The Kenosha alarm clock

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Kenosha 3

 

 

In a much more happy mood, for a week or two Gadfly suggested that we start our day with a Lehigh Valley anthem. Somber now, and recognizing that possible changes in Bethlehem policing are on our plate, Gadfly suggests we wake up in a different manner.

What is the Community Engagement Initiative, and how does it relate to the police? Can you count from 1-10?

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The police are in the cross-hairs, nationally and locally.

Why?

Many of our residents cannot understand what seems to be a negative focus on the police, and even in some a desire to eliminate the police altogether.

At the final session of BAPL’s wonderful 4-part “Dialogues on Racial Justice” workshop series, Guillermo Lopez said that when the oppressed, the suppressed, the downtrodden finally get the energy to look up from the figurative boot on their neck and seek change, what they see first is the police. (I am paraphrasing and probably elaborating unconscionably.)

Floyd 16

The police are seen as the visible, tangible, memorable proximate manifestation of their poor condition, which has manifold sources.

Councilman Reynolds uses the easily grasped analogy of counting from 1-10. The police are 10, but there is a laundry list of social injustices before that, a 1-9, that need to be addressed first and as well if the condition between the police and the community can be improved.

There are problems with the police, but in these analogies, Reynolds and Lopez helped me see the bigger picture and understand that change in 10 demands change elsewhere.

Short clip. Listen up. Provides clarity. Good stuff. Exciting prospect.

  • One’s opportunities are often determined by your race.
  • Correcting those inequities on a structural level is one of the basic tenets of the idea of social justice
  • Social justice is not just about policing.
  • It’s like counting to 10; the police get involved when you get to 10.
  • But social justice is working, caring, dedicating your life to 1 through 9.
  •  . . . education . . . mental health . . . transportation . . . housing . . . employment . . . the list goes on and on . . .
  • We as a city cannot have a conversation about number 10 without going through 1-9.
  • That’s what the Community Engagement Initiative is about.
  • This does not mean not having a police department.
  • It means understanding that systemic racism exists in 1 through 10.
  • It means spending our time and allocating our resources . . . in a way that recognizes the responsibility of people in positions of authority to fix 1 through 10.

If you want to refresh yourself on Councilman Reynolds’ July 7 full comments from which the above clip is excerpted, go here:

Councilman Reynolds on the Community Engagement Initiative

 

“An incident . . . that really changed my life”

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I’m so often . . . reminded of my color.
Doc Rivers

Why did Rivers say that?

What did he mean?

Many white people will probably not understand.

That’s what it means to be white, to be privileged. White people do not think about their color.

All Rivers wants to do is be a coach, just wants to go about his life as a coach. Yet he must always deal with his color.

White people in city government should be trying to understand that fully as we reckon with a worthy city response to the events with George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and now Jacob Blake.

Gadfly as well as several other white followers have in the recent past chronicled here personal narratives of racial awareness.

Listen now to Councilman Callahan describe his first recognition that he was white, that he was different.

Bethlehem City Council minutes, July 7, 2020, p. 23

Mr. Callahan thanked Councilwoman Crampsie Smith and Councilman Reynolds for bringing this forth. He does not know what the will is of the rest of Council and if they maybe want to table this and get more feedback from some of the people that spoke tonight. He had an incident probably around 1984 that changed his life. Like many white people we just walk around and think there is no racism in the world and we do not know that it can be felt without even a word being said or an act. His oldest brother was a basketball coach at Syracuse University and he went there when he was in college and he had been at parties and meetings up until that point in his life many times with one African American person or one Hispanic person but never in his mind did he think that there was any racism in the room. After there was a basketball game someone took him to a party that night and he told his brother that he was going to take him out because they were the same age and they were going to a few parties. Before the party they stopped by another party in a little condo and when we walked in he was overwhelmed with an uncomfortable feeling, not because anything was said or anything was done to him, we walked into an all-black party. Mr. Callahan noted that was the first time in his life that he was the only white person in a room with all minorities. There were some really nice people who came up to him and introduced themselves and offered him a beverage.But there were some who just gave him a look, there was nothing said but there was the feeling that maybe he was not really supposed to be there. His friend went upstairs and he was basically left alone in this place for 15-20 minutes. He knew no on in the room and they were all African-American but that changed his life forever because he never will forget that feeling he had or just feeling that there are feelings of racism out there. From that point forward anytime he is in a room with anybody that is not of the majority, whether they are African American or Hispanic or Asian, he always tries to go out of his way to welcome them and make them feel as comfortable as possible. He again wanted to congratulate the Council Members that brought this forward.

July 7 was the meeting at which the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution was adopted.

Do you have a story to tell?

“Political theater is uncalled for”

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Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

ref: Good conversation builds community, and . . .

