“The police should be the people of the community in uniform. There should be no division or conflict of interest between the people and the police. Once there is a division, then the police become the enemy of the people. The police should serve the interest of the people and be one and the same. When this principle breaks down, then the police become an occupying army. When historically one race has oppressed another and policemen are recruited from the oppressor race to patrol the communities of the oppressed people, an intolerable contradiction exists.” -Huey Newton
This video includes discussions of: The wickedness of gentrification, governmental corruption, voter intimidation, and police terrorism.
“I was joined by my nephew Gary, Vance Lovelace, my childhood friend Troy, and some other local athletes and celebrities. After the games, a bunch of us took some teenagers who were waiting for kidney transplants to a University of South Florida basketball game at the Sun Dome. We dropped the kids off, then Gary, Troy, Vance, a sum of other guys and I drove our own cars to Chili’s Bar and Grill for some burgers, wings, and beers.
We had some drinks. We were laughing, telling jokes, reenacting our favorite plays from the day, and taunting each other about our softball prowess. I didn’t think we were bothering anyone. But then I noticed that a couple of tables away, a sunburned fortysomething Tampa police officer kept looking up from his hamburger. He was in his uniform. His radio was on the table.
He caught my eye and motioned to me to keep the noise down. I nodded back to him.
‘Come on, guys,’ I said, addressing my friends. ‘Let’s cool it.’
‘What are you talking about?’ one of the guys asked.
I nodded toward the cop. ‘Him,’ I said.
The table erupted in laughter. ‘We’re not being that loud,’ my friend said. The table laughed even harder.
The cop said nothing else. He just got up and moved- not farther away from us, but closer, with his back to us. Maybe he was eavesdropping on our conversation. He was still sitting there when we finished up, paid the bill, and drove off toward a party at another friend’s house- a convoy of young black males in luxury sports cars.
We headed west on Fowler Avenue toward Nebraska Avenue, not a great area in Tampa. Gary was in the first car in a brand-new Corvette I had given him that year. Then it was Troy and me in my silver Mercedes 380SE with a license plate that said DOC, followed by Phil’s Datsun 280ZX and another Mercedes.
We came up to the intersection, hoping to turn left. Another car was ahead of us, waiting for the traffic to clear. On the far side of the light, a Tampa police cruiser was facing us, watching us approach the intersection. I don’t know if it was just a coincidence or if the cop from Chili’s had tipped someone off. But Gary nudged out into the intersection. The car ahead of him made the left turn but the light changed while Gary was still in the intersection. I think seeing the cop made him nervous about running the light. So instead of punching through, he backed up and waited for the light to change again. When it turned green again, we all made it through. That’s when the cop threw on his lights and siren and pulled up behind Gary.
But Gary had giant speakers in his back window. They made it hard to see and even harder to hear. I don’t think he knew the police car was there. Rather than keep pursuing Gary, the cop drifted back and pulled me over instead.
I’d had a couple of beers, but wasn’t even close to drunk. I’m sure I wasn’t over the legal limit. I didn’t have any drugs in the car. ‘I can’t believe this,’ I thought. I’d just spent a day doing some good at a charity outing, and now the cops are harassing me. Up ahead, I saw Gary pull his car over as well.
A burly young cop leaned down and rapid on my window with his flashlight. ‘License and registration,’ he said.
‘You already know who I am,’ I sighed. ‘What did you pull me over for?’
‘Be quiet and hand me your license and registration.’
This was already getting off to a bad start.
‘This is bullshit!’ I fumed. As soon as the words left my mouth. I could see a half dozen cop cars swarming in. ‘Why are you guys always harassing me?’ I said. ‘I’m tired of this.’
‘Listen,’ the cop said sharply. ‘Knock it off or you’re going to jail.’
‘For what? You’re harassing me.’
‘That’s it,’ the cop said, reaching for my door handle. ‘Get out of the car!’
He was angry now. I got out and saw a handful of cops walking toward us. ‘You had no reason to stop me,’ I said. ‘Explain what the stop is about.’
‘Again,’ the cop warned. ‘Knock it off or you’re going to jail.’
