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Philly police beating stirs storm of protest

September 14, 2010

The movement to demand justice for Askia Sabur is holding its third protest on Friday, Sept. 17, 5 p.m., at 55th and Lansdowne in Philadelphia; march to 19th District police headquarters at 61st and Thompson to demand the removal of all officers involved!

by Boyce Watkins, PhD

Askia Sabur had merely been standing outside a take-out restaurant in West Philadelphia waiting for his order when he was attacked by police on Friday, Sept. 10, and viciously beaten Rodney King style. Following the story are three videos, the first taken by an onlooker’s cell phone, the second a TV news story and the third by neighborhood activists. – Video frame: NBC
A video showing Philadelphia police officers beating a man for nearly two minutes has taken the internet by storm. The incident is so shocking that the video has received thousands of views and has also sparked an internal investigation by Philadelphia police.

The incident occurred in West Philadelphia and is two and a half minutes long. The officers are accused of attacking 29-year-old Askia Sabur outside a takeout restaurant in the area on Friday. What is also interesting is that most of the officers appearing in the video are African American, reminding us that the power of the state is not just a white and black thing.

Allegedly, officers asked Sabur and his cousin to clear the corner, but they refused, stating that they were waiting for their food. Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, claims that Sabur knocked one of the officers down; he alleges that this occurred before the YouTube video was recorded.

“It started with a police officer lying on the bottom of the pile,” Vanore said. “The video doesn’t show everything. Stuff happens before, and stuff happens after. Our Internal Affairs is trying to get the whole picture.”

While the police have their version of the facts, the video above shows almost none of that. Instead, it shows Sabur on the ground with officers beating him. Others are heard in the background telling the officers to stop and that they were going to kill him. That’s when the video shows one of the officers pulling his gun out on the crowd, telling them to back up.

Sabur was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. Police also said he would be charged with robbery for trying to take the gun and baton from one of the officers.

“Not every arrest ends with someone saying, ‘Thank you,’” Vanore said. “It’s a shame. This is one case where the male was not compliant.”

Sabur says he felt like the officers were trying to kill him. He also said that he broke his arm during the attack and had to get stitches to close off the back of his head. He also claims that when officers asked him for identification, he reached for his wallet, when they grabbed his arm and started to choke him.

Evan Hughes, the attorney for Sabur, says that the charges are ridiculous:

“If he tried to take an officer’s gun, if he had actually done that, they would have shot him,” Hughes said.

The gash on the back of Askia Sabur’s head was closed with six staples. A crowd of onlookers had pleaded with police to stop beating his head. He is said to have lost a pint of blood from that wound. – Photo courtesy Evan Hughes
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the police are backtracking, trying to justify what happened, and it’s not going to work,” Hughes said. “As this develops, the truth will come out.”

One problem for Sabur is that he has been convicted of a crime in the past. In 2002, he pleaded no contest to attempted burglary and was given five years of probation.

In spite of his record, though, some of the eye witnesses are supporting him. Jamil Stroman, who saw the incident, referred to the event as a “modern-day Rodney King.”

One of the most disturbing things about the video is that while he’s being beaten, Askia continuously says, “I didn’t do nothing wrong.”

As others are pleading for him to cooperate with the officers to avoid yet another whip of the billy club, he appears adamant in his unwillingness to be arrested when he hasn’t broken any law. In fact, all of the charges Askia is facing are a result of the police confrontation. It’s not as if he was breaking the law when the officers arrived, he was simply standing on the corner.

Thus, one of the most fundamental problems with our criminal justice system is that those who are more likely to interact with police are the ones most likely to be arrested by them. Given that African Americans are stopped, searched and confronted by officers more than others, situations like this are more likely to emerge. I am not sure why standing on the corner is a crime or why an otherwise law-abiding citizen may now end up in prison when he was simply waiting for his food.

When it comes to the police beating of Askia Sabur, multiple theories are going to emerge. Of course, the police are going to have their story, which is going to be consistent with their loyalty to the blue line. Even if officers were doing something wrong, many of them will protect one another under the presumption that difficult decisions made in the line of duty are justified by their own need for safety. At the same time, not every YouTube video of an officer making an arrest implies that the officer is doing something wrong.

