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OK Freddy’s Re-Opens AGAIN!

Even the least of us deserve the right to respect, freedom from accusations without due process!

It’s been an asperous two weeks for Harold Willis better known as Freddy, the proprietor of OK Freddy’s Meat Market, located at 132 South 4th Avenue in Mount Vernon. First the mayor makes you the poster child for his Quality of Life Task Force against Crime and Grime, and with no notice has you evicted out of your business and then it is shutdown and padlocked. Then you go to court and Westchester County Court Judge Susan Cacace orders the city of Mount Vernon to remove the locks, a week later. Two days afterwards you are given 15 minutes to vacate the premises and told you are being shutdown again. You get a copy of the court order to Acting Police Commissioner Ronald Fatigate and he orders his officers to remove the lock 90 minutes later after reading the court order for himself.

Community leaders, elected officials and supporters have a rally outside your business in support of you and then two days after that on a Sunday of all days, Mayor Richard Thomas has you shutdown yet again and the add insult to injury, sporting a bullet proof vest the mayor holds a press conference and states he is enforcing the court order that stated the locks must come off, by padlocking your business again. Confusing, imagine how Freddy felt. Now not only is it Sunday, but it is Memorial Day Weekend, so you can not go to court again to fight it until Tuesday. Your lawyer goes to court and judge orders the locks be removed again and for them to stay off this time on Tuesday afternoon, but the city waits until Wednesday morning to remove them. Add to all of that, somewhere in all this you get a surprise Fire Inspection and pass. All of this transpires in a mere 15 days, 18 days if you count the lot next door being locked up three days before the store.

In the news your business has been described by the mayor as having a history of violations and is said to be a clear and present danger to the community, but in the ten years of operation you haven’t received a single violation [at least not one BW could find]. While you are left perplexed looking for answers on why you were ever shutdown in the first place, you are frustrated and a bit annoyed that you have been targeted, but you feel a little vindicated when you finally get to open your doors back up.

You receive a visit from members of the Building Department including the Acting Building Commissioner and the Building Inspector shortly after the locks come off, who inspect your store officially and give you 6 minor violations you will need to fix to stay in business. Which leaves Freddy, his employees, customers and even the media including BW, questioning why didn’t the city of Mount Vernon do this in the first place instead of repeatedly shutting the butcher shop down?

Other local businesses while they prefer to stay nameless for fear of retaliation tells BW, what concerns them is if this can happen to Freddy, this could be their business next. Questions no one, including the administration has yet to answer are why was this particular business targeted? Why did it have to come to all of this to then just receive the minor violations? Was this whole situation personal in nature? Why was the administration going so hard to discredit this successful business?

BW in an attempt to do our due diligence to investigate this, spent the bulk of the day, Wednesday at Freddy’s to gather answers. Even after reading the violations, Installation of Sign on the Facade, Extensive alterations within the store to introduce partitions and service counter (making upgrades to store without a permit), installation of a freezer (which belongs to the business next door) and a structure in the rear yard, installation of HVAC or AC system for the space, Plumbing works to introduce sinks and gas line for the HVAC system, and Electrical works to introduce spaces and outlets for the equipment, we were left with the question why exactly was the business shutdown in the fashion it was.

When local government goes after local black businesses on the South-side like OK Freddy’s for being in violation of city codes and allow a white owned strip club like Sue’s Rendezvous on the North-side to operate with impunity, therein lies the problem and questions the local governments commitment to truly cleaning up the city as it advertises. Sue’s with well documented incidents including three murders, several shootings and fights in this past year, continues to operate without push back from Mayor Thomas’ Quality of Life Task Force and OK Freddy’s is padlocked without due process with no obvious violations. It is hard not to questions the actions against OK Freddy’s. Sue’s infractions which have called for over 600 responses from the MVPD, should qualify for some major attention from a Quality of Life Task Force against Crime and Grime. Is it because Sue’s is on the North-side or the fact that they have made major campaign donations and possible pay-offs, that they still continue to go unchecked?

There is a right way and a wrong way to handle things and when persons or politicians in power circumvent the system and condemn local businesses in the city without Due Process that’s when the system as a whole fails.

The due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments ”[protect] the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged. The reasonable doubt standard plays a vital role in the American scheme of criminal procedure. It is a prime instrument for reducing the risk of convictions resting on factual error. The standard provides concrete substance for the presumption of innocence–that bedrock ‘axiomatic and elementary’ principle whose ‘enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law.”’

The same goes for shutting down a business, that has received no violations prior to the closure and is attempted to be discredited by the elected officials we vote into office and their administration. Due process deals with the administration of justice and thus the due process clause acts as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the Government outside the sanction of law.

Since Due Process was not afforded to OK Freddy’s Meat Market, the taxpayers of city of Mount Vernon may once again have to pay for it, should OK Freddy’s exercise it’s right to sue. One of the many potential lawsuits that may be filed from the actions of the Thomas Administration. Once again Mayor Thomas, how was this a victory and vindication of the city. Seems more like an indictment, REAL TALK!

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About AJ Woodson (2269 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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