Tuesday, February 10, 2009

police beat the shit out of 12 year old girl (they mistook her for a prostitute), charge her with assault

I would echo the comments I've read on the internet: I don't know why the national media isn't on this story. I found out about it from boing boing here. It has received some internet coverage over the past month, and you can read the facts for yourself at the Houston Press blog, and The Agitator.

In August, 2006, a 12-year-old girl in Galveston, TX, Dymond Milburn, was sent out into her front yard at 7:45 in the evening by her mother to flip a circuit breaker. Four plainclothes police officers jumped out of a blue van and grabbed her, saying "You're a prostitute. You're coming with me." She hid behind a bush, grabbed onto it, and started screaming for her Daddy.

The police were responding to a call about suspected prostitution 2 blocks from Dymond's house. They were looking for three white prostitutes who were supposedly soliciting a white man and a black man. Dymond is a black little girl, who was in her front yard 2 blocks away. They said they thought she was a prostitute because of the "tight shorts" she was wearing.

As Dymond held on to the tree, these four men beat and slapped her on the head, face, and throat with a flashlight -- she was hospitalized that night with two black eyes, head injuries, a ruptured eardrum, nosebleeds, and countless bruises, lacerations, and sprains all over her body. Her parents came outside and begged the police to stop, saying she was their daughter and she was 12; they said they didn't care if she was 22, 32, or 46. Her 5-month-old puppy ran outside and started barking at the officers; they threatened to shoot it.

Her father was arrested the next day and charged on very sketchy evidence with drug possession and assaulting an 'officer of the peace' -- when it doesn't sound like, from the court record, ever actually touched the cops. He pled guilty to the lesser charges in order to get the assault charges dropped.

And three weeks later, the police came to Dymond's school, where she was an honor student, and arrested her for assaulting a public servant in front of all her classmates. She was tried for assault once and the case ended in a mistrial on the first day because of a remark made by an officer on the witness stand (the remark obviously isn't in the public record but I would love to know what it was). She was tried AGAIN, for assault, this week, and her trial ended today in a mistrial -- 5 jurors wanted to acquit her of the charges but ONE holdout would not relent - that person wanted to see her convicted of assault.

Her family has a high-profile ACLU lawyer - thank god - and has filed a federal suit, which you can read in full here. The details of the beating and the psychological trauma she continues to undergo from it are even more sickening than what I've just written out, so be warned.

Does something like this even need my commentary?

I could write something about how No -- even though we have this wonderful President who got elected even though he's black and everybody loves him, we do NOT live in some kind of 'post-racial society.' About how the number of people bandying around that phrase, coupled with the reality of what has (surprise!) kept happening since Obama's election, in Galveston and in Oakland, makes me want to puke. I watched the video of the point-blank execution-style murder of an unarmed man lying on his stomach on a BART platform (also be warned: it's really horrific), and now the cop who did that is out on bail when he already tried to flee the state once.

Do I even need to comment on the outrage of four cops seeing a 12 year old black girl and thinking "prostitute" -- because of her "tight shorts," that was their excuse -- when they were
specifically looking for white prostitutes?

a lot that's really suspicious about the dad's subsequent drug charges, as well as the possibility, if you look at the entire court record, that these narcotics officers were actually trying to kidnap the girl to interrogate her about her father or just to get access to him by provoking him.

What this says about children, about little girls resisting when strangers try to grab them from their house, about race and the law and parents trying to keep children safe, depresses me beyond words.

The liberatarian magazine Reason ('Free minds and free markets') has done substantial coverage of this as a violation of constitutional rights, and to their great credit, even they are saying things like, 'I hate to say it, but I honestly believe if this family was white, this wouldn't have happened.' The commenters on Reason who have expressed (honest, Texan) sentiments 'wishing Mr. Milburn had had a clean shot' at the cops and attesting that if they were in his place, 'there would be a bunch of dead strangers decorating the front lawn' have even been called out and reminded -- NO, this family was black and there would have been no defense, no sympathy.

This story makes the most perverse contrast to the back-and-forth exchange about children and violence I was recently reading on this well-known mommy blog, in which parents end up agreeing that they want their kids to be taught smart, watchful self-defense tactics and encouraged to "use your fists, heels, knife, whatever you've got" if, god forbid, they were grabbed by a stranger. That that basic right to self-protection is a privilege only white parents can safely teach their kids makes me sick.

Four men jump out of a blue van, grab your 12 year old daughter, and tell her she's a prostitute and she's coming with them -- what would you want her to do? Law enforcement officers damn near killed this 12 year old girl as she held on to a tree, screaming for her father, then charged HER with assault and defended their assessment of her as a prostitute by her SHORTS -- and we wonder, when we hear about a girl or woman being raped, why she didn't "just report it"?!

Oh, and one of the cops who did this was named a Galveston Police Dept. "Officer of the Year" in June (from Reason - p.5, here).

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