Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Black Family Sues Cops, Neighbors For Discrimination

A black couple is suing the town of Willowbrook, Illinois (where they've been living since 2002) for racial discrimination. According to the report in the Chicago Tribune, Maxine (pictured, left) and Pinkney James II and their adult son, Pinkney James III (pictured, right), filed the federal lawsuit against Willowbrook police and several neighbors of the predominately white suburb claiming they were the victims of vandalism, physical attacks, attempted break-ins, hate mail and threatening calls. The Jameses reported the incidents to police, but they claim cops turned a blind eye, sided with neighbors who tried to force them out. The family is accusing officers of excessive force, false arrest, deprivation of property rights and discrimination.
The Jameses said problems began soon after they moved to Willowbrook, a town of about 8,500 where 4.7 percent residents are black, according to census data. Their ranch-style home in an affluent subdivision had a listed sale price of nearly $400,000 when the family bought it and sits on a three-quarters-acre lot that is set back from the bustling major streets nearby. In the first incident cited in the lawsuit, the Jameses said they found animal blood smeared across their driveway and doorway in March 2003. In the months that followed, someone shot a pellet gun into the house, and their Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz were vandalized, the suit states. As the problems escalated, the James family said, they reached out to Willowbrook police, but officers often sided with the people against whom they had complained. After one altercation in 2006, according to the suit, a police officer told them, "The people want the neighborhood to stay nice and they love their homes and they don't want you people ruining that." They allege another officer called the Jameses "gangbangers who hadn't been caught yet." The same officer also said the "CC" on Maxine James' Coco Chanel sunglasses were initials for a Chicago street gang, according to the complaint. "It's very hurtful," said the couple's adult son, Pinkney James III. "You wouldn't assume in this day and age people would think like this. We shouldn't have to live under some stereotype that all black people are gangbangers or drug dealers. Everyone should be judged as an individual." The Jameses said they also have received anonymous hate mail, including one handwritten letter in March 2009 stating: "You better sale your house (racial slur) or I will sale it for you. This is my neighbor hood and county. Go back to the ghetto. I mean business." The Tribune also reviewed anonymous racist remarks about the family posted on an Internet site.

source: Chicago Tribune
Having to live in this tense environment for these years ought to be stressful. It's a situation we can't even imagine. The neighbors named in the lawsuit say the Jameses allegations were "all in their head" and the police officers' (perhaps doctored) records accuse Maxine James and her (perhaps trans) son of being the instigators. The family is seeking $3.5 million in damages.
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