Monday, 15 December 2014 00:00

Activists disrupt traffic in Hammond to protest injustices

Written by Sarah Reese | NW Times
Demonstrators block Calumet Avenue at Highland Street for a short period Sunday during a Black Lives Matter demonstration at the Hammond City Hall. Demonstrators block Calumet Avenue at Highland Street for a short period Sunday during a Black Lives Matter demonstration at the Hammond City Hall.

A Gary native whose son was fatally shot by police last month in Tennessee was among more than three dozen people who rallied Sunday outside Hammond City Hall to protest racial and social injustice.

L'Sana DJahspora said he attended his son's memorial service Saturday in Gary and joined the protest Sunday to fight for justice in his son's name.

Cinque "Q" DJahspora, 20, was shot by police Nov. 6 outside the condominium complex in Jackson, Tenn., where he lived with his father.

L'Sana DJahspora said his son did not have a gun and was shot in the back from a distance.

Police say Cinque DJahspora fought with them, but the elder DJahspora contend that would have been out of character for his son. There is no video of the encounter between his son and police.

DJahspora said he thinks police are trying to cover up details about how his son was killed.

"It is going to be known," he said. "There is going to be justice for my son."

Organizer Lorell Kilpatrick said 36 people RSVP'd for the rally in Hammond and even more turned out.

One of the issues the protesters raised was the ticketing of students by Hammond police for jaywalking.

Protesters said jaywalking, while it's not smart, is something many children do. The demonstrators contended the students were being treated like criminals, because they're required to appear before a judge on the ticket.

"We're trying to get a police moratorium on jaywalking tickets," Kilpatrick said. "Because it's creating a hardship on the families."

At one point, demonstrators began jaywalking across Calumet Avenue in protest. They completely blocked traffic about 1:30 p.m., police Lt. Richard Hoyda said.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said six or seven police squad cars had to be called from other patrol areas in the city to help with crowd control.

He said organizer Carlotta Blake-King incited the crowd to block traffic on Calumet.

No one was arrested or cited, Hoyda said.

Kilpatrick said demonstrators moved to crosswalks at the intersection of Calumet Avenue and Highland Street and eventually began walking with the traffic signals. Police then helped stop traffic for them, protesters said.

Signs placed in trees on the front lawn of City Hall said, "Support police, don't harass them," Kilpatrick said.

Though someone climbed the trees and kicked the signs down, Kilpatrick said she supported that statement. Police shouldn't be harassed, she said.

While there was some civil disobedience, there were no arrests, she said.

"It's all good. We can't do anything without some type of coalition," she said.

The group included men and woman, children and adults and people of all races and ethnicity, Kilpatrick said.

The event turned into a protest, but originally had been billed as a rally for solidarity and justice, Kilpatrick said. All people have a right to peace, a living wage, quality education and adequate health care, she said.

Michael McInerney, who runs the Mad Mac conservative Facebook page, said he and others involved with the page put up four signs in the trees before the protest to show support for police.

"I'm about fairness for the police, for the defense of the police," McInerney said. Group members put signs in the trees to send a message to protesters, who they say are accusing police of being racist and of profiling and harassing people, he said.

McInerney said people need to obey police orders and stop blaming police for the consequences of their own irresponsibility.

Police aren't out to harass people, he said.

"They want to get to work. They want to get to the end of the day. They want to leave and get a pension," he said of officers.

Blake-King said she's proud of the stance the demonstrators took Sunday.

Blake-King said McDermott Jr.'s administration has turned a "seemingly deaf ear to the issues at hand."

Blake-King, who is suing McDermott and others in federal court over her termination from United Neighborhoods Inc., said Sunday she was unhappy with the dialogue at a city forum in November addressing the rules and responsibilities of the Police Department.

The forum was prompted by a September traffic stop and ensuing federal lawsuit, which accuses two white Hammond police officers of using excessive force after a black couple refused to get out of their car during a traffic stop.

"There was no two-way conversation," Blake-King said. "We were talked to like we were children, and that has to stop."

McDermott said the forum lasted more than three hours, and more than 350 people attended. He said the forum featured a panel of distinguished speakers who answered residents' questions.

He said Blake-King became disruptive at the meeting, and order had to be maintained.

Link to original article from NW Times

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