By: Robin H., Red Phoenix Correspondent Ohio
Who was Donovan Lewis?
Donovan Lewis was born May 14, 2002. Donovan wanted to become famous for his music. Upon discovery of his partner’s pregnancy, he wrote a song called “Letter to My BabyMama.” He regularly posted music he made on his YouTube Channel. Donovan loved sports; his favorite football team was the Dallas Cowboys. He played football for Westerville Central High School. He was a good friend – always reliable, and there for people who needed him. Teachers loved him. His community loved him. Donovan was always looking out for others, according to his father Daryl Lewis.
“I want to be known as someone who is passionate about music, someone who likes sports, is smart, and has a good sense of humor. That is who I am and will always be.” – Donovan Lewis, according to the Washington Post.
Donovan Lewis loved his partner, LaTonya Lewis. However, troubles came when he shoved her in August, prompting her to call the police. Donovan also had outstanding warrants for improper handling of a firearm and domestic violence.
Murder of Donovan Lewis
Police served the warrant around 2:00 AM on Tuesday, August 30, using a K9 unit. When they located Donovan, he was in his bed. It took less than a second for officer Ricky Anderson to fire, striking him in the chest. Afterwards they stripped him nearly naked and hauled him outside. People at a protest over his murder chanted about the officer’s treatment seeming like he was “handling a piece of meat.” He died in a hospital from his wounds. They found no weapons, and only a vape pen. The footage can be found using this link.
The cost of the murder of Donovan Lewis includes the loss of community support that he provided, the loss of a potential musical career, the loss of his kind contribution to all of his friends’ lives, and the loss of a father, son, and partner. The cost to the community is the fear of potentially being shot in bed. The cost is the realization that the “right to fair trial” is a façade.
Protests of the Murder
Protests were held throughout Labor Day weekend, with a rally at the police headquarters on Friday night, a free meal service courtesy of Food Not Bombs and JUST Saturday afternoon, and further protests on Saturday night on OSU campus. The American Party of Labor participated in the first night of protests and the Saturday meal service.
Many organizations were in attendance on Friday night. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is an organization that specifically tackles gun violence and demands stricter gun laws. The Brady Campaign demands control of firearm manufacturing and gun laws. Columbus Police Accountability Project is an African American-lead effort to gain federal protection from police officers that violate the civil rights of community members. Food Not Bombs and Food Soldier brought a wagon of free t-shirts, food, and water to distribute to attendees. The American Party of Labor contributed masks and hand sanitizer, and helped dispense food and water. The APL also brought blank posters and markers for people to create their own protest signs. The Party for Socialism and Liberation was present to provide sound equipment, and their members carried a banner with thousands of names of people who have been unjustly killed by Ohio police officers. The Downtowners had one of the most radical speeches. Notably, they said that the system needs to change, that Democrats and Republicans were two wings of the same bird, that the only thing the ruling class cares about is money, and that the people in power fear the protesters even when all we carry are signs and markers. Members of Donovan’s family were in attendance and gave their own speeches. After the speakers were finished, protesters marched through the streets, with Donovan’s family leading the crowd. They played Donovan’s original music, sang songs, and chanted slogans, while police cars monitored from afar. At the end of the protest, the protesters gave a list of demands:
- The termination and arrest of officer Ricky Anderson, and the donation of his pension to Donovan Lewis’ family.
- Prohibition of warrants served between midnight and 8:00 AM.
- An in-person meeting between the Lewis family and the chief of police, Elaine Bryant; Mayor Andrew Ginther; and public safety director, Robert Clark.
- An independent investigation into Donovan’s death, adjacent with that of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
- An end to qualified immunity.
- Diversion of police funding to mental health services and grassroots organizations dedicated to social services.
- A ban on the use of K9 units for offenses not related to drugs.
They gave the city seven days from September 2nd to comply.
The Saturday meal service was provided by JUST and Food Not Bombs/Food Soldier. Food Soldier is a service headed by a military veteran who is waging a war on hunger. They gave away clothing, personal care items, food, reading materials, and hot meals, courtesy of JUST.
Police Corruption and Systemic Racism
Americans are frequently denied their right to a fair trial by jury. Nationwide, 97% of criminal cases are settled through plea bargains, in which sentencing is reduced when a defendant admits guilt, and there is no questioning of the police testimony. Plea bargains account for 68.2% of murder cases, 100% of burglary cases, 86.7% of arson cases, and 87.5% of sexual abuse cases. For most other crimes the rate is over 90%. Think about the implications: 90% of the time, police evade cross examination by the defendant. The judge and jury have a diminished role compared to the prosecution. Thus, our conception of a fair and just judicial system in which all have a right to a jury typically constitutes less than 10% of all real legal cases. Typically, the reasons for this include financial burdens. Challenging a misdemeanor allegation can cost between $3,000 to $5,000 for the defendant, while challenging a felony could range from $10,000 to $20,000. For a severe case with life sentencing as a possibility, the cost could be up to $40,000 in lawyer fees alone.
