Walking while Black in Pittsburgh
Published Feb 4, 2010 10:11 PM
Around 11 p.m. on Jan. 12, another tragic incident demonstrated the racist
establishment’s brutal punshment of
the crime of “walking while Black” in Pittsburgh.
Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old viola player and honors student at the prestigious
Creative and Performing Arts High School (CAPA), was walking from his
mother’s home to his grandmother’s home where he frequently stayed,
when he was inexplicably and brutally attacked by three white Pittsburgh police
According to the police report, Miles was standing against a building “as
if he was trying to avoid being seen.” The police said they observed
something under the young man’s jacket which they thought to be a gun but
turned out, according to their report, to be a bottle of Mountain Dew.
Miles maintains he had nothing in his jacket and seldom even drinks the
beverage. He relates a different and more terrifying story. As he was walking
he noticed a white car with three men inside. They jumped out of the vehicle
and shouted, “Where’s the money?” “Where’s the
gun?” and “Where’s the drugs?” Afraid of being robbed,
Miles turned towards his mother’s home when he slipped and fell on an icy
Before he could get back up, Miles reported, “That’s when they
started beating me, punching, kicking me, choking me.” It wasn’t
until about 15 minutes later, when uniformed officers arrived in a police van,
that Miles realized he was being arrested. The attackers never identified
themselves as police, and when he was handcuffed Miles assumed he was being
The officers have been identified as Richard Ewing, David Sisak and Michael
Saldutte. All three failed to appear at Miles’ Jan. 18 hearing on charges
of resisting arrest and aggravated assault.
Miles had no criminal record prior to the attack.
Pictures taken and released by his mother, Terez Miles, show the young
man’s face covered with bruises, with his right eye swollen shut and a
bald spot where officers tore dreadlocks from his head. “My son is 150
pounds and 5-foot-6. There was no need for this degree of violence and
brutality for someone of this stature,” she said. He was treated twice at
West Penn Hospital for his injuries.
The media picked up on this horrific story, prompting Pittsburgh Mayor Luke
Ravenstahl to state, “The incident was very troubling to me, and
we’re taking it very seriously.” Ravenstahl also told reporters,
“It seems as if there was a tremendous amount of force used.”
However, not only have the offending thugs not been fired or even suspended,
they were merely taken off of plainclothes duty and reassigned in uniform.
With nationwide attention increasing, the FBI opened a fact-finding
investigation to determine if Miles’ civil rights were violated.
The public outrage against this crime has been swift. On Jan. 26 about 60 CAPA
students were joined by concerned residents and activists on a march through
downtown Pittsburgh chanting, “Justice for Jordan!”
Outside Pittsburgh City Council chambers, Black Political Empowerment Project
Director Tim Stevens spoke passionately as many of Miles’ schoolmates and
others pushed back tears. “I cannot fathom how the Pittsburgh police
could, in any reasonable way, defend the beating, stomping, choking and kicking
of an unarmed, 5′6″, 150-pound teenager by three armed police
officers. Simply moving the police officers from their former undercover status
to uniform status does not properly handle this very troubling situation. These
officers are still on the street to possibly brutalize other innocent,
Believing her son was racially profiled, Miles’ mother may file a civil
rights lawsuit once the criminal case is resolved. Pittsburgh’s NAACP
chapter has called for the three brutal officers to be fired and for all
charges against Miles to be dropped. Chapter President M. Gayle Moss said,
“He had robbed no one — no bank, no establishment, hijacked no car
or caused anyone any harm. He was simply walking while Black.”
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