By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Community groups are planning a townhall following the controversial stop-and-frisk that left a 16-year-old, straight-A student with an injury to his private parts that could leave him sterile (see related story).
Community tensions are building despite unknown and unclear facts surrounding the January 7th pat-down of Mathematics Civics and Sciences Charter School athlete Darrin Manning, who was taken into custody after a brief struggle with police. Manning claims cops squeezed his crotch during a stop and frisk near Broad and Girard, causing him to have emergency testicle surgery the day after his arrest.
“Anytime young black men are afraid that police will injure them instead of protect them- we still have a major issue,” says Keon Gerow, pastor of Catalyst for Change Church. Gerow and other community leaders are organizing a townhall about the stop and frisk incident.
“If they had been a team of young white boys who went to St. Joe’s and were running, wearing scarves because of the cold, I wonder if they had been stopped,” he asks.
Gerow admits there are numerous questions about the facts of the stop, but says he has invited police to participate in the community discussion. He says he is not “anti-police,” and lauds his churches work with area officers. Instead, Gerow says more dialogue is needed to bridge a growing divide between law enforcement and young Black men.
“We want to have some questions answered and some accountability,” he says, “we want the entire public to be aware, not only of the Darrin Manning situation, but the entire issue of police brutality.”
In an effort to head off increasing speculation about the alleged incident, Philadelphia police Commissioner Charles Ramsey held a press conference on Friday, showing the press a videotape of the Manning’s stop by police that simply raised more questions.
“We’re doing what we can to try to find out what took place,” he told reporters, “clearly we need to talk to [Manning] to find out what happened.”
Manning’s attorney says he won’t let his client speak to police while charges are pending.
“Withdraw the charges and we will certainly cooperate,” says Lewis Small, “until then we’ll cooperate with internal affairs as much as we can. We will produce other witnesses for them to show what happened.”
Small says he called Police Internal Affairs several times this week and notes that an investigation is underway even though he has not filed an official complaint on behalf of his client.
Police say one officer visible in the videotape of the incident is on desk duty.
The townhall is set for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Catalyst for Change Church located at 3727 Baring Street.