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Activists hold protest for Fairmount student

Uhurus contend the handcuffing of a 5-year-old girl is a sign of racial hostility.

Published April 30, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - Calling the handcuffing of a 5-year-old black Fairmount Park Elementary student racist, Uhuru activists staged a brief protest outside the school Friday.

"We believe that this act is a symptom of a system with longstanding hostility toward African children," said Uhuru leader Chimurenga Waller, reading from a prepared statement. "Furthermore this hostility has its roots in the desegregation of schools and the subsequent failure to educate African children in Pinellas County."

About 20 people stood outside the school for an hour, waving signs and shouting for justice for the girl, whose March 14 arrest has gained international exposure.

"St. Pete has the beautiful outside (image) but what's really going on underneath?" said Janet Harris, 34, who is white and joined the protest. "We need to stop the police attacks on our citizens."

Other groups, including the NAACP, have questioned the role race might have played but Uhuru took an unwavering approach and said it was researching similar incidents.

The police officer who oversaw the handcuffing is black, but Waller said that does not matter. "It's a system. It's not the individuals," he said.

Francine DeFranco, who dropped off her 7-year-old daughter at the school while the protest was under way, said she found it "disgusting" the incident was "made into a racial issue." If there is any blame, she said, it lies with the girl's mother for not teaching her better manners.

Uhurus also used the opportunity to further protest against the April 12 shooting of 19-year-old Jarrell Walker by a Pinellas sheriff's deputy during a drug raid.

[Last modified April 30, 2005, 00:50:14]

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