Alleged Police Beating Stirs Anger in Berkeley
Invoking the name of Rodney G. King, a racially mixed group of about 50 community activists and enraged residents marched through downtown streets Wednesday evening to protest the alleged beating of a black man by four white police officers.
The protesters ended their march at a meeting of the city’s Police Review Commission where they called for a full investigation into the alleged beating early Sunday of Ronald Griffin, 25, of nearby Richmond.
The crowd, which had swollen to at least 100 people by the time it reached the commission meeting, also demanded the creation of a citizens’ police-review commission and called for a general strike May 19, the birthday of slain black nationalist Malcolm X.
Griffin told police that the officers stopped him and handcuffed him as he walked alone in southwest Berkeley. He said they then took him to a parking lot where they shouted racial epithets at him and kicked and beat him with batons as he lay handcuffed on the ground.
At the rally, Griffin’s 20-year-old sister, Teresa, told reporters she was happy that protesters had come out to support her brother.
“I just want justice for my brother,” she said. “How can they sit there and say they didn’t do it? My brother is not going to lie about who beat him.”
Police critics were quick to draw comparisons between the King beating and Griffin’s charges.
“It was a totally unprovoked, unjustified attack,” said protester Bruce Kala, 46, of Oakland. “This is something that happens in all cities, not just Los Angeles.”
Kala maintained that the officers “saw the decision in Simi Valley as a green light, a guarantee they could get away with it.”
Griffin was released Wednesday from Brookside Hospital in San Pablo where he underwent surgery for a broken jaw, hospital officials said. He also lost several teeth and required stitches to close wounds around his right eye, officials said.
Berkeley Police Lt. Tom Grant would not name the four officers accused of beating Griffin.
Griffin’s complaint is being taken “very seriously,” he said. The allegations are also being investigated by the FBI and the Alameda County district attorney’s office, Grant said.
San Francisco attorney Mike Rains, who represents the four officers, confirmed Wednesday that Officer Michael Cefalu was one of those implicated by Griffin. He also said that Cefalu had been placed on administrative leave, adding that such an action is not an admission of guilt.
Rains called Griffin’s allegations against Cefalu “an underserved and unfair attack” on the officer. “The fact that he was placed on administrative leave has nothing to do with the charges. He did nothing wrong.”
The other three officers, whom Rains refused to identify, also have denied any involvement with Griffin, the attorney said.