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February 10, 2012
Vol. 53 No. 14

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Film tackles police brutality

On Feb. 6, filmmakers April Martin and Paul Hill premiered their documentary "Crusade for Justice" in Isaacs Auditorium in Seibert Hall.
The feature-length documentary explored police brutality, judicial misconduct and the power of grassroots activism in Cincinnati, Ohio. The screening was sponsored by Susquehanna's Center for Diversity and Social Justice (CDSJ), which provides support to minority students while fostering diversity across campus.
It concentrated on the deaths of Roger Owensby, Jr. and Timothy Thomas at the hands of the Cincinnati Police Department and their families struggle for justice. The documentary also made a point to illustrate the tension that already existed between the people of Cincinnati and the police department before the events of 2001. The story was told through first-person accounts and footage of the surviving families' battle for justice.
As told in the film, between February 1995 and April 2001, 15 black males under the age of 40 were killed by police or died in custody in Cincinnati. Of the 15, three did not possess or use any weapons against police during the confrontations. No police were ever found guilty through any civil or criminal trials following these incidents.
It was the death of Roger Owensby, Jr., 29, and Timothy Thomas, 19, that lit the fuse of the people's anger. Owensby died on Nov. 7, 2000 while struggling with police, and Thomas was killed after running from police into a dark alley on April 7, 2001.
The resulting riots and boycotts were all captured and further illustrated in the documentary. The video painted a vivid, unsettling picture of Cincinnati's troubled relationship between its law enforcement and ethnic communities.
Martin, an activist and visual artist, and Hill, an accomplished editor and filmmaker, worked together for more than five years making the film. Martin was inspired to create the film by the Cincinnati riots and boycotts of 2001 and the media coverage that surrounded it.
"I didn't like how the media was covering the problem by only referring to the economic effects, rather than the real issue that was between the people and the police," Martin stated.
Hill explained that it was his shock and horror at the event that motivated him to help with the film. The two are still in the polishing stages of editing but have accepted offers from several colleges to present their film on the campuses. The hope is to raise awareness of the issues in social justice and the realization that it can happen to anyone.
Martin said, "This focuses on a specific example of police brutality but with recent events, like Occupy Wall Street, people are starting to understand that it doesn't matter who you are--it can happen to you too."


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