From the Justice for Marcus Smith Coalition
The Greensboro Pulpit Forum and
The Beloved Community Center
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10, 2019
Click HERE to watch the press conference.
Today, 4/10/19, nationally prominent civil rights attorney Flint Taylor, of the People’s Law Office of Chicago, and Greensboro Attorney Graham Holt filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Greensboro, eight individual police officers, Guilford County, and two of its paramedics. The case was filed in Federal District Court in Greensboro. The lawsuit stems from the death of Marcus Smith on September 8, 2018 after he was hogtied by police officers. The NC Medical Examiner ruled the manner of death to be homicide. The plaintiffs are the parents of Marcus Smith, Mary and George Smith.
Both attorneys spoke at a press conference held at Bethel AME Church in Greensboro at noon Wednesday April 10. The complaint alleges: “The defendant Greensboro Police Officers caused Marcus’ death by brutally restraining him prone on the ground and hogtying him like an animal until he stopped breathing, and the Defendant Guilford County EMS Paramedics, who were called to the scene, failed to intervene to protect Marcus from the use of unreasonable force and failed to promptly attend to his serious medical needs.”
Attorney Taylor noted: “It is significant that we have alleged that the City of Greensboro has condoned, permitted, and acquiesced in a pattern of excessive and unreasonable use of force by its police department. Marcus’ death is a recent example of the failure of leadership and lack of accountability. We hope this lawsuit will redress this injustice and give Greensboro a chance to be a model for fundamental change.”
Attorney Holt added: “For years now I have had clients who, with the help of a wide-range of community members and leaders, have urged and pleaded with City Council, Chief Scott, and the County Manager to intervene and halt this pattern of police abuse and misconduct. But they have turned a blind eye and deaf ear.
Mary Smith, mother of the deceased, spoke as well, stating, “We have been demanding justice for our son since we found out what truly happened to him. We buried him believing a lie that the Greensboro Police told us – that he was “combative”, “suicidal” and that he had “collapsed”. It wasn’t until members of our family travelled up here to watch the body cam footage that we found out what truly happened to him. He was hogtied by the police, and no one had the sense or training to intervene. Our Son died because of their actions, and our family’s grief has only grown as we learned that the police, the chief, and the City of Greensboro have all worked together to try and cover up this incident that should have never happened in the first place. Our son was a beloved member of our family, and he was loved by many in Greensboro. The City of Greensboro took him away from us, and we don’t know how many more families have lost their sons and daughters to this kind of police violence. We’ve learned that Greensboro has a long history of racist police violence. But we hope that this lawsuit can shed light onto the culture of violence that persists in the Greensboro Police Department and that hopefully it will cause a change, so this doesn’t happen to anyone again. Marcus didn’t need to die, but we pray he didn’t die in vain. Let’s demand justice and accountability in Greensboro.”
On March 28, the Pulpit Forum, an association of mainly African American Ministers in Greensboro, together with the local and state NAACP and the Beloved Community Center, delivered a letter to Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, all City Council Members and City Manager David Parrish with six specific demands. The letter alleges a long pattern and practice of police abuse of power. Dr. Daran Mitchell President of the Pulpit Forum further noted that, “Most disturbing in this pattern and practice has been the active role played by our elected city Council of objectively participating in covering-up the misconduct and ignoring the credible pleas from a broad range of community groups, especially those most negatively impacted”
The three groups called on the City Council to conduct an independent investigation of this pattern and practice of which the homicide of Marcus Smith is the most recent example.
Marcus Hyde, an organizer with the Homeless Union of Greensboro, who have been working with the family to seek justice in this case stated, “The Marcus Smith case touches home for many in the homeless community, as Marcus was well known and loved in the community. But we know that until we get to the bottom of how this happened, that it’s likely to happen again. Residents of Greensboro are not safe if officers feel they can target poor, homeless and black people, violate their own policy, endanger their lives, and then expect the Chief of Police and the entire city government to have their backs when someone dies as a result. We’re thankful for the attorney’s joining this case, and we know this is just the beginning of a process that has to occur to change the way the residents of Greensboro, the City Government and it’s police relate to one another.”
Rev. Nelson Johnson Co-director of the Beloved Community Center and a survivor of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre in which five people were killed and ten other wounded and a low income African American Community terrorized by KKK, Nazis and objectively aided by the Greensboro police (the Klan, Nazis and Greensboro were found jointly liable for wrongful death) said, “the whole community is coming together around the issue of abuse of police power. As difficult as it is, the real enduring solution is for the community and elected City official to work together. We the people of Greensboro have the duty, responsibility and authority to direct our Mayor and City Council to conduct a community based investigation so that this city can solve this long standing problem and begin to live into a new era of real justice, peace, equity.”
For more information, Contact Att. Graham Holt or Att. Flint Taylor at 773-616-3736.