Complaints on average need four layers of review in disciplinary cases. For some agencies there can be as few as one layer, and others may have as many as six or seven layers. Complaints about the use of force by a police officer result in punishment only 7% of the time. The consequences for filing “false” complaints is considered a violation of free speech, since the remaining 93% could be constituted as fabrications. Derek Chauvin, before his day of infamy, had 18 prior complaints against him with only two leading to disciplinary action.
Police officers are known to be dishonest, yet continue to serve long after their lies have been proven. Researchers studying police action have found that perjury is typical in cases of narcotic sales, rape, and child neglect. Perjury is also common among officers seeking overtime or a promotion. It is frequent among police who have already been known to lie on or embellish their police reports. Two thirds of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics’ data on complaints of excessive force is apparently missing when compared to that same data from the websites of individual police agencies.
It is undeniable that systemic racism goes hand in hand with police violence, but to substantiate it, here are a few pieces of information. According to researchers, black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by cops than white people, and twice as likely as white people to be unarmed when shot by police. Law enforcement officers are 5 times more likely to shoot in predominantly black neighborhoods. Black officers were less likely to shoot than white officers in black neighborhoods. Overall, 1 in every 1,000 black males are killed by police.
Research on police activity has been crude and sparse. Robin Engel, director of the Center for Police Research and Policy in Cincinnati, says, “We’re operating in the dark about what are the most effective strategies, tactics, and policies to move forward with.” The data we do have says it all: we have very little oversight, and it is desperately needed to start the process of dismantling systemic racism and police brutality.
Conflict and the Police
In Sarah Schulman’s book Conflict is Not Abuse, she talks about the complex nature of conflicts as multifaceted phenomena. She explains that conflict is not always an entirely victim-perpetrator situation, and that all sides of a dispute need to be heard before acting hastily. The conclusion of her book is that abuse and conflict are often confused – abuse involves power over another person, and a conflict is an issue taking place between two people who have shared responsibility for the situation. She wrote about police violence as it pertains to conflict:
“… we all know that many women and children are still subjected to unrestrained violence and severe domination without recourse. We also know that the state over-polices vulnerable communities based on race, poverty, legal status, sex work, or being transgender and other contested existences, and therefore the state itself is often the source of violence. So here we find ourselves in a multi-part conundrum: (I) Some of us are able to use the police to help resist violence and domination. (II) Some of us continue to experience violence and domination despite the police. (III) Some of us experience the police themselves as the source of violence and domination. (IV) Some of us call on the police because we don’t know how to solve problems. (V) Some of us use the rhetoric of violence and domination to avoid the discomfort of facing our own aggression. (VI) Some of us use the police to reinforce our own unjust social power. These are not “equal” experiences. For some, the pain caused by these imbalances defines the meaning of advantages that the same inequalities create for others. More importantly, the simultaneity of these realities, experiences, and relationships to the state can serve as a model of how to understand that structures can have different meaning for different people at the same time. This is the fundamental reason why everyone needs to be heard in order for conflict to be resolved.” (Sarah Schulman, Conflict is Not Abuse, p. 85-86)
Donovan Lewis’ partner, LaTonya Lewis, told the Washington Post, “I never wanted him to get in trouble. I wanted him to figure out his life. I’ll never understand this.” Instead of acting as a mediator for conflict resolution, the officer Ricky Anderson killed him without any discussion, and without an opportunity for a fair trial and a just punishment had the relationship between Donovan and his partner been found abusive. Police operated not along lines of conflict resolution, but instead chose to resolve things their way, permanently ending the conversation before it even began.
Community Control of Police
The American Party of Labor stands for Community Control of Police. This was originally a Black Panthers strategy to fight racism and white supremacy. Community Control of Police entails the following demands:
- A directly-elected all-civilian council
- Final authority over police policy, oversight policy, and budget, including writing and reviewing
- Full authority on disciplinary measures and legal recourse, including subpoena power and the convening of grand juries
- Hiring and firing power over the police chief or superintendent, all officers on the force, the head of any existing oversight or review boards and offices, and the members of those
- Full access to all investigations by the oversight or review institutions
- Broadening of the scope of investigations to include all allegations of misconduct, including sexual assault
- Negotiation on police union contracts
- Exclusion of all current and former law enforcement agents from serving on the board
To read more, visit the American Party of Labor, and the National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression.
Continue to struggle on the streets, make local connections, and organize with friends and locals. March in the streets, demand justice, and make changes in our communities.