NolaAnarcha

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Local History: Algiers (Fischer Projects) Massacre and Resistance, 1980-81

The six demonstrators who occupied Mayor Ernest Morial's office for three days in June, 1981, march with fists raised as they leave New Orleans City Hall. From left are: Kalamu Ya Salaam, Macio Duncan, Cynthia Riley, Daniel Johnikin and Martin Lefstein. The sixth protester is out of view inside the doorway. The signs around their necks bear the names of the people killed in the Algiers 7 shootings.

After a white NOPD officer, Gregory Neupert, was killed  near the Fischer Housing Projects in November 1980, mobs of police officers went on a rampage in the black section of the Algiers neighborhood on the West Bank. Within days of the shooting, people were calling in about being harassed by the police, being thrown up against the wall, about young men being marched through the projects with their hands up like prisoners of war in massive roundups. Residents had stories of being handcuffed and beaten by police with a hardback city directory, of being suffocated by having plastic bags put over their heads, and of 2 young men who were taken out to the swamp and marched onto a wooden bridge off a levee, who had a shotgun put to their heads in a mock execution to try to get information about who killed Neupert. The weeks-long vicious NOPD assault culminated in the murders of four innocent people, and injuries to as many as fifty. 

The first person killed by the NOPD in its revenge attacks on the community was Raymond Ferdinand, a 38-year-old Fischer resident. Days later, James Billy, Reginald Miles, and Miles' girlfriend Sherry Singleton were all killed simultaneously in police raids on 2 separate residences, raids based on accusations made under duress from the 2 men mock-executed on the bridge. The police murdered Sherry Singleton while she was laying in the bathtub, naked. The police said the 3 murder victims had guns, and every cop there stuck to that story. Local civil rights attorney Mary Howell was able to go in and see the bloody clothing all over the place and the bullets lodged in the walls where Singleton and Miles were killed, as the police knew not securing the crime scene would make any case against them more difficult in court. Sherry Singleton also had a 4-year old son with her in the apartment who watched as the police murdered his Mom. 
James Billy, Reginald Miles and Sherry Singleton were all brutally murdered at the hands of NOPD officers.
Finally, one cop, Oris Buckner, the lone black NOPD officer who was present at one of the fatal raids, told the FBI that 'these people were murdered, that they didn't have guns.' Of course, people from the neighborhood knew what the truth was the whole time, and they organized to demand repercussions against the police for their reign of terror. They held protests, leafleted at Labor Day picnics, and formed the African American Police Brutality Committee. 

The day after the 3 murders, as activists from projects all over the city warned city officials of the possibility of a riot if something was not done to stop the killer cops, 250 Fischer residents courageously took to the streets to protest the police abuse and murder. The day of Sherry Singleton's funeral, over 100 people protested at police Headquarters and went inside, demanding to see the police chief. Black leaders threatened an economic boycott of the city if no action was taken. More protests continued, especially after no one was found worthy of indictment on murder charges by a state Grand Jury, with moderate middle class black leaders always trying to hem in the more militant organizers, as the anger in the city remained at a boiling point. Michael Williams of Community Action Now even padlocked the doors of PANO, the Patrolman's Association of New Orleans, while 200 cops were inside having a meeting! He was beaten up and arrested for the creative and courageous action. Over six months after the murders, with no punishments yet handed down from the city or the courts to the killer cops, in June of 1981 protesters occupied the Mayor's office for 3 days in protest.

Despite Oris Buckner's testimony, no officer was ever charged in the any of the 4 murders. However, Mary Howell and others brought a federal civil rights violation case against NOPD cops on behalf of 16 people. The first indictment was thrown out by the judge, but public pressure and grassroots protests forced the case to move forward. Sadly, only three of the 7 officers indicted were convicted. They were imprisoned for 5 years each and are now free. No cops have ever been charged with murder for the 4 innocent Algiers residents they killed in their twisted rampage of revenge and collective punishment. 

These events in Algiers led to the resignation of the Police Chief, and the creation of an office for investigating complaints against police and other city workers called the Office of Municipal Investigations. As we now know, looking at the more recent Glover, Danziger Bridge, Adolph Grimes III, Kim Groves, and Adolph Archie cases, among many others, those reforms did little to change the NOPD. Anarchists would argue it is impossible to reform the NOPD to be anything other than what it is designed to be: a force for control, compliance, punishment, and discipline of populations and individuals who find this society to be an unfair, unjust, or unsurvivable place, and dare to defy following the unsatisfying path set up for them in life, and especially to crush those who dare to organize and defy this social system collectively[1].

Mary Howell, when reflecting on this case after 30 years, says the same problems keep surfacing because they've never been adequately addressed. 
"I look at this like domestic violence, there are these repeated cycles of abuse," said Howell, who blames slippages in accountability and supervision. "There will be periods of lull, where everyone thinks things are all right now, but really it is just pushed beneath the surface. Then there is a terrible event and everyone thinks: 'Oh, how could this happen?'" 

This testimony, from someone with 30 years of experience dealing with the police, should reveal that reformist attempts at change will continue to fail, that they will keep us on a hamster wheel running as fast as we can to win reforms, but never really getting anywhere. The "slippages" Howell blames for recurring problems are just the system coming back into alignment with what it was set up, and is required, to do, in order to maintain our unequal, unjust, and authoritarian society. Like any good feminist would advise a repeated victim of domestic violence, the best thing to do is to leave the abusive partner behind! To end the cycle of abuse, we have to kick the NOPD out of our communities so they can't harm us anymore. Any demand or goal short of this is just setting us up to get beaten, abused, and eventually murdered, again and again, as the victims of police murder since these turbulent days in Algiers remind us.

21 comments:

  1. I heard about this. Someone told me the cops couldn't go into the projects for 3 weeks after they killed those 3 people. That's a testament to the strength of a community who is angry.

    ReplyDelete
  2. YEA IT WAS 3 1/2 WEEKS 2 VE EXACT!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Retired NOPD Officer
    IT'S NOT THAT WE WERE AFRAID TO GO IN, BUT WERE ORDERED TO STAY OUT. I FELT, AND STILL DO FEEL THIS WAS POLITICAL. I WAS THERE. WHERE WERE YOU.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fuck yall dick in the booty cracker bitches!! I hate yall mutherfuckers!!! FUCK THE POLICE!!!!!!!!

      Delete
    2. Coming to grips with the loss of my cousin who was murdered in his house that day (along with his girlfriend), for a crime the police knew he didn't commit!

      Does it matter if I were there?

      Delete
    3. Coming to grips with the loss of my cousin who was murdered in his house that day (along with his girlfriend), for a crime the police knew he didn't commit!

      Does it matter if I were there?

      Delete
  4. Everything is political. wake up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Was ronald serpas part of that group

      Delete
  5. The first victim mentioned, Raymond Ferdinand, was my great uncle!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I grew up in the projects them the 4th district could not come in the project for 6 years we had the urban squad patroling the projects and they was even worse just like those white cops but we stored order those black police got they ass whipped when trying to be with that fake friendly shit.

    ReplyDelete
  7. yes, Ronald Serpas was among them, and he is now our chief. to the retired officer: there's nothing political about 7 police officers KILLING innocent people without facts. its pure hatred. to defend such a thing shows how hateful you are also. just shows how far we've really come...just a bunch of pigs dressed in blue. like the saying goes, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a PIG"

    ReplyDelete
  8. Made it look like a black person did it.Sorry innocent people died for the crime by his own .I believe it as One of his own that killed him drop the body by the projects.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey anonymous NOPD retired cop, you were there? I was serving my country on Submarines, a patriot. Sworn to protect the citizens of my country just like you were. Were you there that day on the bridge with a shotgun?? I think you just confessed to murder, flatfoot!

    ReplyDelete
  10. it wasn't just the 4 who were killed, it was a rampage that tortured Brownlee and Davis, hung them over a bridge in the swamps, put pastilc bags over their heads until they would pass out with no air and beat them but left no bruises. Sherrie Singleton's little son, hid behind a bathroom door and watched police "knock her eyes out" and blow her stomach apart with a shot gun at close range. It wasn't just 7 cops, it was a mercenary colonial army in Blue rounding up and marching every young black man in the projects with their hands on their heads, threatening and abusing them.
    The conduct was condoned, encouraged and protected by the powers in New Orleans. It was a police department that was infested by racism, and corrupt to the core. This was a department that had Klan signs posted in the 6th district office. Any cop that objected put his life at risk. The community did rise up, the police chief left town, the cops manage to get their trial transferred to Dallas tx but an all white jury convicted their asses anyway. Sadly, most of the more vicious racists were never touched.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How do you know what Sherrie Singleton's son saw? I only ask because he is my brother (cousin), my mother raised him after her sister died. I can only assume you must know my mother, or my family to know what my brother witnessed...

      Delete
  11. What was the black on black murder rate back then? What was the overall crime rate back then? I guarantee you it was nothing compared to what it is now. I lived in Algiers when this happened (8 blocks from Fischer). Our neighborhood was quiet then. We moved out of the city in 1983 because the crime took a sharp turn upwards. Back then the police knew how to keep people in line. It is a sad fact, but there is a class of people in our society who need to be controlled by fear, force, and sometimes violence. We have third world citizens, with third world mentalities living in our cities.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I remember when that happen me my sister in law and brother in in law had just left sherry house we going home to get ready to go out James aka Comanche and reginald aka brother love was Dj at club 27 and brother love was in the bed sleep when we left and sherry was getting ready to take a bath i guess if we would have still been there we be dead to

    ReplyDelete
  13. RIP Aunt sherry even though i never got to meet u.... I LOVE U

    ReplyDelete
  14. The murderer of Officer Neupert resided in that hovel of a project. You savages were covering for that worthless piece of shit!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. R.I.PARADISE AUNT SHERRY MISS THE BQ IN YOUR FRONT LOAD & MY mom always bring me by your house miss does days LOVE YOU berry much save a spot for me in till I see you again

    ReplyDelete