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United States: black motorist, Malice Wayne Green, dies after beating by police in Detroit

PETER THOMPSON: Seven months after Los Angeles erupted in flames over the acquittal of four white policemen for the bashing of the black motorist, Rodney King, another black motorist has been bashed by white police. This time, the city was Detroit in the northern state of Michigan, and the motorist is dead. Thirty five-year-old Malice Wayne Green was pulled over by police in Detroit, last week, and was killed after a long bashing by two veteran white policemen by the roadside. The incident has shaken the city, with the police chief ordering the immediate suspension of the police officers and another five officers who watched.

A short time ago, our Washington correspondent, Steve Sailah, spoke to Mrs Nancy Fletcher whose son, Ralph, was in the car with Malice Green when it was stopped by police.

NANCY FLETCHER: Malice started to pull off and the policeman pulled up and he said he had something in his hand, and they told him to open his hand and he didn't open it, so they just started beating on his hand with the flashlight. And from that, they just started beating on him. That's what he told me.

STEVE SAILAH: And Ralph saw it himself, did he?

NANCY FLETCHER: Yes. He was just getting out of the car. He was standing there. If they had stopped in two more minutes, he would have been in the car and I guess they would have beat him, too.

STEVE SAILAH: So what did he do? He ran away, did he?

NANCY FLETCHER: No, no. He stood there and looked. No. He didn't run from his friend. That was his friend. He stood there and saw it all.

STEVE SAILAH: Do they feel as if there's something racial about it, that because Malice was black ....

NANCY FLETCHER: Yes, it was totally racial. They said it was racially motivated because these two policemen were white and they said that they are often in that neighbourhood harassing the black people.

STEVE SAILAH: So you agree with that, do you?

NANCY FLETCHER: Agree with what?

STEVE SAILAH: That the police often harass black people in the neighbourhood?

NANCY FLETCHER: No. I don't know because I don't be in that neighbourhood. I don't live in that neighbourhood. But that's what everybody in that neighbourhood is saying, that these two policemen have been seen too often to harass them in that neighbourhood.

STEVE SAILAH: Did Ralph suggest that anything that Malice did might have provoked the policeman?

NANCY FLETCHER: He said it was for nothing.

STEVE SAILAH: For nothing?


STEVE SAILAH: Does that happen very often?

NANCY FLETCHER: No. Not that I know about. It's the first time I ever heard about it.

STEVE SAILAH: So what, normally the police have a fairly good reputation?

NANCY FLETCHER: Fairly good.

STEVE SAILAH: Fairly good?

NANCY FLETCHER: Fairly good. They have a good reputation.

STEVE SAILAH: Well, the police chief was speaking very emotionally about it. He was seen to be quite shocked by the incident.

NANCY FLETCHER: Yes, he did. And so did the mayor of the city.

STEVE SAILAH: How are people reacting to it? Are people fairly shocked, generally?

NANCY FLETCHER: Yes, they are shocked but they are remaining calm.

STEVE SAILAH: Why? What's the alternative to remaining calm?

NANCY FLETCHER: Well, I don't know. They're just waiting to see what's going to happen.

STEVE SAILAH: Is everyone a bit worried that maybe something might happen, as it did in Los Angeles with Rodney King?

NANCY FLETCHER: I don't think that's going to happen.

STEVE SAILAH: Why do you say that?

NANCY FLETCHER: Because the police chief got on it too quick. Those people were suspended within three or four hours after it happened.

STEVE SAILAH: And he spoke out publicly, too?

NANCY FLETCHER: Yes, he did.

STEVE SAILAH: Can you tell me why they're not angry?

NANCY FLETCHER: They ... want to take it out on anybody. As I said, they're remaining calm.

STEVE SAILAH: Why is that? Do they feel that there's something greater than this, they're worried perhaps about their own homes and their own families?

NANCY FLETCHER: No, they're just waiting to see what might happen, what's going to happen. And they think that they will be dealt with justly.

STEVE SAILAH: What if they're not?

NANCY FLETCHER: I don't know.

STEVE SAILAH: Well, in the Rodney King case in Los Angeles, when the four police officers basically got off those charges, there was hell to pay, wasn't there?

NANCY FLETCHER: Yeah, but I don't think they're going to get off because I am sure that the mayor and police chief don't want anything like that to happen, so I am sure that they won't be getting off.

STEVE SAILAH: And if they do get off, what happens then?

NANCY FLETCHER: Well, we're hoping that the people will still remain calm. But they're not going to get off. I don't think they'll get off.

PETER THOMPSON: Mrs Nancy Fletcher, whose son, Ralph, was in the car with Malice Wayne Green who was bashed to death by police in Detroit last week.