Community leaders meet with district attorney over verdict

1 group didn't have appointment, left in handcuffs

HOUSTON - Community leaders met with the Harris County district attorney Friday morning to discuss the not guilty verdict in the case of a former police officer who was accused of beating a teenage burglary suspect. A second group that wanted to meet with the district attorney without an appointment ended up leaving the courthouse in handcuffs.

Andrew Blomberg was found not guilty of misdemeanor official oppression on Wednesday. Blomberg was fired along with three other officers after they were caught on videotape kicking and stomping 15-year-old burglary suspect Chad Holley in March 2010.

Quanell X, leader of the New Black Panther Party and several local ministers met with District Attorney Pat Lykos beginning at 9 a.m.

The meeting was described as tense but respectful. Quanell X said that the two sides disagreed about everything.

Quanell X said the biggest issue was about an all-white jury hearing cases. He said he never wants that to happen again.

"It was a very painful meeting," he said. "She respected us, we respected her, but she held her ground and we held ours."

"We had an open and candid dialogue," Lykos wrote in a statement. "The ministers shared their concerns and I listened. I expressed my thoughts as well. Although we disagreed on much, we agreed to keep the door open for additional discussions."

Members of the National Black United Front also arrived at Lykos' office, demanding to meet with her. They said they would not leave until she spoke with them, and they were prepared to be arrested.

"A group obstructed the lobby of the District Attorney's Office," Lykos wrote in a statement. "Profane language was directed against the employees of this office. They were disruptive and impeded our work.

Employees asked the group to leave, but they refused.

"We ain't going nowhere," said Krystal Muhammad. "You can arrest me. Do not touch me. Do not touch me."

Members of the group got down on the ground in the doorway.

After three warnings, police arrested three people.

Muhammad, Kofi Taharka and Maria Elena Castellanos, were charged with criminal trespass.

"Should anyone wish to meet with me, there is an appropriate manner in which to schedule it. I expect people to treat the dedicated professionals in my office with respect," Lykos wrote in a statement. "I will not permit any group to occupy our office. I will not allow the administration of justice to be held hostage. I will not capitulate to threats."

Dozens of Houstonians voiced their outrage at a march and protest Thursday afternoon at the Harris County Criminal Courthouse at 1201 Franklin Street. Protesters chanted, held signs and demanded an independent civilian review board with subpoena power.

The leader of the National Black United Front, Kofi Taharka, said he was prepared to be arrested for his act of civil disobedience. 

Taharka said, "I'm ready to go to jail. Civil disobedience as protest for the lack of justice that has gone on in Harris County since its inception."

The sit-in outside the courthouse ended more than an hour later when the district attorney's office confirmed that Lykos would meet with community leaders. 

Canedia Hamilton said that if her son got into trouble, she hopes he would not be treated like Holley was.

"I think what happened was the police going too far," she said. "There should be protections for people, guilty or not. You're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. When you surrender, you shouldn't be beat up. When you're spread eagle on the ground, there's no reason to continuously beat a child."

Protesters said they have lost confidence in the justice system. They said there was never a chance of conviction because all of the jurors were white. They chanted "No more all-white juries" as they marched to the courthouse.

"We both wanted to get a fair jury," said defense attorney Dick DeGuerin. "I would have loved to have had minorities that could be fair, just to deflect this kind of criticism."

Houston's mayor called for calm at a protest.

"I trust that they will voice their disappointment in a civil and sensible manner and that we will go on from this," Houston Mayor Annise Parker said.

Parker and Police Chief Charles McClelland both said they disagreed with the verdict. McClelland said he has zero tolerance for officers using excessive force when handling a suspect.

Quanell X said the case never had a chance.

"We live in Houston, Harris County, with a 67.8 percent minority. You mean to tell me with that type of racial minority to it, you can't find one qualified minority to sit on the jury?" he said. "We all should be concerned because this is bigger than just Chad Holley. This is about putting the system on trial and holding it accountable."

Chad Holley now attends Cypress-Falls High School in northwest Harris County. Some of his classmates said they were not surprised, but they were upset.

"It does bother me, but it ain't nothing new," senior Earl Baty said.

"He wasn't fighting back," student Scott Ansley said. "They should not have kicked him in any way."

A police officer's son said officers sometimes go too far.

"I think cops take advantage of the situation if they don't see a camera," senior Christian Minner said.

A community meeting is being arranged for next week.

Many of the protesters said they planned to register to vote so they could voice their displeasure at the polls.

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