2011 - A surveillance video was released showing Houston police officers relentlessly beating, kicking and stomping on a teen burglary suspect. The footage was released by Quanell X, a Houston activist with the New Black Panther party.
The video shows Chad Holley, who was 15 years old at the time, running along a metal fence away from police officers when a police car speeds towards him and cuts him off. The car slams into Holley. Holley’s body goes flying across the car onto the ground. His body rolls and he ends up on his stomach. He clamps his hands over his head. Policemen run up to him and begin attacking him.
The boy remains limp on the grass while police officers kick him from all sides. Only his feet move, apparently in reaction to the officers’ kicks. One police officer then begins stomping on Holley’s feet, and some officers kneel down on the ground beside him and start punching him. After being beaten for about two minutes by several police officers, Holley is handcuffed, and then picked up and thrown against the back of the police car.
The footage was captured on March 24, 2010 by a camera at Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage. The storage facility sent its surveillance video to the Houston Police Department and the District Attorney within a week of the incident.
Holley was found guilty in October 2010 of stealing cash, jewelry and a keyboard from a Houston townhouse. The surveillance video was not shown at his trial. He was put on probation for two years. His attorney, however, insisted that Holley had nothing to do with the burglary.
After the video was given to the police department last year, eight police officers were suspended without pay. Following separate investigations by the department’s Internal Affairs Division and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, four officers – Andrew Blomberg, Phil Bryan, Raad Hassan and Drew Ryser – were indicted on misdemeanor official suppression charges and fired from the police department. Hassan and Bryan were also charged with violation of the civil rights of a prisoner.
Three other officers were fired, but not charged, and another five were suspended for two days.
The footage was released several months after local news organizations petitioned a federal judge to release the tape, arguing that preventing the press from airing the video is a violation of the First Amendment. Holley’s lawyer, Benjamin Hall, tried to stop the video from being released to the public. Judge Ewing Welein Jr. ruled that the video should not be released because it will prevent the police officers from having a fair trial, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Since the incident, Holley, his family and Quanell X say they have been working to raise awareness about brutality by police officers.
“One of the officers sued me for making inflammatory comments. I don’t remember what I said. In that lawsuit, I subpoenaed the videotape. Once I legally obtained the videotape, I released it,” said Quanell X.
On his Facebook fan page, Quanell posted, “Do you think it is appropriate that Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker, has called for the prosecution of Quanell X for releasing the Chad Holley videotape beating by the Houston Police Department?”
“I do believe it’s a travesty of justice that city officials and the District Attorney’s Office would work to keep the public in the dark based on what was on that videotape,” Quanell X said.
Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston and a married lesbian, has a teenage daughter who went to the DMV to take her driver’s test last week. But because the teen’s ID documents showed that she has two moms instead of a mom and a dad, they wouldn’t let her take the test.
The Texas Department of Safety later chimed in to say the incident had nothing to do with same-sex marriage, but the same agency did deny a lesbian her driver’s license earlier this year because they wouldn’t recognize her marriage to another woman.
DPS Press Secretary Tom Vinger took issue with Parker’s recollection of events, writing in a statement, “All individuals applying for their first Texas driver license must provide a variety of documents to prove their identity, Social Security Number, U.S. citizenship or lawful presence status, and Texas residency. In this case, the adult applicant did not initially present sufficient documentation to prove residency. Once she provided the required documentation, she was able to complete the transaction. There is no indication that any delay in the process was related to same-sex marriage.”
For the record, they did give her a test and license on her third attempt, but not before all this mess. Sigh. Texas, Texas.
Houston is working on making history for its LGBT citizens, with an ordinance in the works that will give nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people. But it’s not quite there yet.
First, opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance attempted to collect signatures to place it on the November ballot for referendum. They came far under the required signature count and they withdrew their motion for a temporary restraining order on the law.
However, Mayor Annise Parker has suspended the implementation of the ordinance until these issues are “worked out,” and a hearing for the case has been set for January.
State District Judge Robert Schaffer scheduled a hearing in the case for Jan. 19, 2015. A separate court, Houston’s 14th Court of Appeals, on Friday too dealt a blow to opponents by denying a request to force the city secretary to validate signatures on the petition, which would trigger the referendum they sought, according to the paper.
Houston City Attorney David Feldman said Aug. 4 that out of the tens of thousands of signatures opponents submitted for their petition, only about 15,200 were found to be valid — short of the 17,269 signatures required to bring the matter before voters in November.
Since opponents first threatened court action against the ordinance, Parker has maintained the city would prevail in court.
Oof! So basically, there’s a lot going on in Houston, but lots and lots of people are working to make sure that LGBT nondiscrimination protections become reality. Rock on.