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Something Stinks in Lima

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez's picture

LIMA, Ohio — The air of Southside is foul-smelling and thick, filled with fumes from an oil refinery and diesel smoke from a train yard, with talk of riot and recrimination, and with angry questions: Why is Tarika Wilson dead? Why did the police shoot her baby?

“This thing just stinks to high heaven, and the police know it,” said Jason Upthegrove, president of the Lima chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. “We’re not asking for answers anymore. We’re demanding them.”

Some facts are known. A SWAT team arrived at Ms. Wilson’s rented house in the Southside neighborhood early in the evening of Jan. 4 to arrest her companion, Anthony Terry, on suspicion of drug dealing, said Greg Garlock, Lima’s police chief. Officers bashed in the front door and entered with guns drawn, said neighbors who saw the raid.

Moments later, the police opened fire, killing Ms. Wilson, 26, and wounding her 14-month-old son, Sincere, Chief Garlock said. One officer involved in the raid, Sgt. Joseph Chavalia, a 31-year veteran, has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Beyond these scant certainties, there is mostly rumor and rage. The police refuse to give any account of the raid, pending an investigation by the Ohio attorney general.

Police Shooting of Mother and Infant Exposes a City’s Racial Tension

Ivory Austin, center, the brother of Tarika Wilson, was among those marching Saturday to protest her shooting death and the wounding of her 14-month-old son.

Black people in Lima, from the poorest citizens to religious and business leaders, complain that rogue police officers regularly stop them without cause, point guns in their faces, curse them and physically abuse them. They say the shooting of Ms. Wilson is only the latest example of a long-running pattern of a few white police officers treating African-Americans as people to be feared.

“There is an evil in this town,” said C. M. Manley, 68, pastor of New Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church. “The police harass me. They harass my family. But they know that if something happens to me, people will burn down this town.” [...]

“The situation is very tense,” Mayor David J. Berger said. “Serious threats have been made. People are starting to carry weapons to protect themselves.”

Surrounded by farm country known for its German Catholic roots and conservative politics, Lima is the only city in the immediate area with a significant African-American population. Black families, including Mr. Manley’s, came to Lima in the 1940s and ’50s for jobs at what is now the Husky Energy Lima Refinery and other factories along the city’s southern border. Blacks make up 27 percent of the city’s 38,000 people, Mr. Berger said.

Many blacks still live downwind from the refinery. Many whites on the police force commute from nearby farm towns, where a black face is about as common as a twisty road. Of Lima’s 77 police officers, two are African-American.

“If I have any frustration when I retire, it’ll be that I wasn’t able to bring more racial balance to the police force,” said Chief Garlock, who joined the force in 1971 and has been chief for 11 years.

Tarika Wilson had six children, ages 8 to 1. They were fathered by five men, all of whom dealt drugs, said Darla Jennings, Ms. Wilson’s mother. But Ms. Wilson never took drugs nor allowed them to be sold from her house, said Tania Wilson, her sister.

“She took great care of those kids, without much help from the fathers, and the community respected her for that,” said Ms. Wilson’s uncle, John Austin. [...]

Within minutes of the shooting, at around 8 p.m., 50 people gathered outside Ms. Wilson’s home and shouted obscenities at the police, neighbors said. The next day, 300 people gathered at the house and marched two miles to City Hall. [...]

Smaller marches have continued every week since the shooting. The N.A.A.C.P. will hold a public meeting on Saturday to air complaints about police brutality. The group will soon request that the Department of Justice investigate the police department and the Allen County prosecutor’s office, Mr. Upthegrove said.

Junior Cook was a neighbor of Tarika Wilson. He says that he watched from his front porch as the SWAT team raced across his front yard, and that seconds later he watched a police officer run from Ms. Wilson’s house carrying a bleeding baby in a blanket.

Police Shooting of Mother and Infant Exposes a City’s Racial Tension

NOW IN LIMA, a symbol of many problems and injustices that exist every day in this nation of ours for many people. A mother shot dead and her children left without the only person who stuck with them and fed them. Citizens tell us that racism from cops is ubiquitous in their lives and violence against them commonplace. Cops aren't saying a word, aside from "internal investigations have uncovered no evidence of police misconduct" (as we can well expect them to say) and the article assures us that "local officials recognize that the perception of systemic racism has opened a wide chasm." Damn perceptions! They are always hurting folk.

Tarika's life and body have now been swept into such a chasm, and if Britney spears flashes her stubble or Bill Clinton compares Obama to Sugar Ray Leonard, this story may well be swept there, too. But we ought not rest. Answers are needed. Change is required. The rot of racist violence and police brutality must always be exposed to light. Let us lead the media in highlighting this important issue.

in that spirit, please feel free to lift the above "justice4tarika" image and use it to spread the word

original images from nytimes.com, sombrero tip for story to the police brutality blog

Crossposted to The Unapologetic Mexican, Jesus' General, Culture Kitchen, and OpEdNews.

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Xenophon's picture
Submitted by Xenophon on

Help me out. You are my voice of reason in this. Why? Tell me how this is different than lynching? What would you do?

leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

"Justice Requires Truth"

You can say that again, and again, and again, and we need to...from Lima, Ohio, right on up to what has been happening with the Bush administration these last about-to-be-eight years.

It isn't that different from lynching, because like lynching, this was not a random act of violence, it is an institutional act of violence, one that is condoned by silence.

And in the service of "only connect," let's connect the truly gruesome irony that while so few in power have the guts to speak out against the "war on drugs," which turns out to be mainly, though not exclusively, the war against black folks, and brown folks too, and poorer folks, through our neglect of Afghanistan once we'd thrown out the Taliban, the major crop there is once again opium, the distribution in the hands of war lords, the answer to which Bush will not doubt push for poisening the poppy fields from the air, which doesn't bother the war lords, but destroys the life of the ordinary farming family there, and meanwhile, nothing will do here but that we justify the death of a 26 year old mother and her infant.

Keep on this Xenophon, the rest of us will too, and bless you nezua for spreading this hateful news; it's only through knowing that we can demand truth and justice.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez's picture
Submitted by nezua limón xol... on

although it feels a little odd to say 'you are welcome" in response to "bless you for spreading this hateful news," i understand how you mean it and in that case i am truly grateful to be able to help in some way.

___________________________
.delusions of un mundo mejor.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

only in the weapon used.

Why the police felt the need to shoot a woman and an infant is beyond me -- beyond my experience entirely and utterly.

No course I ever took lacked the one element you never see on TV: the "bad choice" wherein the officer, in the heat of adrenaline or whatever other excuse s/he might wish to make, goes ahead and takes the shot at the wrong target -- often a fatal shot, always a wrong shot -- at an unarmed (bystander, hostage, reporter) person. NO ONE who takes that shot should ever pass that course, especially "on the first try" (sic). Anyone who does so in real life deserves nothing short of facing murder charges.

Every cop in the country will scream that that's not fair.
Tough. A mother holding a child is one of the classic options for the bad choice, and I cannot fathom how anyone could claim to be a professional, and fit to continue to serve and protect, after having made a choice like this one.

We don't live in "24."
We don't live in "The Badge."
We don't live in "K'ville."
We don't live in the Dallas of "Walker, Texas Ranger."

Truth is, I'm tired of living in a world that smells and tastes like Bush owns it, Cheney runs it, and the rest of us just can't get away. But what happened to Tarika is another reminder; and Ohio is not so far from the Mississippi Delta after all, is it?