On the other side of the issue, Sabur’s attorneys are going to concoct their own story. I am sure the story will present Sabur as a model citizen who was simply unfortunate enough to have an officer decide to beat him half to death for no reason. While this kind of thing certainly does happen on occasion, the video does show that Sabur is clearly resisting arrest. All the while, one can argue that any man being arrested unjustly has a moral right to demand his immediate freedom. If the officers had no initial reason for approaching Sabur, they had no right to be taking him to jail.

There is a clear point to be made about the depths and limits of police authority and what constitutes an abuse of power. Putting the case of Askia Sabur to the side, one has to question the idea of the officer waving his gun at onlookers to keep them away. Additionally, one has to wonder just how unruly Sabur – or any of us – has to get before an officer feels that it’s OK to use physical force.

While the video does show that Sabur is resisting arrest, one can argue that any man being arrested unjustly has a moral right to demand his immediate freedom.

I have personally seen cases – for example, the police shooting of Bobby Tolan – where any tiny diversion from police instructions, no matter how confusing or unreasonable, can lead to an arrest, shooting, beating, handcuffs or the inconvenience of appearing before a judge. Askia Sabur’s case shouldn’t be the one that gets us talking about the way police do business. We should have been talking about that long ago.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. This story first appeared on Black Voices.

Posted by StopCorruptCops, who wrote:

Philadelphia Police Officers from the 19th District Heinously attacked brother Askia (“Akee”) Sabur for no good reason. These DOMESTIC TERRORISTS have no regard nor respect for Human Life, Human Rights, and Freedom. They continue to harrass, profile, attack, beat, maim, injure, terrorize, brutalized, and violate the Human Rights of young men and women in the community therefore become a TERROR CELL inflicting DOMESTIC TERRORISM upon innocent civilians and Private Citizens of all walks of life. Please help us stop the (C.O.P.S.) C.owards O.ver P.owering S.omeone. They broke his left arm, beat him with “nite sticks” in his head until pints of blood spilled onto the sidewalk resulting in Akee receiving 6 Head-Staples, a neck-brace, multiple back injuries (upper & lower back); and other physical and emotional damage. Dozens of witnesses were on-site; many of whom were there from the on-slaught and whom also have video footage of this Crime Against Humanity.

30 thoughts on “Philly police beating stirs storm of protest

  1. Jose

    Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but you cannot justify the actions of the officers in this video. As far as resisting arrest, if the man did in fact no commit a crime, he has the RIGHT to demand his freedom, or 'resist' arrest. Regardless of whether he was resisting or not, he was in no way trying to attack the officers… This is another case of officers abusing the fact that they have a badge.

    Reply
  2. Self Defense

    philly cops are FUCKEN MORONS! U fuck heads cant even stop one guy! How many philly cops does it take to sub-due a man? The whole task force, and swat. ROFLMFAO!!!! If it take over 2 mins and 10 officer to control and man that weighs 125lbs wet. The whole philly task force is a laughing stock of the police force!
    Question to the Chief…This is a refection of you, u fucken moron!
    And to the officers doing the beating…go choke on a chicken bone, u fucks!

    Reply
  3. angela

    iI understand why everyone is upset but, you have tyo think what kind of protective force there is that islurking around the streets of Philly ( the cops) that is. I saw the video and I hope that man sues for alot of money , hell I counted up at least 15 hits in one shot. I saw someone kick him like what could he had done so badly to desrve that kind of abuse… Now the city has to fire more officers than they have to be on the streets cause they do not deserve to be working around people and I just hope that they dont get off with the crime trying to plead temporary insanity. Theres no justifying of what trauma that man has gone through. I hope they get what they deserve and thats help and off the streets of philly.

