By Jen Wager
February 14, 2022
On June 1, 2021, Newark undercover plainclothes police attacked four young black men–the four brothers Branden, Justin and Jaykil Rodwell and Jasper Spivey– in front of their home in the South Ward of Newark, NJ. According to the police complaint, the cops stopped the Rodwell/Spivey brothers because they were “wearing white T-shirts and dreads” — clearly racially profiling and targeting them because they were black. Without announcing themselves as police, the cops immediately began harassing and then roughing up one of the brothers. The other brothers, seeing their family being attacked by armed white armed men, rushed to their defense. The cops then violently attacked all the brothers, put them all in chokeholds, and arrested two and then filed serious aggravated assault charges against all four.
The Rodwell/Spivey brothers are now facing up to 30 years in prison for simply defending themselves against a racist police attack. One of the brothers, Justin Rodwell, has been imprisoned in Essex County Correctional Facility – one of the worst prisons in the US with a high Covid rate and frequent violent attacks – since June 1, 2021 without a trial. There have been multiple pre-trial court hearings, and thus far the brothers have rejected any plea deals, maintaining their innocence.
The Community Fights Back
Since the summer of 2021, the Newark community has been organizing and fighting back against racial profiling, police terror and harassment in support of the Rodwell/Spivey family. This fight has built confidence amongst workers because of the positive response and support we have gotten across all the neighborhoods of Newark. Especially inspiring is the fightback and the leadership given by Monique Rodwell, the mother of these young men. With her ALWAYS at our side, we have distributed thousands of fliers and spoken with hundreds of folks, many of whom have shared their own experiences at the hands of the Newark Police Department (NPD) and Essex County Sheriff’s officers (ECSD). We have gotten hundreds of signatures in person, and hundreds more have been sent in virtually, and have collected donations towards for the Rodwell Spivey Defense Fund – Both on the street at our rallies and leafleting and sent in. SEE THE LINK BELOW ON HOW TO DONATE AND SIGN OUR PETITION.
Monique Rodwell has let the community know that for the last nine months, the Newark police have continued to harass her and her family with a home invasion several days after the arrests and by blockading the entire block with multiple police vehicles. There has been a campaign of repeatedly terrorizing the family with menacing drive-bys in unmarked police cars both day and night, police loitering on her front porch, surveillance of the house and questioning of her neighbors.
Why is This Case Important?
The Newark and Essex County police are racist and deadly. Plainclothes cops killed Carl Dorsey III on January 1, 2021 in the South Ward of Newark. A year later, no substantive investigation into this police killing has taken place. There are numerous examples of Newark police committing heinous acts, such as the NPD officer who killed a man while drunk driving then moved his body to cover up his crime or another NPD cop who attacked an 80-year election worker. Racial profiling by the NPD is so rampant that an ACLU-instigated petition led to a 2016 federal consent decree order, a court-approved deal between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and local governments that includes an enforceable plan for reform. This, like other reforms, have proven completely toothless however as the NFD pumps out “copaganda” about how great they’re doing. On December 31, 2020,the NPD put out a nice propaganda piece announcing that they hadn’t killed anyone in 2020, the day before the murder of Carl Dorsey.
Liberal Reforms are Traps for Workers
Rod Simpkins, the NPD officer who fatally shot Carl Dorsey, has previous complaints against him and is listed in the ACLU petition that initiated the consent decree process which brought the NPD under federal DOJ scrutiny. Simpkins is named in a complaint in which he and other NPD officers racially profiled and abused a car of black athletes. According to the ACLU petition, the cops
“suddenly stopped them, approached them with guns drawn, pulled them out of the car, and began verbally abusing them, telling them “you have no f*** rights . . . we’re the cops, we do whatever we f*** want.”They then conducted a nonconsensual car search, finding only football equipment. An internal affairs investigation into this misconduct was mishandled by being referred back to the gang unit” on the grounds that it involved “three black males,” rather than being investigated by IA personnel. A lawsuit on behalf of the coach and players (No. ESX-L-3458-09) remains pending.”
Likewise, the 2017 New Jersey Bail Reform legislation eliminated cash bail and established a point system. It could not however eliminate racism in the court system. Meanwhile, Justin Rodwell has been imprisoned since June 1st, 2021 while waiting for a trial for a crime he did not commit, despite having a points score that should have released him. Pre-trial imprisonment is a common tactic of prosecutors to force defendants to submit to a plea deal. According to a 2019 WHYY news report, bail reform did nothing to change the racist outcomes for pre-trial detention:
“Black men made up 54 percent of the state’s jail population last year, the exact same share as in 2012, long before the elimination of cash bail….The overrepresentation of black males in the pretrial jail population remains an area in need of further examination by New Jersey’s criminal justice system as a whole.”
Similarly, attempts to reform the racist prison system have not worked. Union County canceled its contract with a private correctional company only to outsource their prisoners to Essex County Correctional Facility, which have resulted in overcrowding and increasingly horrible conditions such as lack of medical care rampant COVID infection, and violent racist guards.
Now the liberal politicians are pushing a Civilian Complaint Review Board with subpoena power as salvation, but this is just another way to drain working class energy and anger through this bureaucratic ploy. It also promotes the idea that the police can serve the working class. It’s an illusion. From Colombia to Nigeria, the police have always been tools of the capitalist ruling class. A civilian review board may change the appearance of policing, but it will never change its essence.
Organize and ALWAYS Depend on the Working Class – Not the Politicians!
Mayor Ras Baraka prides himself on being more than liberal, a radical– yet he’s done nothing to quell the NPD’s reign of racist terror against the Rodwell/Spivey family and their South Ward neighborhood. He’s done nothing to bring the cop who killed Carl Dorsey III to justice. He has presided over a national propaganda campaign by the NPD to try to convince the city and the country that toothless reforms are working. And with a mayoral election in May 2022, Baraka will continue to do nothing. After all, what would Goldman Sachs and other investors who really run the city say? These finance capitalists with billions at stake (Goldman Sachs alone has invested already close to $1 billion in Newark) need the cops to clear the way for Newark’s gentrification. To be elected mayor Baraka had to proclaim himself pro-police and he has continued to defend them–calling them “goodwill guardians” after they attacked the Rodwell/ Spivey family. He is line with other liberal pro-police mayors, from San Francisco’s London Breed to newly elected New York City mayor Eric Adams, a retired cop. These mayors use their police force as a bludgeon against black and Latino communities with the express approval and support of their masters Biden, Harris and their finance capitalist backers.
These racist police and courts have terrorized Black and Latino families in Newark and Essex County for too long. It’s time to fight back! We call on the immediate release of Justin Rodwell and all charges to be dropped against the brothers. Join us!
RODWELL/SPIVEY SUPPORT TEAM
SIGN the petition! https://bit.ly/freejustinrodwell
DONATE to the Legal Fund: lenragozinfoundation.org
SEE THE VIDEO PRODUCED BY JEN WAGER, A PROFESSOR AT ESSEX COUNTY COLLEGE AND HER STUDENTS WHO ARE PART OF THE RODWELL/SPIVEY SUPPORT COMMITTEE: