[Ppnews] Activist sent to jail for refusing to remove shirt

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Mar 25 13:09:53 EST 2006

Activist sent to Adams jail for refusing to remove shirt

By Jeremy P. Meyer
Denver Post Staff Writer

A community activist was jailed Wednesday for 45 days by an Adams 
County judge for wearing a T-shirt in court with a photograph of 
executed killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams and the word "redemption."

Shareef Aleem, 37, was found in contempt March 1 for wearing the 
shirt during his trial on charges he assaulted a police officer.

Aleem apparently refused Judge Katherine Delgado's order to remove 
the shirt, citing his First Amendment rights.

Williams was a former gang member convicted of homicide in California 
who was executed in December despite pleas from supporters who said 
he had reformed.

"There are limits to the judge's powers concerning free speech," 
Aleem's attorney, Mark Burton, said. He promised an appeal and said 
Aleem planned a hunger strike while in jail.

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties 
Union of Colorado, said he doesn't believe Aleem's shirt rises to the 
level of contempt.

"It sounds like an abuse of power to order someone to jail for 45 
days because he doesn't respect the integrity of the court," 
Silverstein said. "He probably has grounds for an appeal."

Delgado didn't return a phone call Wednesday.

Aleem was arrested Feb. 3, 2005, during a University of Colorado 
Board of Regents meeting about professor Ward Churchill. Police say 
Aleem became combative at the meeting, then ripped off an officer's 
badge and grabbed an officer by the throat.

Aleem pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault of a peace officer, 
which carries a 16-year prison term.

The trial ended in a hung jury. Prosecutors are set to retry the case May 8.

On Wednesday, Burton sought a dismissal of the contempt citation. But 
Delgado sent Aleem to jail, where he is being held without bail.

According to Burton's motion, Aleem removed a T-shirt on Feb. 28 that 
prosecutors found offensive. That shirt had the words "U.S. History 
101" and included a picture in which a white overseer whipped a black slave.

The next day Aleem refused to remove the shirt depicting Williams 
after prosecutors objected.

According to the motion, "He was exercising his free speech and 
religious rights to wear this shirt, and the shirt did not detract or 
interfere with the judicial process."

Prosecutors on Wednesday would not say why they objected to the shirts.

Miles Madorin, staff attorney for Colorado District Attorney's 
Council, wouldn't comment on Aleem's case but said judges need contempt power.

"The courts operate on the fact that people willingly go along with 
decorum of the court," he said. "Contempt enforcement helps the 
courts to continue to function."

However, Burton's motion said jurors were allowed to wear T-shirts 
portraying musician Bob Marley, "a political figure ... closely 
associated with black nationalism."


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