    Reply
  4. jorge

    I counted 20 + times that people are yelling and begging for Mr. Sabur to stop fighting.
    THROUGHOUT the first entire minute… that is all you can hear. Funny how the perception here is that any law enforcement official/figure is in the wrong. Actually "jose", you are right, you can demand freedom, but as soon as you are "detained" by a police officer, you have to go through the "process". That process is making sure you are who you say you are, that you are not a danger to yourself or the community and they document their actions. Guess what happens if you decide to deviate from that process? BINGO!!! They will rachtet up their intensity to overcome your will/ignorance. Why not comply, go through the process and if he was truly innocent, then he would be on his way in probably 30 minutes. But no, here on this site that promotes defiance and social disobediance, you would rather cry about a "mistreatment". Why isn't there a story about those duche bags who posed as victims of the San Bruno fire… my 2 cents http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/

    Reply
    1. Hanif Khalil Ali

      YOU SOUND LIKE A FAGOT ASS COP…. FAGOTS HIDING BEHIND BAGES… HOW ABOUT WE DEFEND OUR SELVES BY ANY MEANS NESSESSARY…. THE LAW IS TO BE OBEYED BY ALL, COPS ALSO… LET ME BEAT YOU IN THE HEAD WITH A METAL ROD, AND THEN SEE IF YOU COMPLY SO CALM….CAN YOU SAY REVOLUTION…………..

      Reply
      1. jorge

        Exactly, you respond to my statement with empty threats and bigotry… so, you hate "fagots" too, in addition to police officers. Revolution? wtf are you talking about? If you don't like it here, you can always leave. Cheers hanif! duche bag

        Reply
    2. @n@lyst@

      its irrelevant what ppl are saying in regards to what is actually happening on camera. how is askia fighting!? is he striking or attempting to strike any police officer or other persons!? no. if he is on the ground, is he in any position to be a reasonable threat to the police or any other persons!? no.

      askia is not being violent. askia is in fact a victim of unjustifiable brutal violence.

      Reply
    3. FRANNIE COOPER

      THERE REALLY IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUR HEAD,I THINK YOUR A COMPLETE F*CKING DICKHEAD AND I STILL WOULDN'T WISH THAT SH*T ON YOU!!!

      Reply
  5. ALM

    Look, I am from Philadelphia – all I have to say is that I can clearly see both sides of the story here. I do believe Askia was beaten senselessly – cops do abuse their power here, especially in bad parts of the city. But, on the other hand, we have had more than 5 cops killed by people (most in cold blood, others in the criminals self defense) and I can clearly see why a cop might brandish a firearm esp here in Philadelphia. Although, I do not see exactly why they had to beat this specific man so severely… maybe dunkin donuts was out of kreme filled.

    Reply
  6. BROCK

    that cop need to be fired and locked up for the beating he gave that man. i hope that guy sue the city broke.
    that one cop was totally out of control. he could have killed that guy by the way he was beating him

    Reply
  7. DessiJones

    This is not the first time that anyone has seen anything as outragous and sad as this. It is dishearting to say the least as a mother of two sons the sister to two brothers and the niece and cousin to many black males here in THE GREAT US OF A. I hear alot talk of standing up and doing something but no one wants to be on the front line I say damn all that! Cause had that been my son brother father uncle nephew friend I would have jumped in that and guess what others would have followed suite. This is what we need to do. Take up arms and protect ourselves because our so-called protecters are not going to do so for us as this video clearly shows. And anyone who feels other wise can take the first one for the other side. My sincere sympathies go out to Askias family. And I only pray this beathing doesnt kill him later on in life. I am true fighter with no sympathy in my soul for the children or the childrens children of those who oppress and brutalize us and think any one who hates this as much as I do should feel the same.

    Reply
  8. FRANCES

    I DON'T KNOW WTF YOU WERE WATCHING BUT HE WASN'T RESISTING NOTHING!!! AFTER THE 1ST 2 BLOWS TO DUDE'S HEAD,HE WASN'T ABLE TO THINK THE RIGHT WAY…HE PROPERLY DIDN'T EVEN KNOW WTF WAS TAKING PLACE…YOU MUST BE A COP OR FAMILY MEMBER OF ONE CAUSE THE SHIT THEY DID WASN'T COOL!!!OR IDK ARE YOU A RACIST????

