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Cop Breaks Girl's Arm - New Jersey Protests

by David Hungerford |
August 31, 2008
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sign: "Stop police brutality"
(Christian E. Gales)

East Orange, NJ - On August 15, seventy-five people protested the brutal treatment of 12 year-old Az-Jhane Hayes by police in East Orange, NJ. The People's Organization for Progress called the protest at the request of Corey Bracey, the girl's father.

Two months earlier in June a teacher was verbally accosted on the street as she was leaving school. The teacher called the police and officer James Giles responded. Az-Jhane was nearby and the teacher said she was involved. Az-Jhane denied it. Officer Giles decided to arrest Az-Jhane and broke the 12 year-old girl’s arm.

East Orange is a predominantly African-American town. Police harassment of the youth is strongly resented. Only a few days before the rally, three police officers were suspended in an incident that began with a rock thrown at a police car. The officers in the car rousted two seventeen year-olds from their beds in a nearby house and threatened them at gunpoint. One of the youths complained that an officer forced his service pistol into his mouth.

In this atmosphere many parents brought their children to the protest for Az-Jhane. In solidarity with Az-Jhane, many of the children wore arm slings made of black cloth. The protest started at East Orange City Hall under overcast skies with people chanting, "Giles must go!” about the abusive police officer. Despite pouring rain, the people marched to the police department for a picket line and rally.

Az-Jhane’s mother Cherise Hayes, her father, aunt, and grandmother all spoke of the way East Orange youth are being abused by the police and demanded that it stop. The rally demanded Officer Giles be fired for breaking Az-Jhane’s arm. In spite of downpour few people left the rally. Indeed, more people came from the neighborhood to show their support!

Chairman Lawrence Hamm of POP led a chant, "No justice, No peace! No racist police!" The African-American crowd at the rally joined in enthusiastically. While the East Orange elected officials and police department, including the abusive officer Giles are African-American, the protesters see the abuse of African-American children as part of systematic racism. African-American parents, like parents and families of any nationality, will not tolerate the abuse of their children by the police or government officials. Justice for Az-Jhane!

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