Gary and all my other friends were on the sidewalk now, watching from a distance. The cop saw them and asked, ‘They’re with you?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘We’re all together. What the hell does that have to do with anything?’
‘Shut up!’ he said.
He reached for his cuffs. As he did, I made the mistake of reaching for his hand. It was just a reflex. I wasn’t trying to provoke him. But I shouldn’t have done that. I was thinking, ‘Hey, come on. You don’t need to lock me up.’
To his credit, that cop wasn’t the one to explode. But when the other officers saw that, he couldn’t stop them from rushing me. They knocked me to the grass next to the boulevard. I took a beating on the ground- nightsticks, knees, and punches. One cop hit me in the head with an eighteen-inch flashlight. I tried to protect myself. I tried to fight back. But basically it was the Fourth of July going off on my face. The gold cap on my front tooth I got when I was a teenager? Gone. The tooth it covered? Gone.
In all, the report said later, twenty-two Tampa police officers were on the scene. Nine dove into the ruckus. When I tried to stand, I was pushed backward. Gary rushed up and was quickly cuffed and arrested. I was pushing and shoving to get the cops off me. By that point, there were so many of them, they were punching each other. One cop saw me pushing and yelled, ‘He’s going for your piece!’
That led to another flurry of punches as another cop pulled his pistol out and pointed it under my chin.
‘Say your prayers, motherfucker!’ he shouted.
I thought for sure I was going to die. I immediately stopped moving.
One cop got my left arm behind my back. He twisted it so hard. I cried out in pain. ‘Good!’ I heard one of them yell, ‘Break his fucking arm!’ I guess he’d forgotten I was a rightie.
‘Doc Gooden,’ one cop said, spitting out my name. ‘Local fucking hero. I’ll never watch another Mets game again.’
A middle-aged white couple out for an evening stroll happened on the scene. When they saw what was happening, they stopped and shouted at the cops.
‘Why are you guys doing that to him?’ the woman raged. ‘What’s going on here?’
My blood was all over my shirt, not to mention the cops and the grass. The couple pleaded with the officers to let go of me.
‘Get out of here, or you’re going to jail,’ one of the cops responded. ‘Get lost!’
The arm twisting soon gave way to something worse, a chokehold around my neck. The more I resisted, the less I could breathe. For a second, I felt like giving up. I thought, ‘Okay, well, this is how I’m going to die.’ Then, I got the idea of pretending I’d passed out. Maybe then they’d leave me alone. I went completely limp.
‘He’s out!’ I heard someone say. ‘He’s out! Get off him!’
At that point, the cops seemed to panic. Other officers pulled the chokehold cop off me. I lay on the ground, perfectly still, hearing more sirens and cops barking orders.
A sum of them picked me up, shackled me, and threw me in the back of a police car. As we started to move, I looked out the window. I discovered we were headed nowhere near the police station. Instead, we pulled into the empty parking lot at the Tampa Greyhound Track on Nebraska Avenue. ‘They’re going to kill me,’ I thought. ‘This is the perfect spot to get rid of me.’
I had never been more frightened in my life.
They pulled me out of the car and sat me on the pavement. My bleeding head was resting against one of the back tires of the police car. They started discussing strategy. Radios and walkie-talkies were chirping with activity. More sirens were coming our way. A paramedic truck arrived. Two black cops showed up. They weren’t going to kill me after all, I decided. They were just trying to make what happened look less black and white. The black cops rode with me to the hospital, where I got twenty stitches in my head, before they took me to jail. I was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and battery on a police officer- I never served a day on any of them. A few hours later, I was released on my own recognizance.
When my parents came to pick me up, my mom took one look at me and started bawling. It had taken a little more than a month for me to go from World Champion to ‘black-male Gooden, violent perp,’ beaten by the police in my own hometown. -From “Doc” By: Dwight Gooden
“Doc loved coming home to Tampa, home to the high school and family he cared about most. One of those trips, though, turned bad. It also happened my senior year. Twenty years later, people are still talking about that night.
Dwight invited me and a group of friends to a University of South Florida basketball game. Just before we left, Doc’s moon, my grandmother, said, ‘Boys. why don’t you stay home? I don’t have a good feeling about tonight.’
