Group hires lawyer for shooting witnesses

06/12/08 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

Previous WMNF coverage of Javon Dawson

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This is a joke....

I want to see the Uhura joke APOLOGIZE after all the facts come out.....this is a disgrace to teh african-american community. Outrage against the hip-hop music? Never....let's attack the people that keep our streets safe because we have our heads buried in the sand....disgusting....

Black life is valuable!

I appreciate this article and the stand that Uhuru is taking. If police went to a graduation party of white kids and *shot* someone and they *died* there would be outrage. Black life is valuable - I support the community's right to defend itself!

listen to yourselves

There would be no outrage it a white kid got shot at a graduation party, if he/she had a gun. Most people would say "there was a crazy kid with a gun so he got himself shot". Perhaps the black community is so comfortable with people around them having/using guns that they do not see it as a viable reason for a cop to shoot someone. It is terribly sad that Javon was killed. But was the cop justified? Definitely. All of this out rage is just going to make cops so much more hesitant to shoot a perpetrator, and the community will be the victims. This was a party full of high school aged kids, why was there a gun found there anyway? Why do highschool age kids have assess/ possession of firearms. How about instead of blaming the police, and fabricating these ideas that there is a big conspiracy to drive black people out of St. Petersburg, you do your part in keeping firearms of the streets and out of the hands of children. Omali Yeshitela is an anarchist and this is who you leader is? Also, i will be interested in seeing what these massive mobilizations are like. If they are riots (like the Uhuru organized after TyRon Lewis tried to run a police office over, and was fired on), then your just doing your part in help destroy the community. The outcome of this uproar should be rather interesting.

Omali Yeshitela

I would also like o add that "Omali Yeshitela" is really Joseph Waller.