ST. PETERSBURG, FL — On Monday, June 9, Keon Dawson turned 14 years old. While many 14-year-olds might spend their birthdays celebrating, Keon spent his in a demonstration in front of the police department because just two nights before, St. Petersburg police murdered his brother, Javon Dawson.
Javon Dawson was at a graduation party at the Shining Light Masonic Lodge on Saturday night when police shot him in the back. According to witnesses, the 17-year-old had his hands up when he was shot twice in the back.
Witnesses say that when one teen tried to stop the bleeding, the police responded by pepper spraying him. Another teen’s attempt to save Javon’s young life brought on threats by police that he too would be shot.
Not surprisingly though, the State has already begun a campaign of slander and cover-up. They could not pull up any rap sheet — a common tactic used to justify when police murder an African — because he had never had any previous contact with police. In fact, everyone who knew him, including his high school principal, knew him as “a good kid.”
Instead, the police painted a picture that implied that this young African who had never had a run in with police became an instant outlaw that night. They claim that this young African who had never been in any trouble decided tonight that as his first criminal act he would commit suicide by aiming and firing a gun at police so they could kill him.
However, the police story contradicts the accounts of all of the witnesses who say that young Javon didn’t even have a gun. But killer cop Terrance Nemeth did. In fact, the bullets he fired into Javon’s back weren’t his first.
Killer cop Terrance Nemeth is a seasoned killer. This battle-worn, former Marine had just recently returned from Iraq where he received awards for occupying Iraq the same way police occupy the African community in St. Petersburg and throughout the U.S.
In fact, some have questioned whether killer cop Terrance Nemeth was even psychologically prepared to return to “civilian life” in the U.S.
Community responds with outrage
The day after police murdered young Javon Dawson, outraged Africans flooded into the auditorium of the Uhuru House, headquarters of the Uhuru Movement. Frustration was high, and it was clear the African community wanted to stop the police murders and to get justice for this young African.
David Dawson, Javon’s father, was speechless. His mother, Yolanda Baker, was stricken silent with grief. They had lost their son only hours ago and police refused to even let them see him.
Ollie Godfrey, Javon’s stepmother, spoke saying, “This is an injustice in our community because that could have been anybody’s child laying out there that night. They said he was in the hospital. We went to the hospital, and they said that he wasn’t there. We went back out there, and they left him lying out there for four hours like a dog in the streets. We know that the police are going to put it the way they want to to make themselves justified, but it was not justified to shoot somebody in their back. I don’t care what the circumstances were.”
Javon’s little brother, Keon, explained with tears in his eyes how the police threatened to kill him if he tried to help Javon as he lie bleeding to death on the ground. “I saw my brother shaking on the ground, and then I tried to run over there. The police was like, ‘get back, or I’ll shoot you too.’”
“No Justice! No Peace!”
A powerful demonstration was held on the morning of Monday, June 9 in front of the St. Petersburg police headquarters. Chants of “Jail the Killer Cops Now!” and “No Justice, No Peace!” could be heard blocks away.
The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM), which led the demonstration, released a press statement that said, “InPDUM stands in total opposition to the public policy of police containment being imposed on our community. Police containment is when the police are given an open license to kill, harass, intimidate and arrest us in an effort to keep the African community silenced and docile. This reckless public policy of police containment has resulted in the police murders of young African men, with 17-year-old Javon Dawson being the most recent victim.”
The statement also connected Javon’s murder with police murders of other teens. Javon’s murder is reminiscent of the police murder of 18-year-old TyRon Lewis by the St. Petersburg Police Department in 1996. Then the city recklessly started a rebellion as a result of its vicious policy against the African community.
Immediately after the October 1996 police murder of TyRon Lewis, the Uhuru Movement launched a successful campaign within the African community and entire city that challenged the city’s negative public policy of police containment. As a consequence of our community’s unified demands, the city of St. Petersburg was forced to go eight years without a police killing of a single African person while at the same time giving lip service to the notion of economic development for the African community.
Then, as a process of reinitiating the brutal public policy of police containment while simultaneously trying to hide its hand in it, the city brought in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department to brutalize the African community. This resulted in the Sheriff’s Department’s murders of 17-year-old Marquell McCullough in May 2004 in a hail of 19 bullets and the murder of Jarrell Walker who was shot in the back three times in April 2005.
Now, eager to carry out its plans to turn St. Petersburg into a different kind of city with no place for its current residents, the city is intensifying its attack on the African community using the St. Petersburg Police Department directly to facilitate its containment and removal.
