In Tenaha, Texas, African Americans are being stopped and their money, jewelry and other valuables are being taken and kept by the police under the guise of forfeiture laws. When Blacks are stopped in Tenaha, Texas and they are found to have large sums of money on them, the police of Tenaha arrest them and tell them that they can be set free if they allow the police to keep their money. Those who resist the deal offered to them by the police, who people are calling "The Thieves of Tenaha," tell them that they will take their children and put them in foster care.
One Black man, Roderick Daniels, was stopped for allegedly traveling 37 in a 35 mile zone. He was arrested, and the $8,700 he was carrying and the jewelry he was wearing was taken. He was allowed to go after agreeing that the police could keep his money. He was told that he was being charged with "money laundering" for drug dealers, but he could go if the police could keep the money.
Another Black man, Ronald Henderson, had $6,500 in cash on him. He was told that he could give them the money to keep or they would take his children and place them in foster care. He relented and the police took his money and let him go without being charged with a crime. Amanee Busby was traveling with two business partners to Houston to buy a restaurant with $50,000. The money was taken but returned after her Attorney got involved. This modern day piracy operation on the highways has netted the town of over 3million dollars.
The money from these shakedowns has helped the town of Tenaha and Shelby County to cover for lost taxes resulting from the American economic meltdown. The police are being backed up by the District Attorney, a white woman named Lynda Russell. The Cop who is doing most of the arrests is a Black man named Barry Washington.
Locally, In Altadena, California, the Sheriff's seem to be taking a more sophisticated approach to terrorizing the Black community, but the result is the same. Millions of dollars are out of the pockets of African American residents to either pay for fines for bogus charges or pay lawyers to defend them. I recently received notice that my "bail" is $588. for the latest ticket I received for delivering papers at 2:20 a.m. in March, 2009 in Altadena by Sheriff's Deputies Alfredo Rosas and his partner Deputy Candelaria.
In September 2008, Deputy Rosas and his then partner Jonathan Lested stopped me at 2:45 a.m. for allegedly parking within an intersection and stopping without making a signal. Even though I went to trial and officer Rosas admitted his report was false, it cost me $158.00, my time as an attorney and my peace after being terrorized by the police for doing my job.
In cash, that's $588.00 plus $158.00 for delivering a free community newspaper and, ostensibly, Driving While Black. In terms of the emotional distress of being targeted because of being Black, there is no amount that could pay for that.
Now I have to deliver the papers in Altadena and try to avoid Deputies Rosas and his cohorts after Sundown, similar to the Sunset Laws. For those who don't know about Sunset Laws, they were signs in towns across America that said N-----r don't let the Sun Set on you in our town. In other words, be out of our town before dark. Historically, these signs were in the South but they were in towns even here in California such as Glendale, Oildale, and in and around Bakersfield.
When I got the notice from the court to pay the $588.00, I had just paid my income tax and received my bill to pay property taxes on properties we own in Altadena and Pasadena. Taxation while being the victim of discrimination is no fun.
Because I wrote about the actions of Officer Rosas before, I received a number of calls from people also complaining about their treatment in Altadena by the Sheriff. In one case, two young Black Pasadena City College students left their home on Mariposa near Lake Avenue and were approached by two Altadena sheriffs who simply got out of their cars and told them to put their hands on the car. When one of the two young men asked what did they did, they were met with the response of "Shut the f--k up." They were searched placed in the deputy's car and then let go. They were traumatized for being stopped for walking while Black.
These young men were raised in the community and, like myself, believed that there is a certain amount of respect for being a resident. But when the cops are like occupying forces who don't live in the community, African Americans are treated like those who drive through Tenaha, Texas. They don't take money but they take our dignity and peace. The sight of a Sheriff's car now causes me to look twice and wonder if I will be left alone by these strangers in our community with their badges, and guns, and attitudes.
Another family member came into the office and told me of an incident where the Sheriff came around their home in the Meadows shining their spotlights in their windows. When they came out to find out why they were shining their lights in their house they were told "because we can." They got no respect when they told the Sheriff that there was a 83 year old and a 104 year old in the house. The family was proud that the Star News had recently covered the 104 year old's 103rd birthday. How sad to have to be subjected to such treatment at that age.
To the Sheriff's, their actions didn't even warrant an apology. When I asked the family if the wanted to file a complaint they said no because they believed they would be retaliated against. This family later learned that the Sheriff was looking for someone who lived at that address in the past.In another incident, a gentleman named Thompson brought me copies of tickets he received from, ironically, Rosas and Candelaria for minor infractions. One he received in December 2008, and then one month later, another.
Another young man whose mother happened to be a Probation Officer was stopped in Santa Clarita after he dropped his girlfriend off at her home. He was stopped and arrested for resisting arrest. Funny thing is that he never resisted until the officers placed handcuffs on him too tight, he wasn't resisting he was reacting to the biting cutting pain of the handcuffs to his human skin. He has abandoned his plans to follow his mother into becoming a Law enforcement officer.
An African American person wearing a natural hairstyle, was also stopped. When this person was identified as a deputy and demanded to know why they were they being stopped, they were let go. In another incident a person who was near homeless told me they were stopped while walking. They were taken to the La Crescenta Sheriff's Station. That person was searched and let go to walk back to Altadena.
One white Altadena business man told me he saw a Black man being treated wrongfully by the Sheriff . When the businesman went over to ask why the Black man was being beaten, he then became targeted by the Sheriffs. He is now in the process of trying to sell his business to get out of town.
The stories continue, and whether it is in Tenaha, Texas or Altadena, it doesn't feel good to be treated as less than a citizen by officers who in most cases don't even live in the community or respect it's people. Many African Americans stated that they believe that they are suffering backlash from some who resent Barack Obama becoming President. The question for the Sheriff, the Altadena Town Council, Supervisor Antonovich, all of whom I am told have been confronted with many similar complaints, is "how long do African Americans have to treated like we are in Tenaha? How long do Black citizens have to be treated like they are living in some pre Civil Rights Days and have to pay with our money for driving or walking while Black?" I invite all of you to walk in the victim's shoes before you allow this pattern of racist highway robbery to continue.
The Tenaha story was reported on CNN's Anderson Cooper's 360 program. A Texas Attorney, David Guillory, has filed a federal Class Action Lawsuit to recover damages, for money taken, and to stop the discriminatory profiling of African Americans in Tenaha. Likewise Latinos are being targeted near the Mexico border. Will it take a lawsuit to stop the Highway Robbery in Altadena?