Hundreds attend activists' meeting on HPD beating tape

February 8, 2011 8:26:32 PM PST
Nearly one week after 13 Undercover obtained the video of Houston police officers hitting and kicking Chad Holley, the reaction and calls for action keep growing.


Hundreds gathered at a town hall meeting, demanding answers about the violent arrest.

As many as 500 people packed the Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church. At times, the meeting was quiet and controlled but there was also a lot of criticism and it got loud.

In front of a standing-room-only crowd, the town hall meeting started calm enough.

There were the introductions of public figures the crowd already knew. Then there was -- for the first time -- the introduction of Cyndi Paxton, the woman who exposed the explosive videotaped beating of a 15-year-old Holley and went public. She didn't speak, but she didn't have to.

It's the tape and the fallout that brought the hundreds out on Tuesday united in their call for change.

"There's a problem of police brutality and the use of excessive force that will no longer be tolerated," said D.Z. Cofield with the NAACP Houston.

Houston Mayor Annise once again explained the actions the city has taken against the officers involved, including firing seven, suspending five more.

"There is no explanation for what is in fact criminal behavior," Parker said.

Harris County District Attorney's Office's First Assistant Jim Leitner talked about the controversial misdemeanor charges four of the officers face.

"This law is such that if an individual strikes a public servant, and causes bodily injury, that it is a felony," Leitner said. "If a public servant strikes an individual and causes bodily injury, it's a misdemeanor." The attendees reacted by screaming in disbelief.

"Listen, that's the law," he said.

And in front of a frustrated audience, neither was let off easy.

"I cannot believe that when the statement came out from you Miss Mayor that you said whoever released the tape should be prosecuted to the fullest of the law. You knew I had the tape," community activist Quanell X told Mayor Parker at the meeting.

Quanell X was criticizing Mayor Parker for her initial reaction to the release of the tape, though she's since apologized to him in front of everyone.

There were also some questions from the public. It was a tough crowd but everyone appreciated that the district attorney's office, Mayor Parker and Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland showed up even though they knew they'd surely be taking some heat.

Earlier Tuesday

The video clearly hit a nerve among a lot of people, because by Tuesday, there were three events by different groups, all claiming that something needs to be done so what's seen on the video never happens again.

Eyewitness News was the first to show you the disturbing video of officers punching and kicking the young man during his arrest. Now that the video has come out, community activists are expressing heated reactions.

The protests started early Tuesday. A small group of around 20 community activists denounced the troubling video of Houston police officers allegedly beating burglary suspect Chad Holley.

"Regardless if he may have done something wrong or not, the police do not have the right to arrest, prosecute and persecute all in the same instance," said Krystal Muhammad with the New Black Panther Party.

These protestors say the misdemeanor indictments of official oppression on four of the police officers on the video weren't strong enough. A few hours later, a separate group of civil rights organizations echoed that sentiment.

"I think the actions of the mayor and police chief were appropriate. I didn't say they were adequate," civil rights activist Johnny Mata said. "I think that the district attorney could have taken a more harsh approach."

The district attorney released a statement, pointing out the indictments were handed out by a grand jury.

"In order to indict the officers for a felony offense, there would have to be a finding that a deadly weapon was used in the commission of the offense or that the assault caused serious bodily injury," Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos said.

In a third news conference by the Ministers Against Crime, they urged the police chief and Mayor Annise Parker to ensure better training in the future.

"We want to know from this administration and this police chief, who we work together with closely, what's going to be done to prevent this from happening in the future," said Pastor Robert Jefferson with Ministers Against Crime.

The police chief and Mayor Parker have released internal memos detailing the current situation and the actions they've taken.