For almost two years, Renee Wilson has headed People Against Police Violence, one of the most outspoken and active organizations addressing cases of brutality and homicide by police. For the past year, the Allegheny County district attorney's office has made it The People v. Renee Wilson.
Wilson and her ex-husband, along with Wilson's daughter, her son and his ex-girlfriend, were arrested last year on 22 counts of bank fraud, ATM theft and bad check-writing on accounts at First National Bank. On Aug. 9, the charges were dropped, largely because the bank could not find its records -- the evidence of Wilson's alleged wrongdoing.
Wilson questions why the police were "meddling through our bank accounts" in the first place. She guesses it has something to do with her group, which has continued to hold marches and rallies decrying the deaths of those in police custody or in encounters with police. The group has been asking District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr., to follow through on recommendations made by Coroner Cyril Wecht to file criminal charges on police officers following the deaths of Charles Dixon in Mount Oliver and Bernard Rogers in the Hill District two years ago. Zappala is reviewing both cases. They've also urged U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan to release findings of the investigation into the death of Michael Ellerbe, the 12-year-old boy who was killed by police in Uniontown while fleeing from a car theft.
"I don't feel any relief" about her own dropped charges, Wilson says. "I knew all the time that I hadn't did anything wrong ..." The past year for Wilson, with her trial pending, was "paralyzing," she says, because of the case. Her job as a nurse, as well as her ex-husband's position, she says, were threatened because they were no longer able to pass criminal background checks.
But People Against Police Violence hasn't been stymied. This October they will host the national meeting of the October 22 Coalition and an annual demonstration by this consortium of anti-police brutality organizations.
Wilson doesn't believe this is the last she's heard from the police: "We thought in 2004 this is nothing we'd ever have to worry about. This is what used to happen in the '60s. You'd think we've moved beyond this ..."