By Dinorah Prevost
Representatives of the local Uhuru movement, including mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel and District 6 City Council candidate Eritha “Akile” Cainion, held a press conference in front of the Florida Holocaust Museum Friday to denounce what they are calling the continuing “genocide against African people” in Pinellas County by Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
The event follows the recent deaths of three black teenagers in Palm Harbor after they crashed a stolen car, and was just the latest in what a Tampa Bay Times investigation suggests may be an epidemic of car thefts in Pinellas County.
“What happened to Dejarae Thomas, Jimmie Goshey and Keontae Brown on the early morning of August 6th in Palm Harbor was murder on behalf of the notorious killer Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department (Office). And I don’t need white corporate media such as the Tampa Bay Times to validate that for me,” Cainion said. “The murders of black teenagers by the sheriff’s department (office) is not a conspiracy. It is their history and it is genocide.”
Goshey, Thomas, Keontae Brown and his younger brother Keondrae Brown were driving a stolen Ford Explorer erratically on Tampa Road last Sunday before running a red light and striking an oncoming car, launching the car into a billboard pole and parked cars at a dealership before it came to a stop. Goshey, Thomas and Keontae Brown were pronounced dead on the scene. Keondrae Brown, 14 survived in the crash, as did two other young men, Kamal Campbell and Deyon Kaigler, who were in another stolen car.
Cainion railed against the treatment of the incident by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and local media, saying both have attempted to “dehumanize and devalue the lives of three teenage black boys” in order to “cover up a crime that’s been committed.”
“I knew when I first heard the reports before they had even released the boys’ information because the famous (Sheriff Bob) Gualtieri slander machine was already in motion. The Sheriff’s department (office), along with the vicious, slanderous, offensive, oppressive white media, was releasing criminal records before we could even know the names of the victims. Bob Gualtieri held a press conference criminalizing those children (Thomas, Brown and Goshey)…,” Cainion said, referring to Gualtieri's inclusion of the boys' extensive criminal records at a press conference just hours after the deaths.
Although officials say the boys were not being pursued by law enforcement at the time of the crash, Cainion drew parallels between the circumstances of the deaths of the three boys and those of three black girls last year, Dominique Battle, Ashaunti Butler and Laniya Miller, who were also driving a stolen car that plunged into a pond.
Last March, the three girls drowned in a cemetery pond in St. Pete after driving the car they stole into it to evade the officers pursuing them. Cainion claimed that Sgt. Howard Skaggs of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office pushed the car with the girls into the pond and the other officers refused to help them despite hearing what they thought were their screams.
“I am sickened that one year later, Bob Gualtieri can murder three more black teenagers and then paint the picture for the world to see them as less than human, deserving death because of an alleged stolen car. This doesn’t justify illegally chasing them and leading them to their death,” Cainion said. “This type of murder, this type of slander would not be possible if these children had been white.”
The group also brought out Kunde Mwamvita, the mother of Battle, who offered her condolences to the families of the three boys.
“I stand here today in total unity and solidarity with the families of Dejarae Thomas, Jimmie Goshey and Keontae Brown and say I have nothing but tremendous sympathy (for them). This community stands with you. We are fighting for you,” Mwamvita said. “Not only do you have to deal with their deaths, but you have to deal with the slander of your child. I know because my daughters (Battle, Butler, Miller) were slandered. I was slandered.”
Nevel, meanwhile, drew parallels between the Holocaust during World War II that resulted in the deaths of millions of Jews and other people considered undesirable by the Nazis and the current “genocide” occurring in black communities in Pinellas County and across the country.
“I was born and raised in a Jewish family. I mention that because we are here today, standing in front of the Florida Holocaust Museum. We are holding this press conference here because we believe that if right here in St. Petersburg, Florida, if it is right to stand up against a systematic mass murder when it was committed against the Jews, then it is right to stand up when it is happening to the black community right here in our own city,” Nevel said. “How many more black children must die in cemetery ponds, in fiery car crashes or from the gunfire of St. Pete Police or (the Pinellas County) Sheriff’s Department (Office) before we call it what it is, a genocide?”
He also renewed his campaign’s call for reparations to the black community of St. Pete, saying that reparations don’t only mean money but the “the confession of a crime” by white people because of their past injustices towards Africans and Native Americans.
He also highlighted the billions of dollars in reparations that Germany has paid out to victims of the Holocaust since the early 1950s. As of 2012, Germany has paid $89 billion in reparations to those victims, according to the New York Times.
“If it was the right thing to do to pay reparations to the Jews, then why would anyone question if reparations for the black community is the right thing to do?” Nevel said.
Without reparations to the black community, my community will continue to suffer the worst forms of oppression from police murder to gentrification to poverty to homelessness. We the people have to support reparations to the black community because we can support reparations to the Jewish community for the Holocaust that was committed in Nazi Germany,” Cainion said.
The group said they have been in contact with the families of Goshey, Brown and Thomas and will be making statements with them soon.