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Somerville 5 youth tells WW

‘Racial profiling is growing’

Published Sep 21, 2006 10:25 PM

Calvin Belfon

In April 2005, five Black Somerville High School athletes were racially profiled, attacked and beaten by white Medford, Mass. police. The cops, courts, media and school officials carried out a campaign to frame and vilify them. The youth, however, were seen as heroes by many in the working class and oppressed communities for defending themselves against a brutal, unprovoked attack.

For the past 14 months, important mass organizing by the Committee to Defend the Somerville 5 has been crucial in exposing the racist lies and fabrications. The Somerville 5 became a symbol in the Boston area for the need to stand up and fight back against rampant police terror.

This past June, two of the five, Calvin Belfon and Isiah Anderson, were tried by a jury of 11 whites and one African American. Belfon was found not guilty of five assault and battery charges but guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Anderson was found not guilty of seven charges that included assault and battery but guilty of two charges of assault and battery and one each of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Both were sentenced to two years’ probation and some community service.

The next scheduled hearing for the remaining Somerville 5 members—Earl Guerra, Cassius Belfon and Marquis Anderson—will begin on Sept. 26 at a Cambridge, Mass., courthouse located at Third and Thorndike streets.

Supporters of the Somerville 5 will be demanding “Drop all charges NOW!” and “Stop the Racist Frame-up!” at a picket line beginning at 8:30 a.m. outside the courthouse.

This past August, Workers World interviewed Calvin Belfon, who is 19 years old. He grew up in Dorchester, Mass., and his family is from Trinidad/Tobago. He is currently in his first year of college and is a football player.

WW: What is your view of the verdict and sentencing?

Calvin Belfon: It was unjust for the simple fact that we did not do anything. But I am also grateful that it turned out the way it did because it could have been a lot worse. We could have been found guilty of more serious charges and possibly face jail time.

What is your view now of the so-called justice system?

It is hard to believe in it now. Sitting there watching the police lie and fabricate things, it made me think how many times has it happened and who could I turn to if the cops lie and they are supposed to be protecting you.

What impact do you think community support and the work of the Committee to Defend the Somerville 5 had on your case?

It had a great impact on our case. I am not the only one who noticed it, the judge noticed it also—all the support from family, friends and the community. I feel that people would not have put themselves out there and put their reputation on the line if we were that bad. It helped us a lot.

Looking around and seeing people packing the courtroom motivated me. It took some of the fear away, knowing that they were there to support me and knowing that I did not do anything. I’m glad I did not have to do it alone, although I could have.

What would you like to tell your supporters across the country?

Thank you for believing that we did not do anything. My gratitude will always go out to the people who helped and were there in spirit even though they could not really be there. I know that the verdict would not have come out in our favor if they were not supporting us.

What would you say to other youth of color caught up in the dragnet of racial profiling and police brutality?

First and foremost, I would say your reputation can’t help you but it can hurt you. Be aware of your surroundings and know who you are with, keep yourself around good company. My mother says, “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.”

[Racial profiling] is a growing pandemic because I was sitting with my father and he said that every Black person will have a profile by the time I am his age. [It’s] sad because if you really did not do anything and try to live a straight life, they have something on you. You can’t do anything to further yourself in society because the cops are going to continue to harass you. They mess up kids’ lives. I could not go to school or see my friends, or go to the prom or finish my senior year of football—all this for allegations of me attacking the cops late at night while I am walking home. Even the dumbest fool would not do something like that. What happened to us was worse than a nightmare. I’ve had nightmares that were better than this.

Communities of color in Boston are being occupied by the cops; millions of dollars are stolen every day from jobs programs, hospitals, recreation centers, financial aid and schools and funneled to the U.S. war on Iraq and Lebanon. Youth of color are being sent to the front lines to die. What do you say about this?

Give the community more options; the options are so limited. Compare the classes we had at SHS [a majority white school-WW] to East Boston High School [majority [email protected]] that I attended in my senior year. SHS had sociology, history, child development, vocational education. SHS had so many classes. East Boston had none of these. It was so demeaning and degrading to see. At SHS they would tell the kids, “You can go to Boston College, or BU or Ohio State or Harvard,” but at East Boston they would tell you to go to a community college. They set the standards so low. They were constantly trying to get you into the Army. The Army and the Navy Seals were in the cafeteria every week. You could see what they were trying to do. It was real sad. People of color want to do better things with their lives but can’t because of what happens to them in the streets.

People are asked to phone and/or fax Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley and demand all charges be dropped immediately against the remaining three defendants. Call 617-494-4300 or 617-679-6500 or fax 617-225-0871. Call the Committee to Defend the Somerville 5 at 617-522-6626 to confirm the trial date and time beforehand, as they are subject to change. Eckfeldt is an organizer of the Committee to Defend the Somerville 5.