by Charing Ball
Coney made her comments after a town hall meeting last Friday at Catalyst for Change Ministries Church, located in West Philadelphia. Despite the frigid temperatures and snowy conditions, nearly 100 community activists and concerned citizens attended to support Manning and his family.
They also sought solutions to what many who attended see as discrimination against people of color through the city’s controversial Stop and Frisk program.
Manning’s allegations against Philly police
As reported last week on theGrio, the Philadelphia Police Department has launched its own investigation into the incident, which resulted in Darrin Manning, a straight-A student and basketball player, undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured testicle, his family states.
According to published reports, Manning as well as nearly a dozen other students, were stopped, frisked and detained by three white officers on their way to a high school game. The officers called for backup, which brought additional officers to the scene.
During a pat down administered by a female officer, Manning alleges that he was sexually assaulted by her. He says she grabbed his buttocks, and squeezed his testicle so hard, he heard it pop.
The Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School student says that since the incident, he has trouble walking and experiences pain. His mother said the damage to his testicle is likely permanent. Manning may be left infertile, according to his doctors.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the department has yet to receive a formal complaint from Manning, or his family.
Alleged frisking victim faces charges
However, Coney said a formal complaint is not the family’s most pressing concern, because Manning is also facing charges for resisting arrest and aggravated assault for allegedly running from officers, and fighting with one of the officers during the incident.
“Manning’s attorney, Lewis Small, has refused to allow his client to discuss the incident with police in light of pending criminal charges,” according to CBS Philly. “Ramsey says the family’s refusal to meet with police is slowing an internal affairs investigation.”
Coney told the town hall attendants that her son had a preliminary court hearing last Thursday regarding charges stemming from the incident. Her son will appear in court in March to face the charges.
“Right now, I’m just worried about getting this felony dropped because, right now, this is just messing with his education,” she said at the community gathering. “We have come this far and they just want to strip it away from him. I can’t think of anything else, but his education, right now.”
Community voices speak against stop-and-frisk
Both Manning and Coney sat front row during the community show of support as over a dozen speakers gave passionate testimonies about their brushes with Philadelphia police. Alex Peay, founder and president of Rising Sons, a non-profit aimed at empowering young black men, recounted being stopped and frisked by police at a train station as he returned home from the funeral of a relative.
Chris Torrance, a local youth activist with Fresh Philadelphia, revealed being victimized by Stop and Frisk five times, including an incident at a Jay Z-sponsored Made in America concert. He was tossed in the back of a cruiser and detained for hours, Torrance alleged.
“I feel as though it is to the point that they feel they can do whatever they want to us, because we always point the finger, but we don’t actually stand up and fight against this,” said Torrance.
Mark Harrell, executive director for Men United For A Better Philadelphia, regularly speaks to police officers-in-training at the city’s police academy. He said he can usually count the number of black and Latino officers in graduating classes on one hand. He believes the lack of officers of color on the force is a poor reflection of the city’s demographics, which is largely minority. This has a tremendous effect on how citizens are treated.
“The way our police department looks, it is changing. And it is not us. I’m not trying to be divisive, but we need to have more of our men and women represented on the police department,” Harrell said.
Did fear of police drive incident?
At the event, Manning’s basketball coach Dan Jackson said he was alarmed when he heard that Manning and the other youths ran from the police; however, after questioning them, he understood. “They all told me the same story: ‘We are scared of cops. And we don’t know what they might try to plant on you, what they might try to say to you. They were all white, and we were all black.’”
According to a 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, minorities have been disproportionately targeted by Philadelphia Stop and Frisk programs, with 76 percent of the pedestrians stopped in the first half of 2012 being minorities.
The ACLU report also states that 43-47 percent of pedestrian stops during the period were made without reasonable suspicion.
Preventing police-related controversies
Joe Chaffin, an investigator for the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, a civilian oversight agency, advised meeting attendees not to label Stop and Frisk as racist, calling it instead a universally harmful culture of harassment. “This is a national issue and not just a local issue. I’ll give an example from a meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, where they are concerned about Stop and Frisk. We’re looking at it because we are living in Philly and see it as a black [and] white issue and it is not,” he said.
Jackson added that police sensitivity training could minimize Stop and Frisk confrontations. He also advised black parents to more effectively educate children on what to do when approached by police.
Chaffin also urged Coney and Manning to file a complaint in the belief that such action will help stop the practice.
Community united through hope for change
At the close of the meeting, attendees joined hands in prayer around Manning and his family.
Christoper Norris, founder of news site Techbook Online and organizer of the townhall, pledged his continuing support to the youth.
For now, Coney is working on returning her family to a sense of normalcy. She has not been able to sleep comfortably since the incident.
“It’s really been hard as a single parent trying to do it, but what else can I do?” she told theGrio. “I can’t give up. I have to keep fighting. I’m going to keep fighting. He is going to get his education. He is going to be successful. I believe everything is going to be okay. He is going to be able to have children. We just have to go through this battle. He is going to go on with his life. We will prosper.”