Struggle heats up against racist frame-ups in North Carolina

Durham, N.C. — On Jan. 10, a big rally took place here outside Durham County Jail to free Carlos Riley Jr., an African-American man who is in jail with $1.5 million bond and nine pending charges, including allegedly shooting a cop who actually shot himself. This comes after weekly rallies every Tuesday in December to drop the charges against Stephanie Nickerson, an African-American woman who was beaten in the face by a Durham cop on Oct. 28.

On the morning of Dec. 18, Carlos Riley Jr., a 21-year-old Durham man, was driving home when stopped by plainclothes Durham police officer Kelly A. Stewart in an unmarked car. After the cop escalated the interaction by yelling expletives at Riley and threatening his life, the officer shot himself in the leg. Riley left the scene, but after a few hours of community lockdown, with cops stopping every car and pedestrian entering the area, frisking many, and helicopters surrounding the neighborhood, he turned himself in to police.

The cops arrested Riley for alleged possession of a stolen firearm and shooting the officer. They also arrested Riley’s friend, Dustin Portee, and brother, Ledarius Riley, who were helping to safely escort him, and charged them with “accessory after the fact.”

“This type of injustice can happen to anyone, anywhere,” Carlos Riley Sr. told Workers World. “We want our son freed and all the charges dropped on him and the other two young brothers immediately.”

Riley knew of the high level of police brutality against young Black men and originally fled the situation fearing for his life. A report released July 16, 2012, by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement indicates that in the first six months of 2012, police, vigilantes and/or security guards killed one Black male every 36 hours. Statistics show 120 African-American men were killed between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2012.

Despite requests from the Riley family, the police have still not released information about the police report, which states probable cause, medical records and ballistics of the gunshot wound. The organization Liberty and Justice for Carlos Riley Jr. is calling for another demonstration on Jan. 17 at the Durham County Jail to bring attention to the case and tell the true story.

Protesters are demanding: 1) Free Carlos Riley Jr. and drop all the charges! 2) Drop all the charges on the young men charged with accessory to his case. 3) Release the police report, medical records and ballistics information now. For more information about this case, visit ­carlosrileyjr.org.

Stephanie Nickerson, more attacks

On Oct. 28, 25-year-old Stephanie Nickerson was hanging out at a friend’s house when Durham police officers illegally entered without a search warrant or asking permission. Nickerson informed her friend about her constitutional right to refuse them entry. The cops attempted to silence Nickerson and grabbed her arm. When she pulled away and asked if she was under arrest, officer Byran Schnee brutally punched her in the face several times and dropped her to the ground. The assault, witnessed by Nickerson’s friends and at least two other officers, resulted in a broken nose, blackened eyes and bruises all over her body, along with mental and emotional trauma. Charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, she has a court appearance on Jan. 24.

Along with family, friends and community supporters, Nickerson rallied in front of the Durham police headquarters weekly demanding that Mayor William Bell, Police Chief Jose Lopez and District Attorney Leon Stanback honor Nickerson’s demands for justice by dropping the charges against her, firing Officer Schnee and requiring the Durham Police Department to work with community members to create a civilian review board to address incidences of police brutality and misconduct. The rallies did result in the officer being suspended, but with pay.

Mayor Bell has been campaigning since March 2012 to significantly raise the bond on crimes committed with a firearm. On Jan. 11, the Durham Crime Board voted to remove magistrates’ authority to approve bail. Now people arrested on these crimes could linger in jail indefinitely and not be released before trial, which is a violation of their constitutional rights.