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Narrative of police riot at mumia rally

A Buddhist Priest's Narrative of the Philadelphia Police Riot

By Rev. Kobutsu Malone, zenji
PO Box 700 Ramsey, NJ 07446
(201) 236-0335
personal Narrative of events of December 8, 2001 in the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

By Ven. Kobutsu Shindo Kevin Malone, zenji December 9, 2001

My name is Kobutsu Malone, I am a fifty one year old white male. I live and work in Ramsey, New Jersey. I am a fully ordained American Rinzai Zen Buddhist priest of the Gempo, Soen, Eido lineage. I am the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Engaged Zen Foundation, a human rights organization.

For the past decade I have worked in the prisons of America teaching Zen meditation, serving as; a volunteer chaplain, a volunteer death row chaplain, an advocate for religious rights and as an advocate for the humane treatment of prisoners. I conducted an intensive training program in the notorious Sing Sing maximum security prison in Ossining, New York for eight years. I founded the Dharma Song Zendo community in the prison and founded the Flowering Dogwood Zendo in the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center, a prison for violent sex offenders in Avenell, New Jersey.

As part of my activities with The Engaged Zen Foundation, I publish a magazine entitled Gateway Journal and run a prison program which involves corresponding with over two thousand prisoners nationwide. In 1996 I served as the volunteer spiritual advisor to Jusan Frankie Parker, a prisoner on the Arkansas death row in Tucker, Arkansas. I conducted a six month campaign on his behalf begging clemency from two Governors in hope of saving his life and having his death sentence commuted to life without parole. Our efforts for clemency were unsuccessful and on August eighth, 1996 I spent the last day with Jusan, walked with him down the last mile to the death chamber and witnessed his execution by lethal injection in the Arkansas death house in Varner, Arkansas. Since that time I have campaigned ceaselessly for the abolition of the death penalty and the abolition of all forms of punitive incarceration.

Sine 1967 I have taken part in numerous conferences, public events and demonstrations in support of countless prisoners, in support of peace, in opposition to racism, in opposition of oppression and in support of democracy and the liberation of all beings from all forms of suffering and abuse.

On December 8th, 2001 I traveled to Philadelphia with my son, a close friend and one of my students to take part in the International Day of Support to Free Mumia Abu Jamal. We left our home in Ramsey, New Jersey at 9:15 AM and drove down the New Jersey Turnpike and entered Philadelphia over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. We parked our car in The Philadelphia Parking Authority parking lot directly across the street from the Friends Center on Cherry Street. We arrived approximately ten minutes after noon and went to the friends center to use their facilities and from there walked over to the demonstration in progress at the city hall.

It was a cold day and raining gently as we arrived at the rally. We met with a number of friends in the gathered crowd and listened to the speakers including the leaders of the French delegation, the German delegate, Pam Africa, Fredrica Bey of Women in Support of the Million Man March and Lawrence Hamm of The People's Organization of Progress from Newark New Jersey.

After the speeches we joined with the people to march the parade route to the sight of the shooting of Officer Faulkner where we watched a video of the confession of Arnold Beverly in which he admitted shooting Officer Faulkner. After the video we continued the march which was to wind up at the Ethical Society.

From there we began marching north up 13th street and made a left hand turn onto Walnut Street. I was marching with my son and our friends and carrying on a conversation with a journalist friend as we walked along. It was a typical street demo, signs were being carried and periodically chants were led and people responded in unison to the chanting. For much of the walk along Walnut Street I was in conversation with the journalist about the case of a man on death row who I serve as spiritual advisor. I was distracted by my conversation since it is highly significant to me, in that I may in all likely hood have to be with him if and when he is executed.

At one point the march paused and people began shouting that the police were arresting marchers behind us. I turned around and looked down the street from the direction we had come and saw that people were running back to a crowd on the next block. We joined the group and went in that direction to see what was happening.

