Funeral serves as a rally against police violence

Photo by Chris Sykes
Tony, one of the mourners at the Janazah, at the Funeraria Americas funeral home on Roseville Avenue in Newark on New Year’s Day, Monday, Jan. 1, holds up a program bearing the picture of Earl Williams. The ceremony was for Williams, the father of motorist Earl Faison, who was wrongly arrested by the Orange Police Department, in connection with the on-the-job shooting death of Officer Joyce Carnegie, and who subsequently died while in police custody.NEWARK, NJ — The viewing and memorial service for Earl Williams, the father of Earl Faison, was held at the Funerarias Las Americas funeral home in Newark on Monday, Jan. 1. Faison was killed while in the custody of the Orange Police Department in April 1999, after being wrongly arrested in connection with the shooting death of Officer Joyce Carnegie,

“After the viewing for Brother William, I am going to the federal building in Newark for a few minutes,” said People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm on Monday, Jan. 1. “Officially, P.O.P. is not having a Justice Monday protest today, but I feel personally compelled to go.”

In honor of Williams’ death, Hamm took time out on Thursday, Dec. 28, from the normal Justice Monday routine of rallying and protesting outside the Robert W. Rodino Federal Building on Broad Street in downtown Newark with the People’s Organization for Progress. Normally Hamm and his protest group gather at the Rodino building, seeking to convince the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, to open civil rights investigations into the “Jersey 4.”

This group includes: Abdul Kamal, who was shot and killed by Irvington police; Kashad Ashford, who was killed by Lyndhurst police; Jerame Reid, who was killed by Bridgeton police; and 14-year-old Radazz Hearns, who was shot seven times by Trenton police — four times in the back. All four were unarmed blacks males.

Hamm and the People’s Organization for Progress also took to the streets of the city of Orange Township in 1999, alongside Earl Williams and Faison’s surviving family and friends, after Faison suffered a fatal asthma attack inside Orange Police Headquarters on April 11, 1999, following his arrest in connection with Carnegie’s death. Condell Woodson later confessed to killing Carnegie, and is serving a life sentence for the crime.

Although Newark Mayor Ras Baraka was unable to attend the viewing on Monday, Jan. 1, he sent the Rev. Louise Scott-Rountree of Good Neighbor Baptist Church, manager of Newark’s Office of Clergy Affairs, in his place and she read an official letter of condolence, acknowledging the city and community’s loss.

“The mayor sent me out of respect of all that brother Earl meant to not just the city, not just the county, not just the state, but to this country for what he stood for. He stood for a whole (lot) of stuff that people wouldn’t even go out and stand on the corner for,” said Rountree on Monday, Jan. 1. “I’ve stood with him to hold signs with brother Lawrence Hamm. He fought for some things and then the family has been through some stuff long before today. They’ve suffered through some struggles. So while we are mourning the transitioning of our beloved brother Earl, we must realize that the family is going to need you after today.”

The Muslim funeral service, according to Islamic religious tradition, was also offered at Funerarias Las Americas on Tuesday, Jan. 2, and Baraka planned to be present.

“Please allow me the opportunity to convey my sincerest and most heartfelt condolences for the tremendous loss of your loved one brother Earl,” said Baraka in the written statement that Rountree read to the group of mourners at the funeral home on Monday, Jan. 1. “Surely we know that nothing can soothe the pain and grief of this loss to his family, his friends and his community. And because this loss of our comrade was felt by so many, our city collectively shares in your grief, as we stand by your family in this time of mourning.”

Williams’ daughter, Latifa, said the sentiments expressed were greatly appreciated by the surviving family members.

“My father was a warrior. I know that. His family knows that,” said Latifa on Monday, Jan. 1. “He taught us so much, even when he didn’t communicate it well. Even when he didn’t say nothing, he was saying something and I understood that. What we, as a unit, as a family, have to realize is that all of us have a purpose. I don’t care what religion you are, what walk of life you are, what you feel. I believe all of us have a purpose and we all have to dig deep within us and find it. If we don’t stop and look into ourselves and see who we are, we’re going to continue to suffer and that’s going to cause an outlash and a ripple effect outside of us that many of us are not understanding and not prepared for. I know who I am and why I am and I just ask that you all do the same thing.”

On Dec. 30, 2000, a federal court jury found Orange police officers Thomas Smith, 38, of Caldwell, a former lieutenant who was tour commander that night; his brother, Brian Smith, 31, of Orange; Tyrone Payton, 34, of Orange; Paul Carpinteri Jr. of Orange; and Andrew Garth, 31, of Bloomfield, guilty of conspiracy and violating Faison’s civil rights. Thomas Smith was also found guilty of punching Mr. Faison, which demonstrated he had the mindset to violate Faison’s rights.

Garth was convicted of punching Faison and causing injury. Similarly, Brian Smith was convicted of spraying pepper spray into Faison’s face while he was handcuffed and unresisting. The jury acquitted Payton on charges that he kicked Faison.

All five Orange police officers faced a maximum of 10 years in prison when sentenced on April 18. Orange Township agreed to pay Faison’s estate and surviving family members $2.7 million.

Recently, Oranges-Maplewood NAACP President Thomas Puryear revived memories of Faison in the wake of the alleged misbehavior of another Orange police officer, Hanifah Davis, a recent transfer into the department from the Union County Sheriff’s Department, when dealing with twin high school sisters outside a pizza parlor across the street from Orange Preparatory Academy on Thursday, Oct. 13.

Puryear said neither Faison nor Williams will ever be forgotten.

“The recent police incident in Orange reminds our organization of the inappropriate and deadly actions some Orange police officers engaged in that resulted in the murder of Mr. Earl Faison,” said Puryear in an open letter to Mayor Dwayne Warren sent Saturday, Oct. 14. “As you know, while in police custody, in a tense emotional environment, Orange police officers inappropriately conducted actions and activities against an innocent individual. The Orange police officers’ actions resulted in the murder of Mr. Earl Faison. Our organization wonders if the Orange Police Department has learned from the 1999 incident.”

Puryear went on to state that the NAACP is “very pleased” that the twin Orange High School seniors that were arrested and charged in connection with the incident involving Davis were “extremely fortunate that they were able to walk away from their ordeal with only bruises.” He and others, however, said the incident is a call to action to unite to reform the Orange Police Department’s apparent policing and training practices and protocols.

“We petition your office to provide the citizens of Orange with a thorough and prompt investigation into the existing police academy’s training protocols,” Puryear said in his email blast. “As it is imperative that citizens have confidence that Orange police officers are trained to serve and protect, rather than to overreact when involved in tense situations. The citizens of the township need to know that the alleged overreaction of officer, Mr. Hanifah Davis, was a character flaw and not systemic institutional design.”

Puryear said he wants to make sure that Orange police officers are conducting appropriate police procedures on the job every day and Hamm agreed.