Morehouse Under Fire; Protest Planned School’s Silence on Alleged Police Brutality Raises Suspicions
(APN) ATLANTA–Morehouse College has come under fire for the alleged brutality against civil rights veteran Willie Ricks, and activists are planning a protest next week on the campus, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
Willie Ricks, 62, who also goes by Mukasa Dada, told Atlanta Progressive News in a series of interviews that he has suffered serious medical trauma for neck, back, shoulder, chest, and arm injuries. Ricks is racking up significant medical bills, he said.
Ricks, who has retained an attorney and is preparing suit against Morehouse College, is a civil rights veteran. He claims he has been visiting the Morehouse campus for almost 40 years as an invited lecturer by various professors and student groups.
He says he was about to give an invited lecture on the civil rights movement the day he was arrested. He claims a professor–who has not yet provided permission to be named–has written a letter verifying Ricks’s invitation to the campus.
Ricks says he was personally assured by Morehouse President Massey that he was welcome on campus, when he met President Massey on campus in May 2005.
“Again, the President said it was ok for me to come on campus, a week before the May incident [where he also alleges he was brutalized by Morehouse Police]. I saw him on campus. And walked up and introduced myself to him, that I was an old veteran of the civil rights movement. That I was friends with the president who came before him. I wanted him to know that teachers invited me and that I would be talking on campus And he said it was ‘ok with me [him]’,”
Morehouse College–a historically Black college which graduated Martin Luther King, Jr., and received a $5 million donation recently from Oprah Winfrey–has repeatedly refuse to discuss the issue with Atlanta Progressive News reporters.
A spokeswoman for President Massey, Adrienne Harris, refused to confirm whether Massey had advised Ricks he was welcome on campus. Harris refused to provide APN with President Massey’s email address, even though it was available through a simple Google search.
“I really do appreciate your interest in the story. The College has spoken; the statement that we have issued is what the College is going to release to say on this matter. We have said all we’re going to say on the Willie Ricks matter at this time, about Willie Ricks period. If anything changes, I will personally call you back. I cannot share with you [the President’s direct email address].”
Atlanta Progressive News finds Morehouse College’s silence and efforts to shield media questions quite troubling. Morehouse administration’s actions are raising questions about their credibility and raising suspicions about what they appear to be attempting to hide.
The College has not answered APN’s general policy questions concerning the safety of students, teachers, and guests from such brutality; some of those questions are listed below.
The College has been flooded with letters, calls, and emails, according to numerous postings on the activist website, AssataShakur.org.
Officers C. E. Cox III and V. Worthy arrested Mr. Ricks for trespassing at 12:15pm on November 10, 2005, according to the Morehouse Police Report #05710865 obtained by Atlanta Progressive News. APN has numerous public records and interview requests outstanding with Morehouse PD, College, and President’s Office. APN is making all of these documents immediately available to other media outlets by way of fax, upon request.
“The above offender was found wandering around inside the Chivers Dining facility with out [sic] prior official authorization. This subject had been given a formal warning on 03-18-03 by this agency.”
However, what is “prior official authorization” to be on campus? What does that consist of? What is the process or documentation required for that?
Would “Prior official authorization” have to be in writing? Who would have to sign it?
What would it have to say? Is there a form?
Do all persons on campus need “prior official authorization” to be on campus?
How does that apply to students, workers, and guests? Do all guests have to pre-register to be on campus? Is there a registration sheet or process?
“The protesting being organized by me and others,” Willie Ricks said in a telephone interview. “Different Black organizations, a united front together. We’ve got forces around the country. PanAfricans, Socialists, all kinds of fronts.”
An internal Morehouse email to staff from Elise Durham, leaked to AssataShakur.org–which has not been authenticated by APN–reads, “By now, you may have heard about an incident involving the Morehouse Police Department and Mr. Willie “Mukasa” Ricks, who identifies himself
as a Civil Rights activist.
“Since the arrest, Mr. Ricks has organized a grass-roots campaign against the College, claiming he was treated unnecessarily harsh during the arrest.
“According to our police department that was not the case.
If for some reason, your office receives a call about the incident, please do not get into a conversation about the matter. Forward the call to the President’s office at 2645 or to the Office of
Communications at 2680. We have an institutional statement that can be released explaining the College’s position.”
The College’s statement, obtained by APN, reads “According to the Morehouse College Police Department reports, Mr. Willie F. Ricks, also known to some as Mukasa, was arrested on November 10 for criminal trespassing.”
“Ricks was arrested in violation of a written criminal trespass warning that had been previously issued to him. Over the past two months, police had verbally warned Ricks several times to stay off campus private property. On November 10, when he was approached by police and asked to vacate the premises, Mr. Ricks refused, which later led to his arrest,” Morehouse College said in the statement.
Ricks told APN the protest is planned for Morehouse College AU Center Woodruff Library, on January 26, 2006, 11pm, Thursday.
In stunning testimony, Ricks says he was previously brutalized by Morehouse College Police on a separate occasion on around May 2005.
After receiving a welcome to campus by President Massey, and invitations to speak by many professors, Ricks says he came on campus in May, to be surrounded by a circle of police, physically detained, and had his arms shoved behind his back.
During this incident he alleges Police Chief V. Worthy ordered the police to let him go, advising they had no right to hold him.
Ricks also says that the Morehouse College student newspaper featured him in an article only weeks before the November incident, ironically. APN is attempting to obtain a copy of the article.
APN is continuing to follow this story.
Matthew Cardinale is Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org