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A report from the San Francisco Police Commission meeting.
Family, 200 People Demand Answers at Police Commission Meeting
August 8, 2001 - After waiting 3 weeks, family, friends and supporters of Idriss Stelley returned to the San Francisco Police Commission tonight to demand answers. Around 200 people rallied outside and inside the Hall of Justice to speak out against the silence of the police department and the inaction of the Police Commission.
The group demanded the release of the police report, as well as the names of witnesses and officers involved in the June 12th shooting death of Idriss Stelley by SFPD. In other cases of shootings by the police, this information has been available within 24-48 hours of the incident. Now, after 2 months, the family demanded the immediate release of these details, and insisted that anything else can only be described as a "cover-up."
Prentice Sanders, assistant chief of police, was present at the meeting and was asked directly if he would release the information. "No," Sanders replied on a microphone, "at the appropriate time, they will be released." Later in the meeting, Sanders changed his position and said that SFPD would release the information to the family\'s attorney by 9am the next morning. He gave the group a phone number to call and insured that the details would be released. However, after the meeting, Sanders told a group of corporate media reporters with video-cameras that details would only be released when and if a discovery process begins.
Sanders also insisted to the corporate media reporters that SFPD\'s silence is "standard policy" in police shootings. However, numerous people testified throughout the meeting that the names of witnesses and involved officers is traditionally released within 24-48 hours of a police shooting. When an Indymedia reporter pressed Sanders on this issue while corporate media cameras were rolling, Sanders exploded at him: "Why are you even here?" he raged.
This reckless spin work and barely-disguised contempt, combined with the sudden resignation of Police Commission member Dennis Herrera, had community residents at the meeting sensing a massive cover-up happening at SFPD. "Whose son are you protecting?" shouted one young African-American man.
A number of family and friends spoke, including Idriss\' fiancee, his godfather, and childhood friends. A young woman who was friends with Idriss railed at the Commission: "You kill our mothers, brothers, sisters ... fuck police officers, I\'ll say it to your face!"
"I\'m disgusted my tax dollars pay for you," said a young Latino woman. "We aren\'t stupid and naive like in LA. We ain\'t gonna let no Ramparts shit go down here."
The Police Commission continued to disrespect community members as they tried to speak. SFPD Officer Jeter repeatedly turned off the microphone when people were speaking.
And more than half of those attending could not participate because they were crowded out into the hall. At the last meeting, community members were denied a change of venue to accommodate seating for all who attended, because the Commission didn\'t receive "enough notice." At this meeting, representatives from Bay Area PoliceWatch insisted that they had been calling for three weeks to request a larger venue, which the city has been known to provide if they expect a large turnout for a community meeting.
Police Commission member Sidney Chan denied the request, saying that the city did not have facilities which met Americans With Disabilities Act regulations. When asked why the Commission did not mention this fact before the meeting, or why the Commission had not responded to repeated requests for a larger venue, Chan refused to discuss it further, saying only: "it is time for the public comments period to begin." Van Jones, director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, told the Commission that "if it were 200 merchants, you\'d bring out the Holiday Inn for them." Summer Galbreath, Idriss\' fiancee, pleaded with the Commission: "Have some humanity, have some morals, be a person!"
The meeting ended with a line drawn in the sand: Assistant Chief Prentice Sanders promised the community that he would release the requested information by Thursday, August 9th, 9am (regardless of what he told corporate media after the meeting). Those present left the meeting with the determination to hold Sanders to his word: "No answers, no peace! Justice for Idriss!"