Protests after Houston cop cleared of beating black teen

Reuters News
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Posted: May 18, 2012 10:44 PM
Protests after Houston cop cleared of beating black teen

By Deborah Quinn Hensel

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The day after an all-white jury acquitted a former Houston police officer for his role in the beating of a 15-year-old African American burglary suspect, community activists rallied a crowd of at least 200 people on the courthouse steps to protest.

Andrew Blomberg was acquitted by a jury in Houston on Wednesday in the alleged beating and stomping of Chad Holley two years ago.

Protesters carrying signs with slogans like, "No justice, no peace. Stop the racist police," and "Justice for Trayvon Martin" circled in front of the Harris County Courthouse and a phalanx of media cameras.

Some of them chanted that Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos have to go - even though both officials issued statements saying they disagreed with the verdict.

Blomberg, 29, was one of four officers fired for their role in the beating of Holley in March 2010 when police apprehended him while he was apparently fleeing a burglary.

His acquittal came amid heightened tension after the fatal shooting of black Florida teen Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman earlier this year.

Holley's beating was videotaped by a security camera at a nearby business showing at least seven officers involved, kicking and stomping him as he lay face down on the ground.

All seven were fired, but four, including Blomberg, were charged with official oppression.

The remaining three defendants will learn of their court dates on Monday. Holley, who was convicted of burglary and sentenced to probation, has filed civil suits against the officers involved.

After the acquittal, Lykos said she respectfully disagreed with the verdict and said prosecutors were "prepared to go to trial on the three remaining cases."

Blomberg told media after the verdict was rendered the incident had nothing to do with race, and that Holley was simply a "fleeing burglary suspect."

But community activists disagreed, and spoke out angrily against police brutality at the courthouse rally on Thursday.

"The cops standing on the street corner, the ones who cower in the lobby of the courthouse - those no good bastards are never going to change unless you make them change," said activist Quanell X.

Quanell X told the crowd that two black jurors out of a pool of 75 were stricken, and encouraged the black community to respond to jury summons in the future.

"All-white juries can never happen again," he said.

Other activists present at the rally asked people to sign a petition for an independent civilian review board to examine cases of police oppression and brutality.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Todd Eastham)