Please Sign The Petition: Investigate, Terminate, and Charge

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On January 30, officers at Donaldson brutally beat Ephan Moore, a person known to have a mental illness, and Robert Earl Council (AKA Kinetik Justice), a freedom fighter known for his nonviolent organizing. Following the vicious assault, Moore and Council were left fighting for their lives, and the prison was locked down with officers continuing to beat and harass people incarcerated there, including Wilbert Smith and Derrol Shaw. This is only the latest in a long history of officer brutality at Donaldson CF and throughout the Department of Corrections.

The Department of Justice sued ADOC in December for, among other things, failing to prevent officer violence. They have authority to investigate and prosecute brutality against incarcerated people. We are calling on the DOJ to immediately terminate the officers involved in these attempted murders and to investigate the leadership at Donaldson and ADOC which has allowed this violence to continue unabated. This includes Commissioner Dunn, who has overseen the most brutal prison system in the US for years now without accountability. Read the full letter to the DOJ below, and join us in calling for justice for the men at Donaldson Correctional Facility and throughout ADOC.

To the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and attorneys with the DOJ Special Litigation Section:

The undersigned organizations and individuals, unified and standing in solidarity around the nation, are calling for the immediate termination and arrest of officers involved in the attempted murders of Robert Earl Council, also known as Kinetik Justice, and mental health patient Ephan Moore, as well as those involved in the beating of Wilbert Smith and the use of excessive force against Derrol Shaw at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer on Saturday, January 30, 2021.

We further call for DOJ investigators and independent observers to be allowed immediate access to Donaldson to ensure that further retaliatory action is not taken against anyone incarcerated there, and that the family of all four of these men be allowed to visit them immediately, including Robert Council who remains in the hospital, even now, fighting for his life. Finally, the DOJ should immediately investigate the role of Commissioner Jefferson Dunn in responding to this and other incidents and consider removing him from leadership of ADOC.

Witnesses and disturbing video have shown that at least four officers – including Sgt. Binder, Sergeant Brown, and Sgt. Melton, and Officer Griffin – beat Mr. Council and Mr. Moore with batons and kicked them in the head until they were unresponsive. Eyewitness accounts state that Mr. Council was trying to defuse the situation when he was attacked from behind by armed officers. Videos show blood in and around the cell where he was dragged out by the feet, as well as a dislodged tooth that was found in the cell. Mr. Council was evacuated by emergency helicopter to a hospital in Birmingham, where he remains in intensive care. Witnesses stated that the initial blow to Mr. Moore’s head was so vicious that it split his face open, and that officers continued to punch and kick his head once he was on the ground. Mr. Moore’s whereabouts and condition are unknown at this time.

This is an extreme incident, but it is not an isolated one. The DOJ is well aware of the horrific and unconstitutional violence committed by Donaldson staff against the people incarcerated there and in other Alabama Department of Corrections facilities. In the DOJ’s recently filed lawsuit against the State of Alabama, the government acknowledges that ADOC fails to protect people in prison from excessive force from staff. The complaint singles out a 2019 incident where Donaldson officers killed Steven Davis. Mr. Davis was beaten beyond recognition by some of the very same officers that have now tried to kill Kinetik Justice and Ephan Moore, including Sgt. Joe Binder.

Just in the last year at Donaldson, at least two other men were brutally killed by institutional malice and neglect. On June 22, Darnell McMillian died in a suicide watch cell after reports indicate he was pepper sprayed by officers and locked in a cell to asphyxiate. Just last week, reports surfaced that Tommy Lee Rutledge was left in a 101 degree cell to die of hyperthermia, in the midst of a cold December night.

Since yesterday morning’s attack, Donaldson has been locked down and ADOC’s CERT team (Correctional Emergency Response Team) has been committing further violence, assaulting Wilbert Smith and Derrol Shaw, among others at the facility. This only underscores the pressing need for federal intervention.

It is clear that the administration at Donaldson is incapable of keeping the population safe from its own bloodthirsty officers. The urgency of this situation demands immediate action by the DOJ to prevent further loss of life. We call upon the Department to do everything in its power to protect the people incarcerated at Donaldson, starting with the immediate termination and prosecution of the officers involved in this incident. As the governmental agency tasked with investigating and holding ADOC accountable for its unconstitutional conduct, nothing could be more squarely within the DOJ’s responsibility.

Mr. Moore is a mentally ill person who should be receiving treatment, not brutality. Victims Shaw and Smith were innocent bystanders, and Kinetik Justice is a freedom fighter known around the world for tireless efforts to organize people in prison to secure their human rights. Kinetik Justice’s advocacy with the Alabama Resistance Movement and the Free Alabama Movement has resulted in constant retaliation from the Alabama Department of Corrections, including efforts to silence him by putting him in solitary confinement, censoring his communications, and putting his life in danger. Now, it appears they have tried to silence him in the ultimate manner that has always been reserved for Black freedom fighters.

But justice cannot be silenced. We call upon the DOJ to take immediate action against these officers and against the system which has been shown – by your own agency – to enable them.

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