Thursday, January 12, 2012
Marking the two-year anniversary of the high-profile arrest and beating of Jordan Miles at the hands of three undercover police officers, more than a dozen Occupiers and police-accountability activists returned to the office of District Attorney Stephen Zappala this afternoon to demand that charges be filed against the officers.
Their demonstration, however, lasted only a few minutes before a large group of police officers nearly matching the number of protesters forced the peaceful demonstrators outside the Allegheny County Courthouse.
The protesters, led by Brandi Fisher, of the Alliance for Police Accountability, marched to the DA's third-floor office in hopes of meeting with Zappala to reiterate their call for the officers involved in the Miles arrest -- Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak -- to be prosecuted for beating the Homewood teen. But when they approached the office, they were met by a handful of police officers blocking the doorway.
"Why can't we go into the doors?" activist Paradise Gray asked the officers, who responded that it was a "private office."
"Is DA Zappala here?" Fisher added.
After a couple of minutes, Mike Manko, the DA's spokesperson, came out to address the protesters.
"Zappala is not available," he said. "We're extremely appreciative of the issues important to you and the community." But, he added, there is nothing new to report on the DA's ongoing investigation into Miles' Jan. 12, 2010, arrest.
Before Manko could continue, protesters interrupted the spokesperson with an Occupy-inspired "mic check."
"We are supporters of Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old who was brutally beaten by three racist police officers two years ago today," they yelled, prompting a disgruntled Manko to turn around and return to the DA's office.
As the protesters continued their mic check, officers began forcing them to leave the building.
"It's a peaceful protest!" one demonstrator screamed, as officers ordered everyone down the stairs and out of the courthouse.
"The whole world is watching!" protesters screamed on their way out. "Justice for Jordan!"
Outside the courthouse, Fisher addressed the media.
"We were not welcome," she said. "They didn't even give a reason asking us to leave.
"It is very disheartening ... that we as a community can't even see the DA," Fisher added, noting that Zappala has not returned their phone calls or emails about the investigation. Zappala has shown "blatant disrespect for the law ... and for Jordan Miles and his family.
"At this point," she concluded, "our DA needs to step down."
As Fisher spoke with the media, officers started locking the nearest entrance to the courthouse, pulling the metal gate shut.
"That is not what democracy looks like!" Gray shouted at the officers. Then, indicating the actions of the protesters, he added, "This is what democracy looks like!"
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