An outraged community has called for the jailing of three Baltimore police officers who brutally killed Anthony Anderson Sr. in front of his horrified family — and then lied about it.
On Oct. 4, Todd A. Strohman, Gregg Boyd and Michael Vodarick were identified as the officers involved in the arrest which led to the horrific death of Anderson, nearly two weeks after the Sept. 21 incident took place. (Baltimore Sun, Oct. 4)
The release of the officers’ names appears to have been prompted by tremendous community rage and publicity.
In an investigation conducted by the Baltimore Peoples Assembly, witnesses described how “knockers” — a term used by the community to identify undercover narcotics police — ran up behind Anderson, grabbed him around the knees, hoisted him in the air and brutally slammed him to the ground.
The police immediately claimed that Anderson choked and died after trying to swallow a bag of drugs. Community witnesses agreed that this was a lie.
The lies were exposed on Oct. 2 by the release of an official autopsy which showed that Anderson died from a ruptured spleen caused by “blunt force trauma” that broke as many as ten ribs. The death was ruled a “homicide.” (Baltimore Sun, Oct. 2)
The BPA, along with other community leaders, the victim’s family, and, indeed, the entire local community immediately demanded that the police responsible for Anderson’s death be jailed and charged with murder.
The heinous intent of the Baltimore police was shown by their actions towards Anderson’s family before the autopsy results were known.
Following a press conference of over 100 people called to refute the lies, the police stopped Anthony Anderson Jr., the victim’s 20-year-old son. As he was leaving the house, the police called out to him to “drop the gun.” He reportedly was not carrying anything that could be considered a weapon — certainly not a gun. Fortunately, five witnesses had the presence of mind to take down the police tag number.
The Rev. Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon, a BPA organizer and president of the Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said at the press conference, “Obviously, police were trying to terrorize and intimidate Anthony [Jr.] or, if he had made the wrong move, kill him. Witnesses called us immediately. We wrote a public complaint to the mayor, commissioner and district major that informed them we intended to occupy the home and neighborhood if the police persisted.”
The events surrounding Anthony Anderson Sr.’s death have led to a growing, dramatic outpouring, not only of rage and grief, but of an increased willingness of the local community to speak out, take a stand and fight back against their oppressors.
It is an often hidden, but all too true reality that police killings in the poor and Black communities of Baltimore and in other cities across the United States are not at all uncommon. There have been 12 previous police killings in Baltimore in this year alone.
More planned actions
Since the killing of Anderson, scores of witnesses have come forward with horrific stories of police brutality toward them and their loved ones: Illegal strip searches of women, kidnapping of children and youth, racial profiling and other physical abuse are only a few of the crimes reported.
Organizers in Baltimore have pledged not to rest until the killer cops who took Anthony Anderson’s life have been brought to justice. On Oct. 17, the BPA activists are planning to organize and confront the police department at a confirmation hearing for Anthony Batts, named the new police commissioner. Batts is a former police commissioner of Oakland, Calif., where he presided over a host of problems concerning police brutality and abuse.
On Oct. 21, at 6 p.m., exactly one month to the hour after the brutal slaying of Anderson, there will be a candlelight vigil at Comfort and Village streets, the site of the killing. Participants will be encouraged not only to memorialize Anthony’s life and untimely death, but also to speak out about their own personal experiences with police brutality. In this way they will push forward the struggle in a way that they think Anthony Anderson would have approved, by exposing and defeating police repression.
Speaking to WW, Sharon Black, All Peoples Congress organizer and BPA representative, puts this renewed struggle in a broader perspective:
“Police brutality is the only answer that the capitalist system has to prolonged joblessness, homelessness and chronic grinding poverty. They have slashed the meagre social and health care programs that existed, harassed and attacked unions and progressive organizations, and resorted to outright murder.
“But the people are resisting and fighting back. We will continue to resist until this whole repressive system undergoesfundamental change.”