By Fighting Words Staff
On August 23 there was another successful demonstration in support of Black autistic youth Armani Sharpe who was facing criminal charges in Ferndale and Hazel Park, two suburbs just northeast of Detroit. Armani has no propensity for the charges he was scheduled to stand trial in this travesty of justice.
The committee demanded that the indictments be dropped.
The coalition supporting Armani is composed of a number of organizations within disability rights, anti-racist and social justice organizations.
Some of the groups included Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Racial Profiling Across 8 Mile Committee, Warriors on Wheels of Metropolitan Detroit, ABC for Justice, Color of Autism, 313 Care Collective, Riverwise magazine, Detroit Disability Power, among others.
The protest began with a rally at the Hazel Park Municipal Center and then proceeded with a car caravan west on Nine Mile to the Ferndale City Hall.
News of the dropping of charges came within one and two days after the car caravan. The charges were initially dropped in Ferndale and the following day in Hazel Park.
African American disability rights organizer Tameka Citchens-Spruce took a leading role in the campaign in defense of Armani. Citchens-Spruce said in response to the decisions by the prosecutors in Hazel Park and Ferndale that:
“Over the course of the last several months, I’ve been advocating alongside other great grassroots activists for a young black autistic man, Armani Sharpe. I’ve mentioned this before in my past Facebook post. He and his mother have been traumatized by the criminal justice system. It is so easy for autistic people, people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and deaf people to be caught up unjustly in the courts and later in prison. But we said in the community NOT TODAY!. And I’m so happy to say The City of Ferndale and Hazel Park have decided to do the right thing and drop the charges against Armani.”
For the details on the story of Armani Sharpe and a discussion of the intersection of racism, ableism, and sexuality please read the essay by Jennifer C. Sarrett: Autistic and Black While Walking: The Case of Armani Sharpe