Aug 7, 2006
On June 20, an autopsy report on 45-year-old Clifton “Pete” Lee, Jr., confirmed eyewitness accounts. He had suffocated to death from the weight of several sheriff’s deputies piled atop him.
The incident, in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, began with cops making a traffic stop of two young men in a car. The stop was not far from the home of relatives, who came out to see what was going on.
Following an all too familiar script, the officers panicked and called for backup. News reports were that “multiple officers” in at least 8 squad cars massed at the scene. Bruce Lee and Clifton Lee, Jr., uncles of one of the arrested young men, were attacked, assaulted and pepper-sprayed.
While Bruce Lee was being beaten unconscious and taken to jail, several other cops were piling on top of Clifton Lee to the point he was suffocated to death.
Jimmy Lee, the father of one of the young men, stated “this shouldn’t be happening. This is something from 60, 70 years ago.”
And he is perfectly correct. Whatever restraints were once imposed on cop behavior by vigilant and mobilized communities have long been corroding away.
The police role of terrorizing and silencing poor and working-class communities is more and more open. As cops carry out this role, they receive protection from their superiors and the courts.
If there is to be any measure of justice for the killing of Clifton Lee, Jr., it will, as always, depend on the determination of the community to be heard.