Group hires lawyer for shooting witnesses listen06/12/08 Seán Kinane
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This morning, supporters of Javon Dawson, a teen who was shot and killed by a St. Petersburg police officer last Saturday, unveiled their “Justice for Javon Dawson Committee.”
Omali Yeshitela is the Chair of the African Peoples’ Socialist Party. He said Dawson’s death was unnecessary and blamed the police.
The St. Petersburg Police claim that Officer Terrance Nemeth fired two shots after Dawson aimed a gun at him. They released photographs of a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver with three spent rounds.
Officer Nemeth’s bullets hit Dawson twice in the back -- near the shoulder and near the kidney. Police claim Dawson was turned sideways aiming a gun back at Nemeth while starting to move away. The Justice for Javon Dawson committee’s political action coordinator is Diop Olugbala, who detailed what the group would consider adequate justice.
Until those things happen, Yeshitela warned, the community would engage in demonstrations, “massive mobilizations,” and other things to “create discomfort for those who feel like they can use a public policy of police containment for their own economic benefit.”
Some members of the media asked Yeshitela if that meant he was planning violence. He replied that he was not, but the community had the right to defend itself.
The president of the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee is Dawson’s stepmother Ollie Godfrey, who declined WMNF’s request for an interview. Other relatives also have leadership positions in the committee.
What happened to Dawson does not just affect the African community, Yeshitela said, but it has a broad effect on the entire city, including for white residents.
Penny Hess, a member of the Uhuru Movement and the African Peoples’ Solidarity Committee, is white. Hess said that “it makes sense” that other white people should take a stand against the injustice perpetrated on the black community.
A lawyer, Maura Kiefer, has been hired to represent the witnesses when they are interviewed by police. WMNF tried to speak with Kiefer but she did not return our call by airtime. Yeshitela hinted that Kiefer may arrange an independent autopsy of Dawson’s body and may hire psychologists to help the witnesses deal with their trauma.
Yeshitela said the perception that the Uhuru Movement is preventing witnesses from speaking to the police or the media is not true.
The Justice for Javon Dawson Committee will meet at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Uhuru House, 1245 18th Ave. S. in St. Petersburg. For more information, call (727) 824-5200.
Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF