Blackout Black Friday: Trio of protesters rallies outside Gardens Mall

Scheril Murray Powel, (from left), a Florida International University law school student, Ayanna Asante and Jamilah Gavin hold signs while demonstrating in front of the Gardens Mall on Friday in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Scheril Murray Powell, (from left), a Florida International University law school student, Ayanna Asante and Jamilah Gavin hold signs while demonstrating in front of the Gardens Mall on Friday in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Outside The Gardens Mall on Friday in Palm Beach Gardens, a trio of protesters were just a small segment of protests both locally and nationally calling for a boycott of Black Friday.

Promoted over social media as #BlackoutBlackFriday, the movement calls for both blacks and those against racial inequality to stay away from large retailers both on the biggest shopping day of the year and other days throughout the year.

They included Florida International University law student Scheril Murray Powell, who says she began boycotting Black Friday in 2012 and continued after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as a form of economic activism against police shootings involving mostly black young men.

That sense of activism, Powell said, was heightened with last month’s shooting death of 31-year-old Corey Jones, a stranded black motorist gunned down by now-fired Palm Beach Gardens Police officer Norman Raja.

“Even if I was the only one out here, I’d still be here,” Powell said. “I want to be a catalyst for change, and this is how I’m doing it.”

Brad Goldstein, a spokesman from a firm The Gardens Mall hired specifically to address protests in the wake of Jones death, said he was unaware of any other protests aside from the one where Powell stood. He said he didn’t think National Blackout founder and Black Lawyers for Justice president, Dr. Malik Zulu Shabazz, was at the mall.

“Our sympathies go out to the Jones family,” Goldstein said, adding: “The mall had nothing to do with the tragedy.”

At one point during Friday’s demonstration, a white man in a gray BMW slowed down at the intersection, rolled down his window and said, “Don’t forget Corey.”

Powell, who two weeks ago organized a panel discussion and candlelight vigil in honor of Jones in Broward County, told the man that Jones was the reason why they were there.

Ayanna Asante, a local co-chair of the National Blackout, one of the organizations spearheading the calls for the boycott, said members of the group in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and other places of recent shootings involving white police officers have turned out in droves.

Asante and her daughter joined Powell on PGA Boulevard, along with a handful of others who came and went, with plans to conduct other protests elsewhere.

Their hope, organizers say, is to force business leaders and politicians to address racial injustice by forcing them to recognize the impact of blacks as consumers.

According to an ongoing Nielsen study of African American consumerism, whose latest findings were released in September, blacks were expected to spend about $1 trillion nationally this year.

Exclusive: Corey Jones phone records show last call

By Daphne Duret and Lawrence Mower

Palm Beach Post Staff Writers

Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of WPTV.
Corey Jones, 31
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja

Corey Jones was on the phone with AT&T’s roadside assistance — and possibly recorded — when a Palm Beach Gardens officer confronted him on an Interstate 95 off-ramp last week, triggering the events that led to his death.

A copy of Jones’ phone records obtained by The Palm Beach Post show that at 3:10 a.m., Jones called #HELP, the phone company’s recorded line to request assistance.

Jones, 31, was shot and killed by officer Nouman Raja about five minutes later, according to police, but the phone records show the call lasted 53 minutes.

Since AT&T alerts callers that the line might be recorded, it could have captured audio of the moments before, during and after his death, making it a critical piece of evidence in a shooting in which no video recordings apparently exist.

It’s unclear, however, whether the line was recorded, or whether investigators have obtained any recordings. Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office spokesman Mike Edmondson on Monday declined to comment on whether the prosecutors’ office had obtained the phone records. Jones’ phone was, however, recovered at the scene and had not been returned to family members as of Monday.

An AT&T official said late Monday she could not comment.

Clarence Ellington, Jones’ best friend, said Jones’ family has seen the records and were meeting late Monday with the family’s legal team.

“The consensus is the same, and that’s that we’re angry,” Ellington said.

Jones used a cellphone belonging to his employer, the Delray Beach Housing Authority. Call logs for the government agency were provided to The Post under the state’s open records law.

The call to roadside assistance was one of many Jones made early that morning, after the drummer’s sport utility vehicle broke down while driving back from a gig in Jupiter.

The first indication of car trouble came at 1:35 a.m., when he called band mate Mathew Huntsberger for help.

Nine minutes later, he called *FHP, the Florida Highway Patrol’s main line. The records indicate that the call lasted four minutes, but an FHP spokesman wasn’t able to obtain the content of the call late Monday.

Starting at 2:09 a.m., Jones called the AT&T #HELP four times, spending about 36 minutes trying to get help.

Those calls were probably fruitless, however, since he called #HELP again, at 2:45 a.m., a call that the log says lasted 32 minutes, even though he dialed three other numbers after that call began.

The final call went to the help line at 3:10 a.m. and records show it wouldn’t have ended until 4:03 a.m., long after the 3:15 a.m. shooting.

It was the last call Jones would make.

Four agencies, including the FBI, are investigating what happened next.

Jones, a Delray Beach housing inspector with no history of violence, was sitting in his car on the off-ramp at PGA Boulevard when Raja pulled up and parked perpendicular to him, blocking multiple lanes of traffic.

Raja, who was on a burglary surveillance detail, had stopped for an abandoned vehicle, Palm Beach Gardens police said. He wasn’t in uniform and didn’t have his badge when he stepped out of an unmarked white Ford van, according to Jones’ family lawyers, who were briefed by State Attorney Dave Aronberg.

Police said Raja spotted Jones’ gun and fired, killing him. Lawyers said Raja fired six times, including while Jones was running away. Jones’ body was found 80 to 100 feet away from his vehicle.

His gun, which he had bought legally and for which he had a concealed carry permit, was found an unspecified distance between his body and his vehicle.

The incident has captured national attention, the latest example of a young black man killed by police under questionable circumstances. Experts and the public have questioned Raja’s decision to confront Jones, who might not have known Raja was an officer.

The phone records provide some insight — and confusion — into Jones’ final hours.

He left his Jupiter gig and had just gotten on the highway when at 1:21 a.m. he called Manoucheka Sinmelus. She told The Post that Jones was on his way to pick her up from her home in Delray Beach. He didn’t mention car trouble. The call lasted about seven minutes. She has not spoken to authorities because they haven’t contacted her, she said.

The phone records have some discrepancies that aren’t easily explained, however.

Two phone calls seem to overlap with other calls. At 2:29 a.m., the logs show he spent 16 minutes with #HELP, but he called another phone number just eight minutes later.

Then, at 2:45 a.m., the logs show he spent 32 minutes on the line with #HELP, yet he called his brother just seven minutes later.

Edward J. Imwinkelried, an expert in scientific evidence and law professor at The University of California-Davis, said investigators should focus on the overlapping calls.

“If I was the investigator on the case, I would want to see how that is possible,” Imwinkelried said.

The most plausible explanation would be that Jones made the other calls while he was on hold with roadside assistance, Imwinkelried said. The first thing investigators would need to do, he said, is speak with everyone on Jones’ call log, including his brother, and obtain their phone records as well.

Then, he said, investigators would need to go to AT&T and have them explain the call log, and ask them if any recording of Jones’ calls exist.

“Loxahatchee Lager”? Beer and nature pair up in new project

Northern Palm Beach County’s wild scenery is the inspiration behind a project by a local craft brewer to blend beer and nature.

Twisted Trunk Brewing Company in Palm Beach Gardens this summer plans to roll out a custom beer in honor of natural areas such as the Loxahatchee Slough, Pine Glades and Cypress Creek.

A house-brewed craft beer at the Tequesta Brewing Co. in Tequesta. (Photo contributed by Tequesta Brewing Co.)
A house-brewed craft beer at the Tequesta Brewing Co. in Tequesta. (Photo contributed by Tequesta Brewing Co.)

“We’re leaning toward calling it ‘Loxahatchee Lager,’’’ said Fran Andrewlevich, brewmaster at Twisted Trunk, a subsidiary of Tequesta Brewing Co.

The plan is to donate a share of the proceeds from the sale of the beer to Palm Beach County’s department of Environmental Resources Management, which would use the money to help maintain the county’s natural areas.

“A lot of our customers hike and kayak in the natural areas. We just want to raise some awareness and make great beer,’’ Andrewlevich said.

One of those customers is Benji Studt, an environmental analyst with ERM who leads periodic photography hikes through the natural areas.

Benji Studt (red shirt) with students on a photo tour of Pine Glades Natural Area
Benji Studt (red shirt) with students on a photo tour of Pine Glades Natural Area

Andrewlevich said he and his partners got inspired to brew the special lager after listening to Studt sit at the bar describing the scenery.

“We plan on doing a beer that infuses some of the natural ingredients that are out there,’’ Andrewlevich said.

“Normally we do fruits and spices. Out there, there’s hibiscus, mulberry, natural blueberries. We’d like to tie those into the beer.’’yellowwildflower

A roll-out event, including a presentation by ERM, will be held sometime in July at Twisted Trunk.

“We’re thrilled they’re choosing to support local land conservation and our natural areas program,’’ Studt said.

“There are so many really great recreational opportunities out in the natural areas that are free to visitors.

“Right now they’re very underutilized. Getting word out to the public about these eco-treasures in our back yards is really what we’re excited about.’’