was a national epidemic and began discussing the topic more frequently.

On April 27, 1962, Los Angeles police raided the NOI’s Temple No. 27, shooting seven Black Muslims, one fatally: Ronald Stokes. Police claimed that they mistook the men, who were moving clothes from a car, for criminals.

Malcolm was angered by the “cold-blooded murder” of a devout Muslim, and wanted to retaliate immediately. However, the NOI’s leader, Elijah Muhammad, applied his wisdom instead and warned him: “Brother, you don’t go to war over provocation,” suggesting that they were outnumbered, and did not want to endure more casualties.

Malcolm addressed the issue during a press conference, contending that the LAPD’s violent past against Black people is equivalent “to the gestapo tactics of Nazi Germany,” daring skeptics to disagree.

After departing from the NOI in March 1964 the recently renamed El Hajj Malik El Shabazz set up office for his newly formed Organization of Afro-American Unity at Harlem’s Hotel Theresa (located at 2070-2080 7th Ave.)

Upon returning from doing his hajj to Mecca, he presented his dissertation “The Harlem Hate Gang Scare” at lower-Manhattan’s Militant Labor Forum on May 29, 1964.

“If we’re going to talk about police brutality, it’s because police brutality exists,” Malcolm opened with. “Why does it exist… because our people in this particular society live in a police state, a Black man in America lives in a police state. He doesn’t live in any democracy, he lives in a police state. That’s what it is, that’s what Harlem is. . . .”

The more things change….

For the second consecutive year, the annual pilgrimage to Malcolm X’s and Dr. Betty Shabazz’s gravesites in Ferncliff Cemetery was cancelled. December 12th Movements 32nd economic boycott of all businesses along 125th Street ran from 1-4 p.m.