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Mothers take on the police.


One August evening in 1990, Harriet Walden's teenage sons, Tunde and Omari, were driving home with friends when they were pulled over by a Seattle police officer who wanted to search their car for drugs and guns.

"The conversation escalated until the police officer called an eleven-car backup and four boys were arrested," Harriet Walden recalls. Eventually, all the charges against the boys were dropped. But when Walden complained that her sons had been roughed up, the police department did nothing.

Walden says the experience shocked her sons. "I saw my boys going into depression. I knew I needed to do something so that they wouldn't get jaded." So she and her neighbors founded Mothers Against Police Harassment. Three years later, Mothers is a sixty-member multiracial organization with its own office.

One of Mothers' chief goals is to establish a board of civilians to review charges of police harassment.

Currently, the Internal Investigations Section (IIS) of the Seattle Police Department handles complaints against individual officers. But Jolinda Stevens, a member of Mothers, says the IIS is not helpful to citizens. "They are not professional in the way they take complaints," she says. "They will laugh at you and tell you they don't believe you."

Mothers has set up its own twenty-four-hour hotline to take citizen complaints about police misconduct. When someone calls in, the group tries to send an advocate to that person's home within forty-eight hours.

The hotline receives about forty calls each month, but many callers are afraid to file formal complaints. Mothers ushers about two victims per month through the complaint process. Although the group has yet to have a case upheld by the IIS, Harriet Walden is not discouraged. "I think it's a good idea to have the complaints because eventually we'll be able to track the officers, and we can say, well, this officer has had ten complaints against him in the last year. Why is he still on the force?"

Mothers has also enlisted local defense attorneys in a series of workshops to educate young people about their legal rights. The workshops have been helpful, Walden says. She cites the example of one young graduate who refused to let the police search his car without a warrant. "He asked the officers if he was under arrest. The officers said, |No.' He said, |May I leave?' The officers said, |Yes, you can go.' That came from knowing exactly what his rights were," she says.

Walden has also been gratified by the effect that the Mothers' work has had on her younger son. "Omari is always trying to include other people, always trying to teach them what their rights are. He's excited about life. He's turned on even after the negative experience [with the police]. So when I look at that I'm pleased that we started Mothers. This is going on our third year and we'll be around for a while. I just love the kids."


For twenty years, Linda Geiszler worked at Diamond Walnut, the California-based company that supplies the country with half its walnuts. But for the last twenty months, she and 500 others--most of them Hispanic women--have been on strike. All have been permanently replaced. In June, Geiszler joined twenty other women strikers on a |Journey for Justice'--a cross-country bus trip from California to Washington, D.C., that called attention to the plight of the workers and sought to garner support for a national boycott.

Like many of the strikers, Geiszler endured pay cuts during the mid-1980s of up to 40 per cent when the company threatened to go bankrupt. But in 199 1, when profits soared to $171 million, she and the other workers refused to accept a new contract that called for a cut in health-care benefits and only a ten-cent-per-hour wage increase.

|When it became profitable, the company just discarded them: says Barbara Christe, a spokeswoman for the strikers and the Teamsters union.

During the bus tour, the women picketed the headquarters of some of Diamond Walnut's major users, including Kellogg and Kraft. In Washington, the women met with members of Congress, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency. |It was a great trip: said Geisz At every stop, people helped us and gave us their support.'

Several companies have taken note of the strike. General Mills has removed the Diamond Walnut name from its Betty Crocker brownie boxes, and Godiva Chocolatiers have stopped purchasing Diamond walnuts. Geiszler remains optimistic of the strike's outcome: |I think we'll probably reach a settle I don't want to give up after this long.'
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Seattle, Washington
Author:Howland, George, Jr.
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Previous Article:Children's crusader.
Next Article:Politics in the thunderdome.

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