There’d been racial tension in Tampa between police and the Black community, and Grandma saw her son as a target because of the way he rolled- he didn’t mind showing off his fancy cars.
‘Don’t worry, Mama,’ Dwight [Gooden] assured my grandmother, “We’ll be fine.’
We went to the game in a caravan of four cars. The USF game was fun, but we felt the eyes of the police staring at us the whole time. We didn’t know why. We weren’t drinking heavily. We weren’t carrying on. Of course, Doc was the center of attention. Everyone was coming by for a picture or a handshake. And so were the cops. They were all around us.
After the game we went to Bennigan’s. Again, fans congregated around Doc. Again, we did nothing wrong. I was enjoying the leftover limelight of my uncle’s fame. So far, so good, although it was weird how the cops were following us as if we’d robbed a bank.
‘We’re outta here,’ said Doc, sensing we’d better end the evening sooner rather than later.
We got into our cars and headed home. My Corvette led the way, Doc’s car right behind me. We came to a green light that turned yellow as we entered the intersection. Seeing a cop car nearby, I decided to back up rather than run the risk of getting a ticket. We waited patiently. When the light turned green, we drove on. That’s when the cop pulled me over. I had no idea what he wanted. And he didn’t seem to know either. Just routine questions about nothing in particular.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Doc’s car had also been pulled over. A few minutes later, when I turned around to see what was happening with my uncle- I figured he was being hassled same as me- I saw the cops taking him to the ground. That’s when I exploded. First thing I thought was, “They’re going to break his arm!’ So I ran over, knocked down 4 or 5 cops, and picked up Doc off the ground. That’s when the cops went after us with a vengeance, beating us with their nightsticks. Our only weapons was our fists, and our fists weren’t enough. We got beat up bad.
We spent the night in jail. You talk about rage! We were sure the reason the cops had focused on us was that they were jealous of Doc’s fame and figured he flaunted it with fancy cars. A lawyer got us out. Charges were dropped. Eventually Dwight sued the police and won, but not before the city of Tampa exploded.
Word got out. The Black neighborhoods were as incensed as we were. Doc was a hero and Doc had been attacked for no reason. Attack Doc and you attack every African-American in Tampa. The city broke out in riots. The police wanted us to call for peace and calm things down. But we weren’t feeling peaceful and we weren’t calm. We were filled with anger at being beaten for no earthly reason. Eventually the neighborhoods quieted, but the bitterness lasted. Although Doc was a homeboy who loved his native city, he never felt the same about Tampa again. The wounds from this incident were ugly, painful, and deep.” -From, “Inside Power” By: Gary Sheffield
“The policeman on the street is the most powerful person in the criminal justice system. If he is in the grip of some grim private impulse or carries with him some bigoted private agenda, he can- all on his own- take your life, beat you and choose to lie about your guilt or innocence. If the rest of the system the elects to accept his word without question, you are utterly at his mercy.” -From, “Journey to Justice” By: Johnnie Cochran
“Near year’s end, Brown played a show in Knoxville Tennessee. The scene afterward was utterly familiar: handshakes with local celebs, smiles and autographs for fans. An off-duty police officer working security brusquely told Brown to get out. It was time to close the hall.
The conversation with fans continued and the officer returned with more guards, again demanding that Brown leave. The singer responded, ‘That’s no way to tell a man to get out,’ but, soon, everybody did leave. Brown and two aides were standing in a parking lot when they were attacked by Knoxville police responding to a call from the guards. Two Brown employees were arrested for assaulting officers, and the singer was booked for disorderly conduct. When they returned to Augusta the next morning, they were bloodied and their clothing was ripped.
The next day, Brown told reporters his men were jumped from behind while he was counseling a group of young blacks to keep off drugs and stay in school. He announced he was filing a $1 million civil rights suit against the Knoxville police. The radio station he owned in Knoxville, WJBE, stopped playing music and went open mic on the event, airing calls from listeners who shared stories of their own interactions with local law enforcement. The pressure led to a march on city hall and then reforms in Knoxville police policies. The city dropped its charges against him; two years later, his suit was dismissed in U.S. District Court.” -From, “The One” By: RJ Smith