The city of St. Petersburg has not been able to murder an African without invoking a serious resistance in response. Rebellions erupted following the murders of TyRon Lewis, Marquell McCullough, and Jarrell Walker.
Even now, a powder keg is being created by the government of the city. The reckless public policy that is being guided by violence from the police and the land grabs and gentrification backed by the city government are fueling this powder keg.
In fact, it seems like the city is trying to provoke a rebellion by murdering another African teenager so that it could create an excuse to intensify its brutal assault against the African community.
Community in motion
On Wednesday, June 10, a meeting was held at the Uhuru House where the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee was built. Led by Javon’s stepmother Ollie Godfrey as its president, the committee also includes Javon’s cousin, Laketa Dawson, as its secretary; Brenda Dawson, Javon’s aunt, as its fundraiser; and Javon’s cousins Kimberly Fritts and Felicia King as its outreach coordinators. Diop Olugbala, InPDUM’s International Organizer is functioning as the committee’s political action coordinator.
The committee immediately got to work, scheduling a press conference the following morning and holding a candlelight vigil immediately after the meeting at the site where the police murdered Javon Dawson. Africans from throughout the community came raising their candles and pledging to not allow a moment of peace in the city of St. Petersburg until justice is won.
One sister led the crowd in the song “Victory is Mine” exemplifying the committee and the African community’s determination to win the struggle for justice for Javon Dawson and to end the city’s attacks against our community.
Javon’s murder is part of larger plan
The murder of Javon Dawson does not happen in isolation. The public policy of police containment that caused his murder is part of an overall plan to change the face of the city of St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker plans to turn St. Petersburg into a haven for wealthy white people, and this vision of a new city has no place in it for African people or poor people in general.
The razing of an entire African community and African businesses so that the Tropicana Field dome could be built on its ashes was part of this process. This process saw an entire section of the African community historically called the south side because of its proximity to Central Avenue renamed “Midtown” followed by a serious gentrification to extend the downtown area.
This process of creating this new African-free St. Petersburg is being continued now with a plan to build a $500 million dollar waterfront stadium to replace the dome that was built on the ashes of the African community. The city’s plan for economic development comes at the expense of the African community.
Organized resistance is the only way to stop it
The police, which function as an occupying army in the African community, will continue to murder African people as long as there is no consequence. They will continue to kill African people one by one so long as we are unorganized.
The African community must get organized in its own interest to defend itself. It cannot stand by and allow the police to attack our community. Nor can it simply react whenever the police kill or brutalize another one of our children.
What must be understood is that police murder is but a symptom of our fundamental problem, which is the fact that we are not free. African people have not had self-determination — or control over our own lives — since Europe’s attack on Africa that stole us from Africa and Africa from us.
Since that attack, African people have been held under colonial domination in a parasitic relationship for the political, social and economic benefit of the U.S. and Europe. This is why no matter how hard we work or how long we work, our work doesn’t build wealth for us. It builds wealth for the white community.
Africans within U.S. borders are a domestic colony, held within the borders of a colonizing country.
To prevent Africans from trying to free ourselves from this parasitic relationship, there is an organized entity called the State. The State uses brute force to maintain this parasitic relationship. The police who contain our community through violence are part of the State. The courts that justify the violence committed against our people are also part of the State. So are the military and the school systems.
The State is an apparatus whose sole purpose is to maintain the relationship between those who have and those who don’t have because everything that belongs to them has been stolen by those who have. So the solution to our problems is not to just try to stop police violence because it’s only a symptom of our condition.
We have to take power over our own lives, and to do this African people have to be organized. African people in St. Petersburg, Florida and everywhere else around the world where we have been dispersed must join the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, the organization representing the African working class’ demand for self-determination.
So any demand for justice for our community must be a demand ultimately for power over our own lives. It must be a demand for State power.
Only when we are organized to take State power in the hands of the African working class can we end the attacks on African people.
In the case of the murder of Javon Dawson, InPDUM has put forward demands for:
• Reparations now to the families of Javon Dawson, Jarrell Walker, Marquell McCullough and TyRon Lewis!
• Prosecution of the killer cop who murdered Javon Dawson!
• Real economic development, an infusion of millions of dollars of both private and public monies to develop commerce and businesses owned and controlled by African people!
Stand with InPDUM for justice for Javon Dawson!
Join the Justice for Javon Dawson Committee! Call InPDUM at 727-821-6620 or email email@example.com.
Jail the Killer Cops!
Reparations to the Family of Javon Dawson!
Self-determination for the African Community!