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Politics Mondays: The Police Assault On Minister Tony Muhammad: It’s Time To Put LAPD On Trial by Anthony Asadullah Samad

The beating and arrest of Nation of Islam Minister, Tony Muhammad, while ministering to a bereaved family, has now put the black community on notice what LAPD is really about. We’ve been saying for years, and they’ve been denying it for years, but there is no denying that the attack on a man of God, totally disregarding the man, the mission and what he represents in the spiritual community. And be clear on what happened here; Tony Muhammad was peppered, cuffed, then beaten—then arrested, and as of midnight August 26, 2005, hadn’t been charged for a crime. Yet LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell went o television an hour earlier claiming that Minister Tony had attacked a police officer—the LAPD “spin machine” was in full affect before they even had all the facts. They ultimately settled on misdemeanor “assault on a police officer” charges when if Minister had actually “become belligerent” and “joined the assault” on police officers, as the LAPD asserts, he would have been charged with felony assault, and more people would have seen it than the two officers involved. The events were so sketchy that not even some of the LAPD believed the account. The constant insistence that the community “cool it” is the normal response when its dignity is assaulted. People want to charge the community for its level of violence, claiming it requires aggressive police action. Economic deprivation and social neglect have created desperate circumstances, but it doesn’t justify the community becoming a police state. Especially when community clergy are trying to keep the peace. The police are in the wrong (again). When is somebody going to tell the LAPD to “cool it.” It’s the fourth time this year we’re on “tactical alert” for questionable police action. It’s to put LAPD on trial.

Two things that are undisputable; one, that Minister Tony Muhammad was beaten unmercifully in the process of being arrested. And two, that community accounts, over the past few years, have been more accurate, when properly investigated, the LAPD’s. Minister Tony most likely approached over 100 officers in riot gear to insist that they not aggress on the community. And we know LAPD’s unwillingness to mitigate conflict in our community, so we can imagine happened from there when the Minister tried to step into the gap between a hostile community and hostile police. We also know from our history that when oppressor’s use terms like “belligerent,” it means their orders to submit wasn’t followed and they weren’t willing to talk about it. McDonnell said in the papers the next day that the community needs to “rationally evaluate the situation and consider that facts and consider the source of those facts.” Well, what was rational about LAPD attacking a man of God? And we know the facts, as they appear, seem closer to what Minister Tony said and what they people say they saw than what LAPD is coming up with. And as for the source, we know the source all too well. LAPD has been the source, if not the direct cause, of every major civil disturbance in Los Angeles since 1930s. From the 1942 Zoot Suit Riots in East Los Angeles, to the 1962 attack on NOI Mosque on Central, to the 1965 Watts Riots, to the 1992 Rebellion, and now to the attack on a Muslim Minister, we know the source of oppression and hostile reaction in the black community is LAPD. It’s a history that cannot be denied. That’s real.

The police officers involved supposedly told their superiors that they didn’t know who he was. You’d have to have been on Mars for the past few years not to know who Tony Muhammad is. But the more important question is, Did it really matter who he was? Should anyone deserve to be beat like that? More critically, if any man of God is standing between police and the community—would they have been treated like this. Would Cardinal Mahoney, or Rabbi Jacobs, or even the more “mainstream” black clergy, like Bishop Blake or Chip Murray, have been treated in this manner? I trust not. The LAPD has proven itself to be the open enemy of the black community. We’ve said for years that tactics used in the black community are not used on anyone else, that the black people are policed differently from anyone else, and that suppression (or force) is used quicker on the black community than on anyone else. This has proven correct once again, and its time to charge LAPD with a continual abuse under the collar of authority. And Negro mouthpieces need to be real careful in their attempts to illegitimize the Nation of Islam. One hankerchief head negro had the nerve to say in the mainstream propaganda press that Minister Tony was trying to “muscle in as a major political figure in L.A.” and that “the Nation in L.A. has never ranked with the Urban League and NAACP.” The Nation of Islam is the greatest reformer of disenfranchised black people in the history of America—bar none. Who has the NAACP or Urban League reformed lately. Passive organization created our community’s current predicament. Recent criticisms of the NAACP bear out that fact. Most importantly, Minister Tony represents a man who represents two others connected to God himself. One that led two marches of a million people to Washington, and will take another three million this year. Don’t get twisted on who he is, and what he represents. That would be a big mistake.

Forty five years ago, the Nation of Islam put on a play (produced by a minister out of Boston, a minister, Louis X). The name of the play was called “ORGENA,” which is “A Negro” spelled backwards. In the play, America is put on trial for its historical crimes against the Negro. Well, it’s time to charge LAPD with its historical crimes against the black community. I charge LAPD with being the biggest liar in the black community. I charge LAPD with being the biggest murderer (under the guise of justice). I charge LAPD with being the biggest robber of black dignity in the City of Los Angeles…the biggest defrauder of taxpayer money (black taxpayers pay to be abused)…the biggest assaulter of the black person…the biggest raper of community cohesion…and I can go on and on. My point, when is LAPD going to be charged for its crimes?

Anthony Asadullah Samad is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of 50 Years After Brown: The State of Black Equality In America (Kabili Press, 2005). He can be reached at

Anthony Asadullah Samad

Monday, August 29, 2005

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