I approached the edge of the crowd which had formed and heard people shouting "let him go", "let him go" over and over again. I tried to see what was happening but all I could see were people in front of me some of whom were holding umbrellas which blocked the view. I could not see what was taking place at all.

I was standing there for less that a minute on the edge of the crowd when suddenly, without any announcement or warning, a policeman rushed at me from my left side holding a night stick diagonally in front of him. I clearly saw his black gloved right hand and part of the wooden shaft of the night stick as it came at me and hit me across the chest pushing me backwards.

I fell backwards onto the pavement and remember seeing stars and hearing a rushing sound as my head hit the pavement. I lost consciousness.

The next thing I experienced was being pulled by police officers by my jacket and being shouted at. There was a lot of noise and I was not able to discern what was being said. I was extremely disoriented and confused. My head was throbbing and my chest felt very tight with angina pains. I had an angioplasty procedure last July and a stent was installed in my left coronary artery at that time. Two years ago I suffered a transient ischemic attack which left portions of the right side of my body numb. I also suffer from fibromyalgia and arthritis.

I remember being thrown down to the pavement a second time and a police officer or officers leaned or pressed me into the street. I was in an extremely uncomfortable position and was having trouble catching my breath. I remember telling them that I was a priest , that I could not breathe and that I had a heart condition. They forced my arms behind my back causing great pain in my arms and shoulders from the arthritis. They applied handcuffs, tightening them far beyond what was necessary for restraint. I told them they were too tight but was ignored. My Rakusu (Zen priest's bid-like vestment) was lying on the street and I remember a bystander picking it up.

I was then propelled by two officers down Walnut street to a waiting police van. I felt dizzy, short of breath and thought I was about to pass out. I told the officers that I thought I was going to loose consciousness, that I did not think I could make it to the van, that I was a priest and that I had a heart condition. I asked if they could stop for a minute for me to catch my breath. They told me no. One officer told me that if I was a priest I should be ashamed of myself.

I was propelled into the van but was unable to get up of the floor of the vehicle. My hands were completely numb and my chest felt like it was going to explode. The interior was dark when they closed the door which added to the sense of disorientation. The other people in the van expressed their concern over my condition. I remember the van moving and another person was loaded into the vehicle and a female passenger was removed. I realized that I was in trouble with waves of nausea, chest pain, dizziness and the feeling that I was going to pass out coming in waves. I struggled to reposition my self in the vehicle and was finally, with great exertion able to get partially seated in the vehicle. It moved and stopped a few times. I had difficulty remaining seated due to vertigo and the feeling like I was going to pass out. My head was pounding and finally I felt myself slip on the seat. The next thing I remember was police officers pushing me and pulling me by my clothing.

They finally released my handcuffs, the officer asking who had put them on so tight. They then brought an ambulance stretcher to the back of the van and pulled me onto the stretcher. I was placed in an ambulance and asked questions as to my condition by the paramedic. He asked what medication I took but I could not remember the names of the seven different medications I take on a daily basis. He did not seem very interested in my welfare. I have no sense of how long I was in the ambulance or where we were going. I was relieved to be laying flat on the stretcher and feeling was beginning to return to my hands.

We arrived at the hospital (I learned later that it was Jefferson Hospital) and I was brought to the emergency room. I provided information to the nurses and told them that I was in distress with chest pains and a splitting headache. I informed them of my heart condition and that I had coronary artery disease. I told them of being knocked down in the street and loosing consciousness when my head struck the pavement. Their primary concern was my heart and they did not perform even a rudimentary neurological examination. They only commented that I had a knot on the back of my head.

They took blood samples, an EKG monitor was attached to me and a sphygnomamometer cuff was placed on my left arm. I was given sub-lingual nitroglycerin which relieved the chest pain almost immediately but exacerbated the headache tremendously. I was soaking wet and very cold. After some time they applied nitroglycerin paste to my chest which made the headache even more intense. My head was pounding and they gave me a large dose of a pain killer and later they followed up with ten milligrams of Valium.