Gadfly,

Name calling, accusations, fear mongering, and racist statements are a large part of why we’ve gotten to this point.

None of this is productive, and it defeats what should be good intentions from all directions on this issue.

Confrontation isn’t necessarily a non productive approach, but it is when public officials appear to use it to call out their peers, especially by name.

State your case and let others state their own.

If you disagree that can be a healthy approach to reaching consensus or finding some common ground on the matter.

Political theater is uncalled for.

Threats and bullying from anyone play into a portion of the national drama that many believe has influenced what is happening across America.

Positive and negative experiences should essentially be given equal weight as truth and solutions are sought.

Julia Jackson is correct. People need to find a way to heal, not rub salt in old wounds.

Dana

Doc Rivers: “I’m so often . . . reminded of my color”

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Doc Rivers, head coach for the Los Angeles Clippers

  • What stands out to me is just watching the Republican Convention. They’re spewing this fear, right? You hear Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear.
  • We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that were denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot.
  • All you do is keep hearing about fear.
  • It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It’s really so sad.
  • I should just be a coach. I’m so often . . . reminded of my color. It’s just really sad.
  • We’ve got to do better, but we got to demand better.
  • Yo, it’s funny. We protest and they send riot guards, right? They sent people in riot outfits. They go to Michigan with guns and they’re spitting on cops, and nothing happens.
  • The training has to change in the police force.
  • The unions have to be taken down in the police force.
  • My dad was a cop. I believe in good cops.
  • We’re not trying to defund the police and take all their money away. We’re trying to get them to protect us, just like they protect everybody else.
  • That video, if you watch that video, you don’t need to be black to be outraged. You need to be American and outraged.
  • How dare the Republicans talk about fear? We’re the ones that need to be scared. We’re the ones having to talk to every black child. What white father has to give his son a talk about being careful if you get pulled over?
  • It’s just ridiculous. It just keeps getting … It keeps going. There’s no charges. Brionna Taylor, no charges, nothing.
  • All we’re asking is you live up to the Constitution. That’s all we’re asking, for everybody, for everyone.

Gadfly is choosing videos and texts to highlight that he thinks will help (force?) us to think from varied perspectives about the significant issue on the table before the City — our participation in the national reckoning about race spurred by the killing of George Floyd. If you have a text or video you think we should highlight, please pass it on.

At least we’ve had a press conference in Kenosha now.

The Kenosha alarm clock

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Kenosha 3

 

 

In a much more happy mood, for a week or two Gadfly suggested that we start our day with a Lehigh Valley anthem. Somber now, and recognizing that possible changes in Bethlehem policing are on our plate, Gadfly suggests we wake up in a different manner.

Good conversation builds community, and . . .

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 . . . and bad conversation destroys community.

That’s the way it goes with language.

We’ve had bad conversation on all sides.

A caller at the August 11 Public Safety meeting reminded us that a defunding partisan said, “we don’t need to hear from any more white people.” That kind of talk gets us nowhere.

A defender of the police called defunders “insane.” That’s insane. In what universe does that help to solve problems.

A defender suggested that residents might need to pass a stakeholder test before claiming the right to speak on the issue of police/community relations.  Echoes of the poll test before voting. A silencing tactic. Anti-democratic.

A defender suggested that defunders might find another city in which to live. America, love it or leave it. Bethlehem, love it as is, or leave it. A particularly nasty trope. Anti-democratic.

A businessperson on Main St. with years of good relations with the police argued against defunding as if her experience was the only one that counted. Remember empathy.

A defender asked who will safeguard you from the death of your loved ones if we defund police departments seemingly without realizing that defunders were reacting to the injury and death to their loved ones at the hands of the police. Whose loved ones count the most?

Out of nowhere at the end of a recent City Council meeting, one Councilperson asked another Councilperson a question whose only purpose Gadfly could discern was to cause trouble — and not the John Lewis variety of “good trouble.” Of course, Gadfly could be wrong. But Council dissension is the last thing we need.

Both defunders and defenders threaten political retribution. Vote my way, or we’ll vote you out of office. Gadfly is not always sure that elected officials are strong enough to withstand such threats. Perhaps naively, he hopes that arguments can be made without such threats. Make your case. Persuade. Don’t bully.

“We need to heal,” we just heard Julia Jackson say.

Let’s avoid the incendiary and inflammatory and insensitive.

And remember that good conversation can build community.

Jacob Blake’s mother: “We need healing”

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The news from Kenosha: two dead, more injured, invectives, firebombings, rocks, tear gas, rubber bullets, vigilantes, militia . . .

