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Stop harassment by police, group demands at Youngstown City Hall

Published: Fri, July 20, 2012 @ 12:08 a.m.


About a dozen people demonstrated outside Youngstown City Hall on Thursday in support of Desiree Johnson, here with sign. Along with Benjamin Roberts and Doretha Weston, they say they have faced harassment from Youngstown police.

By John W. Goodwin Jr.



Desiree Johnson and about two dozen supporters held signs and walked outside City Hall on Thursday to protest the treatment of young black males like her son, and the harassment she says her family has faced from Youngstown police.

Johnson, 45, and her friend Doretha Weston, 35, will be sentenced today on misdemeanor charges of obstructing official business, assault on an officer and resisting arrest after an altercation with police in a 2011 traffic stop.

Johnson said the issue with police began before that stop. She said the protest centered around police treatment of her 15-year-old son Benjamin “Benji” Roberts, who was stopped at gunpoint by police in 2009 when he was 12.

The officers who stopped Johnson and Weston are the same officers who earlier stopped her son, she said.

Johnson has sued the city over the issue involving her son. That matter is still in court.

Johnson in 2009 said Benji had gone down the street from their home to play basketball, but she realized he had not cleaned up his bedroom and had his sister go down the street to get him so he could finish his chores.

Benji, accompanied by the family’s large mixed-breed dog, Lucky, ran home at his mother’s request. He was met in the rear of the home by several police officers with their guns drawn.

Police said officers were in the area investigating alleged drug sales by minors. They also said the unleashed dog gave officers reason to fear for their safety.

Benji was not found to have done anything wrong.

Johnson said the protest Thursday and today outside city hall is about protecting innocent young people.

“What I hope comes out of this is that, no matter what happens to me [in court Friday], we can come together as a community and look out for our kids like my son Benji,” said Johnson.

Johnson said there was a time in the black community when all kids were looked after by every member of the community.

“We lost that as a community, and we really need to get it back,” she said.

Johnson, accompanied by her son and Weston, along with a host of supporters donned white and black outfits and walked along the sidewalks outside city hall for several hours Thursday and are expected to return today.

The signs held by supporters included phrases such as “stop the unjust treatment of just us” and “there is no justice, just us.”


1Guins(15 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Don't worry when the police leave them alone and let their community care for it's self they will demand justice and blame the police for being racist and not caring about the black community.

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2Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

"Johnson said there was a time in the black community when all kids were looked after by every member of the community.
“We lost that as a community, and we really need to get it back,” she said.""

Who's fault is that?? Society's??? Get real, the blacks are to blame for that, not society. Again with so many excuses.

""Johnson said the protest Thursday and today outside city hall is about protecting innocent young people.""

You look like fools. Teach the young wanna be gangstas right from wrong and you wouldn't have to have your stupid protest. Quit blaming everyone else, look in the mirror and be held accountable for your young hoodlums.

When they going to start selling tshirts of Benji and Lucky? bahahaha

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3grg019(34 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

@ hmm, you gotta read the story, the kid was only 12, and got called back home to finish his chores to find police with guns drawn out. He didn't assult the officer, the mother and friend did. And wow you put the poor kid behind the wheel before 16 with loud music? like all young guys don't play it. By the way, if you look in the hard times paper, majority of crime is committed my males period.

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4Bozz(11 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Stopping law breakers and unrully people is not harassment, its what they are suppose to do. I suppose when the cops had to intervene in the massive brawls at the festival at Southern Park mall a year or so ago, they were just harassing them bc they were black, right?

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5Sunny(25 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

I understand a mother's concern for guns being drawn on a 12-year old child. However, there was a big dog that was not on a leash AND these police officers were investigating crime perpetrated by YOUNG males. They want to go home at the end of the shift. You can't blame them for wanting to protect themselves.They have families too!