There were two police officers present outside the room and I asked the nurse to talk with them. I asked one officer if I was under arrest and he replied yes, I was. I asked him what I was charged with and he said he did not know. I asked him about my son and friends and he said he did not know anything about them. He told me that they had just come on shift and were assigned to watch me and that was all he knew.

I asked a nurse about my son and friends and she told me that she did not know. I asked her if she would call my house and leave a message on my answering machine indicating my condition, location and where I was likely to be taken. She was kind enough to do that and came back later and told me that she had left the message. I told a male nurse I was very cold and he brought me two warm blankets which were very comforting. My sense of time was skewed and I evidently drifted off to sleep at some point as an effect of the valium.

The next thing I remember was being woken up feeling rather dizzy. In the examination room were several detectives. They introduced themselves, but I do not remember their names. The lead investigator who later identified himself to me in writing was Detective Corbett of the Central Detective Division.

I was not informed of my Miranda rights, nor told of any consequences of answering any questions. He asked me why I was there and I told him about my heart condition. He then rephrased the question asking me why I was arrested. I was take aback with this question and asked if I was indeed under arrest and what I was charged with.

He responded that they did not know what I was arrested for, did not know what I was charged with and did not even know who placed me under arrest.

He then asked me what had happened and if I was part of the demonstration or just a bystander. By this time I had the sense that no body seemed to know what was happening and why I was there.

I relayed some background information about myself, that I am a Zen Buddhist priest, the prison work I am involved with, that I serve as a volunteer death row chaplain, that I have been in active opposition to the death penalty for many years and that I had witnessed the execution of one of my student in Arkansas in 1996.

I was informed by a nurse that my family was at the hospital and that everyone was all right but they would not be allowed to see me because I was under arrest.

I told the detectives that I had taken part in numerous demonstrations for Mumia Abu Jamal in Philadelphia and that I would support any human being who was facing the death penalty unconditionally since I know that it is morally and ethically indefensible and that it is my duty as a priest and as a citizen to stand up for what is right.

I was never informed of my rights during this interrogation and I was asked to provide them with identification since their only information about me came from the hospital admission record. I gave them my driver's license and my American Correctional Association membership card. I have been a member of the ACA for about a year and joined in order to monitor the organization, receive their publications about the prison industrial complex and to aid me in obtaining access to prisoners which I visit at various prisons all over the country.

During the interview a nurse came in and told me that I was being taken for a chest x-ray and that I would be back soon. I was taken to an x-ray room and two images were taken. As I was brought out of the x-ray room, I encountered a number of uniformed police officers. One of the looked at me and said, "Nah, that's not him, my guy was around 24." He then left the area and I was returned to the examination room.

Detective Corbett informed me that he would get back to me shortly and let me know my status. He and the other detectives left. I was informed by the hospital staff that they wanted to admit me to the hospital for observation.

I considered this option but was distressed and very much wanted to leave Philadelphia and go home with my son and our friends. I was very perturbed over how I had been brutalized and mistreated by the Philadelphia Police. I was especially outraged by the fact that they did not even know why I was under arrest. I decided that it was time to press the issue and I informed the nurse that I wanted to be released from the hospital immediately. I demanded a release form to sign out against medical advise. I informed them that I would be well taken care of and that I had a prescheduled appointment with my cardiologist, Dr. Baklajian, on Monday morning.

I informed the two uniformed police officers of my intention and asked them what would happen. One officer made a telephone call and came back a few minutes later to inform me that I was no longer under arrest and I was free to go. The officers left immediately, I signed the release form, left the emergency room and walked to the lobby where my son and our friends were waiting. We had a joyful reunion and left the hospital shortly thereafter. We were driven by two friends to our car parked near the Friends Center. We said good by to them and went to a nearby diner and got sandwiches and coffee. From there we drove home, arriving at our home in Ramsey, New Jersey at around 3 AM Sunday morning.

[End of Narrative.]

Rev. Kobutsu Malone, zenji

The Engaged Zen Foundation  http://www.engaged-zen.org