    Reply
  9. jay 215 captian

    dig this here everyone in Philly,i,m an ex-convict and i,m white,let me tell you all something this shit just don't happen in in black hood's it happens in white hood's as well,it's all on paper how many time;s has 15th 24th 7th 2nd 5th been put on blast for this same shit?many of time's and these are black cop's on black male,i,m white male and in 1996 i was beating with nightstick's in front of my family,how many of my keno's have been beaten by tom and Jerry? yeah that's right all these pussies with badge need them taken,
    how long do you think a man is gone to keep being hit by someone? after i got hit twice i started swinging back i,m a man and if you think that shit is right you need more help then the person that was doing the beating
    you're just as sick.. but on some real shit where is n.o.I's now they ran around grace fair to protect people from racist white people what cop's stand up now when you're really need j urge you're just fuck boy i truely wish you fall in to the wrong hand's when cop stop's you,or maybe it need's to happen to you're brother you're sister or you're mom or father,this shit don't stop here it happens every day in are state prison's and county prison,like camp-hill's s.m.u green county's s.m.u Huntington state prison Frackville state prison,ect ect ect….. just something to really think about.

    Reply
  10. Stalker

    I am a cop and very proud of that. I also teach baton use at the academy. A blow to the head with a baton is considered deadly force, it should only be used when that level of force is required. I can’t really see the video on my phone, but I’ll take a better look at it tonight.
    Try to remember or all force is excessive force. I could gear an awfully lot of people telling him tostop fighting.

    Reply
  11. Stalker

    That last line should read:
    Try to remember not all force is excessive force. I could hear an awfully lot of people telling him tostop fighting.

    Reply
  12. hunterstalker

    IN the video I saw the suspect fell on his head when he tried to tackle the officer in the beginning of the film. It isn't a very high quality video (when are these types of video good?). I don't see a single baton strike landing on his head. If someone can point one out to me, please post the time it appears on the tape.
    As someone who is not only a police officer, but teaches use of force and baton classes. I will comment based on what I saw in the video. I saw some bad handcuffing techniques. They should have had him in cuffs much quicker that would have calmed things down faster. However; The suspect was resiting arrest. That is plain as day to anyone who understands the law. When a suspect resists it is more difficult to handcuff him and sometimes officers just don't get it done as easily as they should.
    I saw one officer (the same one who delivered most of the baton blows) repeatedly try to move downwards on the use of force continuum. He retracted his baton and set it on the ground and attempted to handcuff the suspect. The suspect continued to resist. This earned him a couple more blows to triceps. Blows to the triceps and considered safe blows, In other words they hurt but wont injure the suspect.
    A few comments on what some of the other people have written. First and for most. You DO NOT! have a moral obligation to resist arrest under any circumstances. You never have the right to fight back at police officers and doing so will usually just end you up in jail for the night. In the morning you will face a judge who will automatically consider you a criminal because you resisted arrest. I say this not to sound threatening, but as a word of advice. I have seen far too many times, people elevate their own problems by combating police officers. You wont win! A police officer does have the right to point a gun at you, if he feels it is the appropriate response, your opinion wont matter. Threatening a police office who has already drawn his gun is about the stupidest thing any person can do. Fighting a police officer who is handcuffing you is a close second.
    Oftentimes we handcuff people temporarily in order to establish control of the situation. The best way to get those cuffs off and go home is to cooperate. If you want to challenge your detainment, do it the next day when you have a lawyer and are facing a judge.

    Reply
    1. Fight Back

      LOL you don't see a single baton strike landing on his head. I watched him get cracked in the head at least three or four times. The first two strikes were at the 12 and 14 second marks. The officer than attempted to hit the man in the head again at the 28 second mark and missed but quickly followed up one second later and him in the head at the 29 second mark. The "blows" to the triceps didn't come until after the man had already been hit in the head at least three times. I don't know what video you were watching maybe that's the selective vision you police officers have when you're beating the hell out of somebody. He was resisting arrest but based on the video he was CLEARLY not a physical threat he never attempted to touch the officers, and only partially grabbed the baton to soften the BLOWS he kept taking to the head. At that point it was a matter of self defense I don't care if your an officer or not if somebody is beating the LIFE out of you, you're going to do everything in your power to stop it.. The use of force by the officers was extreme and unjustified.

      Reply
  13. FRANNIE COOPER

    yo let's keep real if that was white cop's mutha's fuckers would of roit,oh my bad this is philly la is harder philly soft,when it come's to this.lol

    Reply
  14. Abdus Sabur

    peace: power to the people,this is the Father of Askia Sabur I want to say this injustice upon the people , it must stop , the people must do what ever it takes,
    I would like to say ," who own these streets", not the " bully", not the cops,nor the government , it's the people, that's who own the streets , if we have a beef with the" gov " then we should step to that mindset and do what is needed I would like to thank all of you who support my son . this was not a black on white thing it wasn't black on black thing it's the mindset I have a lot to say there is a lot going on , "word 2 the wise is sufficient we must take a look at all said governments and make it better and ask the question can WE CHANGE THIS SYSTEM AND MAKE IT BETTER WE MUST TRY…….(thank you)

    Reply
  15. rawraj

    I called the police to report neighbors who were constantly beating their children, both just toddlers,
    Just for doing that you deserve everything that happened to you? Do you know CPS is nothing but a pedophile racket. I think on that occasion some good cops showed up and told you to keep your trap shut.
    You should be minding your own business rather than taking children away from their mothers so that they get sexually abused for the rest of their childhood.

    Reply
  16. Guest

    Those officers arent the ones to blame for their lack of police training! May Askia Sabur attorney should look further into the reason why it took over 2 mins to sub-due Askia Sabur. Its obviously clear that Askia Sabur wasnt doing anything but trying to cover up from getting a beating. Askia Sabur is clearly not resisting. How can he comply with an officer with another officers beating the crap out of him?

    Reply
  17. John Mulligan

    Dear Editor,

    Now look, there's no reason to go and call me a cop. If anything, I've always been respectful when posting here.

    The guy is on top of the cop, there's just no argument there. Even Mr. Watkins had to concede that the guy was resisting. Well here's the thing, being on top of a cop with your arm on his neck is a little more than resisting. I'm sorry that Mr. Sabur got hit that often but you have to expect a reaction when you jump on a cop. Moreover, when cops are surrounded, you have to understand that they're afraid for their own lives. These are, after all, cops policing their own community. I'm pretty sure they know what people in their community are capable of. Violence is never pretty.

    As for the change in demographics of cities, that's not cops, that's property value. If you bought a house for 100k and can sell it for 500k because it's near the city center, well, it's gonna get sold. If you live in public housing and you never owned the property, then you can be moved because you don't have a property right by renting on a government subsidy. If you want to stay, don't sell the property. These neighborhoods will be improved with or without your participation, as the recent library project has demonstrated. The library project proves that it can be with your participation. Stop fighting the cops, work with them. Make your community a place worth preserving and it's yours to keep. The Chinese did it and so can you.

    Reply
  18. Joe

    Let's keep it real. That did not look like a safe neighborhood. In safer neighborhoods, people actually like their cops and may even help them arrest a resisting criminal! I know, it must be amazing to you. Also, if the perp is stronger than the cop, the perp might decide to grab the cops gun and blow his head off faster than you could read this sentence. Wow, another teachable moment! Also, I think because YOU brought race into the issue, and in summary say the black officer using his night stick while trying to arrest a black perp, is "teaching a Black community who's boss", then you're the racist/biased observer.

    P.S. Did anyone notice the laser sight dot of a gun on the cops at 110-112 in the vide? Just look at the middle of the screen. Yeah, I'd say the cops knew the dangers of the area and their circumstances.

    Reply
  19. Mary Ratcliff

    The Chinese leaders in San Francisco that we know have the same complaints we do. They've been under pressure to give up and leave Chinatown for over a century. The pressure was intense following the 1906 fire and it still is today. For example, they're furious that the extension of the T-train through Chinatown will route people away from their businesses because it's underground instead of at street level as it is in Bayview Hunters Point.

    If you made that comment to imply that Blacks are inferior to – or need to learn from – the Chinese, I wonder why. What attracts you to this website?

    Reply
  20. John Mulligan

    Dear Editor,

    Now you know that isn't true. Chinatown is a major tourist attraction that is expanding. As a matter of fact, several other informal "Chinatowns" have formed throughout the city. Since when did learning from someone imply inferiority anyway? Is that what's going on in inner city schools? Anyway, we got off on a tangent. What attracts me to this website? I guess debate.

    Reply

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