If anything, this mother should be thankful that YPD was working hard to keep her neighborhood safe. After all, her boy was running around all by himself and was perfect pickins' for predators of any type. Had this mother been a positive role model, she would have used this as a learning opportunity to show him what could happen when he's running between homes. Instead, she chose to assault the officers in FRONT of her boy!

When will the black community learn that they must hold themselves and each other responsible for the way they are viewed by society? If you look like a thug, act like a thug and hang out on the streets all night long - you're gonna be pegged as a thug!

However, if you parent your children properly and hold them accountable rather than making excuses for them and if you are a positive role model rather than act like a child yourself - I guarantee you these changes will have a positive effect in your home, on the streets, and in your community.

We as a society are sick of the constant excuses for poor behavior. If you want to be treated with respect, you must BEHAVE as a person WORTHY of respect! It's time to hold yourselves responsible individually and as a group. Don't you see that you are only hurting yourselves, your children and your future?

And, while I'm at it, people like Jesse Jackson are hurting your community because they only come around when they smell a story that will bring them some notoriety. If they really cared, they would stress the importance of family, following the law, working hard and getting an education.

Moral of the story: When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequence. Don't your children deserve better?

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6lumper(291 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

" GET OFF WELFARE AND GET A JOB " demands group of normal people !!!!

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7doowoptokidrock(325 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Desiree learned her lesson and her reward is almost 1 year in jail.The other loser will get her jail sentence next month.Good job YPD and the judge.

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8GeorgeSands(16 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

The parents are correct in protesting the treatment of their sons by the police in Youngstown, But let's be clear. This is not just a Youngstown problem. Police from LA to NYC go after teenagers.

Why? Because teens are easy targets. False claims can be made against them and who will the authorities believe? Not the teen. Most importantly, arresting a teen is time consuming.

Years ago, after conducting research that showed that communities protected by the county police in Miami Dade arrest teens at alarming rates whereas teens from communities that hired their own police department have dramatically lower numbers of charges written against teens. After talking to a police investigator who explained that an arrest of a juvie is time consuming, I understood. Now I get it. Cops can spend safe time on the job by arrest ing teens, which is much safer than going after 30 year old, gun-carrying career criminals.

With this in mind, then, one can see that this is not a racial issue. It is a youth issue and it calls into question work ethics and codes that promise to protect and serve.

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9southsidedave(5172 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

If you don't like being harassed by the police, stop committing crimes...makes sense to me!

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10DSquared(1617 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Blame the PO-PO for your sorry life. Same ol' song and dance!

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11Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago


"Cops can spend safe time on the job by arrest ing teens, which is much safer than going after 30 year old, gun-carrying career criminals.""

Are you serious? Look at the stats of teenagers walking around with guns, shooting up houses, parties, people, etc. This breed of animals are alot more dangerous then the older criminals, alot more dangerous! They have NO respect for human life whatsoever.
Climb out from the rock your living in. smh at such stupidity in society today.

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12chevelle64(11 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

what a tough life it must be to be born black in a black neighborhood in a city like youngstown, I know it is no excuse for the crimes but imagine what it must be like to always be a suspect simply because of the color of your skin, and no hope to move to a better neighborhood .

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13Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago


"....but imagine what it must be like to always be a suspect simply because of the color of your skin, and no hope to move to a better neighborhood ."

Why are there more blacks that don't get in trouble or have to deal with courts,lawyers, judges,police, etc? How come there all alot of blacks that live in good neighborhoods and live a productive life and are a benefit to society??
Funny that everyone thinks there suspects because there black, is such a simple answer, QUIT getting into trouble, from the parents to there hoodlums. It's always the same ones everytime there is a homicide or on the police blotter, all of them have EXTENSIVE CRIMINAL BACKGROUNDS! Don't that say something? You think it's only because there black? Get real skippy!
Go walk on the south side after midnight, if your white, you won't get out alive. That's OK huh?
Quit using the black race card, because it's just a EXCUSE!! Stay out of trouble and it don't matter if your white,black,orange,silver,blue, etc.

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