Some Questions. . . A Subpoena. . . An Arrest. . .
I’ve been working on a film project documenting Kimani Gray’s death and efforts by his family, activists and the East Flatbush community for justice. On Thursday night, myself and two other people involved in the film attended a monthly Community Relations Board meeting overseen by Deputy Inspector Kenny Lehr at the 67th Precinct. We were told that we were not allowed to film, but we surreptitiously made an audio recording of the forum anyway.
These meetings basically serve as an outlet for older, mainly West Indian community members who are generally supportive of the NYPD to complain about noise, graffiti and the scent of marijuana on their blocks. A handful of activists did turn up, however. I’ll get to them in a minute.
When I was called on I asked Lehr if he was investigating the shootings of Kimani Gray and Shantel Davis. I also mentioned that the city had paid $335,000 to settle claims for excessive and false arrests against officers involved in the shootings before they occurred, and asked how many other officers at the precinct have a history of brutality that the community should be concerned about. Additionally, I inquired as to the whereabouts of the killer cops, asking Lehr to confirm reports that the two officers involved in the Gray slaying are still clocking in at his precinct.
The Deputy Inspector took about ten minutes to answer my questions without actually answering them. He discussed his early days, walking the beat in East Flatbush and the respect he works to instill in his officers for the community. He also found time in his rambling, red faced response to remark twice that he had not seen me at these community relations meetings before.
I told him that while this was my first time here, I had wrapped my arms around Kimani Gray’s mother as she wept for her son and pressed him to address my questions. Lehr said internal affairs was looking into the deaths of Gray and Davis and that was all, THANK YOU.
A few moments later, Diop Olugbala, a member of the international black socialist group Uhuru, stood up and condemned the NYPD for the murder of Gray, Davis and other New Yorkers and for their colonial-style occupation of communities of color. In his hands he held a symbolic subpena for the 67th Precinct to appear in a people’s court, which he said he intended to deliver. He began calmly walking to the front of the room to place the subpena on the desk of the Community Relations Board.
“Stop” demanded Lerh.
“Stop” cried the Community Relations Board.
Diop placed the indictment on the table and was promptly ejected. Three other members of Uhuru followed Diop and the cop nudging him out. I went along too, hoping to chat with Diop a moment.
President Diop reads the charges and serves the pigs! (view here)
Mingling in front of the 67th Precinct, I had just shaken Diop’s hand when it was pulled behind his back and placed in cuffs by the same officers who had escorted him out a minute ago. Diop was informed that he had outstanding warrants (from Philly we later learned) and marched back inside. Myself and Fyc (as in feisty), an Uhuru activist, captured most of the incident on our cellphones.
It’s worth keeping in mind that everyone that attends these community meetings is aggressively encouraged by the man at the door to sign in and give their name and personal contact information. But an officer later told me he had “recognized” Diop the minute he walked in the precinct. He wouldn’t say how he could instantaneously tell someone had outstanding warrants from another state. I suspect either the 67th has facial recognition software (doubtful but who knows), already had its eye on Diop due to his organizing efforts in East Flatbush, or the cop was bullshitting and they simply dug up dirt on Diop because they didn’t like what he said at the meeting. The whole thing is highly suspicious.
Afterwards, I left a message with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and got the Uhuru members contact information. When I tried re-enter the meeting a cop stood in my way. He had instructions not to let me or the other Uhuru members back into the meeting, he said.
A representative from the NLG got back to me Friday and said they will look into Diop’s arrest and said that barring us from filming and refusing to allow me and the Uhuru crew back in violated New York State’s open meetings law. He’s offered to send legal observers to the next meeting. Obviously the 67th is extremely uncomfortable with scrutiny and with the presence of activists. The detention of Diop has huge potential to backfire. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a very large turnout of people refusing to be intimidated at the Next community relations meeting in June. I suggest those who attend sign the NYPD’s guestbook as Kimani Gray.
Below you’ll find video of Diop’s arrest.