Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Undoing Racism In Holyoke: Enough Lamentation We Demand Legislation
How do we undo racism? Where do we begin to un-do racism? Who are the oppressed and who are the oppressors in Holyoke?
Friday December 12, 2014 Black and Brown residents of Holyoke, MA set a precedent to call out long-standing and systemic anti-Latino and Black racism in the Holyoke police department.
Initially, the plan was to have Holyoke High School students march together with residents however - the City of Holyoke was having none of that. We were not allowed to begin our protest at Holyoke High School. It appears, Morse's administration would rather Holyoke youth remain dormant - dis-engaged from the #Black Lives Matter movement which is calling an end to the militant policing of Black and Brown communities.
200 Black and Brown wombyn, men, children, differently-abled and transgender (residents) along with White allies marched from Career Point to City Hall on Dwight and High Street(s). Many expected mayor, Alex Morse to address the protesters however he nor anyone from his office came out to show support.
While Morse' administration did not support the Black Lives Matter Holyoke protest,two City Counselors Jossie Valentin and Rebecca Lisi did march with those of us who have been protesting, marching, rallying, dying and standing-out since the murder of Michael Brown and the non-indictment of his killer - former police officer Daren Wilson.
Peaceful protesters felt inhibited by the police escort who enforced barricade borders. But the metal barricades could not contain our "No justice, no peace! No Racist-ass Police! Or, the fervent FTP: Fuck the Police!" reverberating throughout downtown Holyoke.
The march culminated at United Congregational Church at 300 Appleton Street in Holyoke where the people held a "town hall" of sorts. Resident youth victim to Holyoke police brutality, profiling and harassment spoke out against the ways in which they have been criminalized, marginalized and pushed through the school-to-prison pipeline system.
Phoenix, a Puerto Rican teenager testified how a Holyoke police officer profiled him one afternoon during a casual walk in his own neighborhood.
"I decided to go for a walk in my neighborhood when suddenly a police cruiser pulls up beside me. Thinking oh no, here we go, my heart began to race... The police officer asked me what I was doing, my name, address and my social security number. I knew he wanted to look me up to see if I had a record. If I'd had something on my record (which, I didn't)perhaps it would have given him reason to search me, arrest me or who knows what. He then said a call had come in about a stolen bike. The conversation should have been over; I was not on a bike. But, he continued to question me."
This is how the Holyoke police department criminalizes our Black and Brown youth - guilty until proven innocent.
In a letter dated December 15, 2014, Edward Moskal, President of Local 388 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO)states: "I would like to thank President Kevin Jourdain and the City Council for the passage of a resolution supporting the Holyoke Police Department. Although this resolution was passed it appeared that two members of the City Council strayed with this opinion and on Friday, December 12, 2014 marched through the downtown during a demonstration which included yelling anti-police rhetoric now familiar to anyone who has watched the evening news.
Whether they were ones that did voice those opinions or not, it appears that they were not offended in any significant way to remove themselves from the other demonstrators who were chanting these harsh, profane and offensive slogans. As a police officer I respect their freedom of speech and understand that they have a right to express their opinions and beliefs. As a resident and voter I also have the right to make sure that every effort is undertaken to ensure that they are removed from their office in the next election."
Moskal's swift move to denounce and call for the "removal" of two city counselors/Holyoke residents is in lock-step with the "Blue-wall" practices and protocols of the Fraternal Order of Police which ends the career and threatens the life of a police officer who testifies against an unlawful officer.
In the above paragraph, the IBPO did not condemn municipal employees right to protest. More specifically, the IBPO condemns municipal employee's civic and constitutional right to protest against the unlawful practices of the Holyoke Police department.
The lack of judicial transparency in exposing anti-Black/Latino racist police practices is exactly what residents of Holyoke are protesting.
The residents of Holyoke including its municipal public servants, are not just protesting a few 'rotten-apples' - no. We are protesting a coordinated system of communication that protects police from the law when they break it. In that, prosecutors circumvent charging unlawful officers by convening a concealed group of individuals - a grand jury.
We are protesting the way in which, prosecutors present massive amounts of evidence without helping a grand jury to connect it with the law. Instead, prosecutors are allowing a grand jury to make their own interpretation of evidence. More importantly, officers are allowed to testify for hours about how they felt, what they thought they were doing and how sorry they are; non-evidence based testimony. Grand juries NEVER cross-examine police officers.
Additionally, the prosecutor can opt to omit physical evidence IE: video and eye-witness testimony of a crime scene. A grand jury then, decides whether to charge an officer or not based on the presented evidence/testimony.
Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights asserts...
"Police officers are prosecutors 'bread and butter' they depend on them to indict citizens posing an inherent conflict of interest. When a prosecutor has to indict a police officer who has committed a crime of any scale; an independent prosecutor should be brought in."
The IBPO moved swiftly to solicit the praise of the Holyoke City Council which incidentally, does NOT represent the community it serves. The Holyoke City Council is: pale, male and stale, in that, it is 90 percent White middle-class men who have held political affiliation as an inheritance. Their elected office has more to do with 'who' they know than 'what' they know.
As soon as we learned of the IBPO's December 15, 2014 letter denouncing protesters and our municipal supporters, we determined to descend on the meeting in one unified voice to send a clear message: we will not tolerate any more political manipulation and coercion against our civic and constitutional right to protest in the name of justice.
We demand to be heard...
We demand to speak for our selves...
We demand to be the solution.
This is how we begin to un-do racism.