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Justice for Titasheen Mitchell Police Brutality!: Rally peaceful, mayor outlines plan

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Rally peaceful, mayor outlines plan

Rally peaceful, mayor outlines plan

A rally to stamp out racism in Stratford went off without a hitch Saturday as about 300 residents gathered in front of Town Hall to hear several community and church leaders speak.

A rally to stamp out racism in Stratford went off without a hitch Saturday as about 300 residents gathered in front of Town Hall to hear several community and church leaders speak.

Most of the speakers, which included the president of the Connecticut chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, referred to what sparked the rally in the first place, the controversial arrest of an African American teenager in Stratford in March as well as the arrest of Councilman Alvin O'Neal, D-2 who tried to intervene in the girl's arrest.

O'Neal, who's also African American, was notably absent from the rally. O'Neal is facing charges of breach of the peace and interfering with an officer in relation to the incident. The girl is facing charges of assaulting a police officer, third-degree assault and breach of the peace.

According police reports, the girl, Titasheen Mitchell was allegedly interfering with police during an arrest that was happening next to her mother's restaurant. As she was trying to get the crowd that had gathered to see the arrest away from the entrance to her mother's store, she got into an argument with Stratford Police Officer David Gugliotti, and things escalated from there.

When Alvin O'Neal who was at a tobacco shop nearby, walked up to Gugliotti to ask why she was being arrested, the girl, according to Gugliotti, tried to get away and hit Gugliotti in the mouth, prompting him to hit her in the face and "rough her up" to get her back under control, according to some witnesses.

In his March report, Gugliotti said he never hit her, as a later two-month long Internal Affairs investigation later backed up. Department officials came to the conclusion that since eyewitness statements varied widely as to Gugliotti's guilt or innocence, charges against him had to be dropped.

That didn't stop the rally however, planned by O'Neal and others to bring attention to what they said was a culture of brutality that has existed in the Stratford Police Department for far too long.

"We are gathered here today to address the injustice and unfair treatment," said Rev. John Gamble of Friendship Baptist Church. "We are here to say that we will not allow our black boys and black girls to become desensitized to this type of treatment, because it is not okay... Stratford is beautiful town, but we must stop the ignorance and hate and come together as brothers and sisters. Only then will this town become one town."

CTNAACP President Scot X. Esdaile said "We cannot tolerate little girls being hit in the face by a police officer, we cannot tolerate trumped up charges by police against an elected councilman, and we can no longer tolerate acts of racism and brutality by the Stratford Police."

Though Mayor James Miron said in the days before the rally that one was not necessary and that work was already beginning to address racial problems, he showed anyway to announce his plan.

"The rally can only be good if something good comes out of it," he said, adding that steps are already taken to address Stratford's racial divide.
In August, he said all town employees, including police, will be taking cultural required cultural diversity training, audio and video equipment will be placed in all Stratford police cars and that a Citizen's action committee is being formed "to be his eyes and ears."

Before the rally, there were reports in the press that racist group known as the White Wolves may attend, but people interviewed at the rally said that none showed. The only sign that they were there was a scattered pile of 8x10 pieces of paper with "Thank You Gugliotti," "Most of the South End sucks" and "Goodbye O'Neal" scrawled on the front.


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