But through it all, Gadfly hears the voice of one who might justly lay claim to the title of most aggrieved:

  • We really just need prayers.
  • If Jacob knew what was going on . . . the violence and the destruction, he would be very unpleased.
  • I’m really asking and encouraging everyone . . . to take a moment and examine your hearts.
  • We need healing.
  • As I pray for my son’s healing . . . I also have been praying, even before this, for the healing of our country .
  • Take a look at your hand. Whatever shade it is is beautiful as well.
  • How dare you ask him [God] to make one type of human that looks just like you.
  • I am not just talking to Caucasian people. I am talking to everyone.
  • No one is superior to the other.
  • Please, let’s begin to pray for healing for our nation.
  • Have we been united?
  • To all of the police officers, I’m praying for you.
  • Let’s use our hearts, our love, and our intelligence to work together.
  • America is great when we behave greatly.

Still no official press conference?

Listening summit: building relationships key; defunding police not the answer locally

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from Sarah M. Wojcik, “Dialogue on race and policing continues in Northampton County, but both sides seem to agree on one thing: defunding police is not the answer.” Morning Call, August 25, 2020.

David Collins, a captain with the Department of Corrections at the Northampton County Jail. . . . doesn’t think police departments need less money, but he also believes in the power of peaceful protesting and the message of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“If I’m doing my job, I get it from both sides,” Collins told a roomful of police leadership and Black community members Tuesday morning at the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem. “I don’t believe in the movement to defund police. I think it’s ridiculous. But I also believe in Black Lives Matter. How can I not? After I take this uniform off, people don’t see a blue life. They see a Black life.”

Collins shared his experience during the second installment of a listening summit designed to open a dialogue between Northampton County law enforcement and Black leaders in the community.

The aim of the summits — the first of which was in June — has been the sharing of ideas, experiences and concerns, in order to try to improve the relationship between police and communities of color.

Andre Stevens, a detective and task force coordinator with the Northampton County Drug Task Force, said he was dismayed to see the video, both as a member of law enforcement and a Black man. He said he was most bothered that officers, close enough to Blake to tug on his shirt, chose deadly force over other methods of detaining the man.

“Police are not punching bags. We want to go home safely to our families,” said Stevens. “That being said, if you got fear in your heart, you shouldn’t wear the badge. Because it’s fear that will escalate a situation far beyond where it should.”

But a lot of the confrontations between police and the public are not clear cut, argued Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio. He mentioned the July 12 incident in Allentown, when a city officer restrained Edward Borrero Jr., 37, in front of the St. Luke’s Hospital-Sacred Heart, and used a knee to keep Borrero’s head pinned to the ground.

Photos and video of the encounter caught national attention and sparked local protests. But Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin ultimately determined the officer’s use of force was “reasonable.”

“Use of force does not look pretty,” DiLuzio said. “It’s messy and it’s nasty. It never looks like it does on TV. And that’s why we need to wait and see what the facts are before we go out and make things worse.”

Police and community members agreed that building relationships would be key to changing tensions between law enforcement and communities of color.

But Tuesday’s attendees agreed that the rallying cry to defund the police was not the answer locally.

Houck said he greatly opposed the idea, saying he’s seen police departments slowly “defunded” over the years as budgets have been slashed.

“It would cripple prosecutions and investigations if it were to continue,” Houck said of funding reductions.

Myers also took issue with a literal interpretation of “defund the police.” What he believes most people want to see is a reallocation of police funding.

This would mean beefing up training or moving some of the duties to different professionals such as social workers, rather than shelling out money for militarized equipment, Myers said.

Nicole Cooper, an Easton resident who has helped organize Black Lives Matter events in the city, agreed that “defunding” can be a misnomer that hurts the cause itself. But while reallocation is more accurate, she said that term doesn’t capture the full breadth of the reform advocates want. Funding changes should also include an element of oversight and accountability, she said, ensuring that departments put the money where it’s most needed in their community, whether it be for outreach or training.

Bethlehem PD Releases Report on Citizen and Police Interactions

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A Report on Citizen and Police Interactions
August 12, 2020.

from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem Police release report on five years of citizen complaints.” Morning Call, August 25, 2020.

Bethlehem police released a report Tuesday on resident complaints over a five-year period, showing only 7% of the 125 filings were substantiated by the department.

Topping the list was rude and unprofessional behavior, followed by disputes with police and then complaints about force, which accounted for 16 of the incidents from 2015 through 2019. Allegations ranged from an officer damaging someone’s property, to inappropriate use of force, to people saying they were targeted by police, and racial profiling. Nine of the complaints were substantiated by the department.

“When you look at the report, look at it with an open mind. We are providing the number of complaints and what happened with those complaints, who filed those complaints,” police Chief Mark DiLuzio said. “I think they are very good statistics considering the number of calls and arrests made per year. Would I like to see them lower? Yes, but we are being honest and transparent and putting the numbers out there.”

The report also noted the gender and race of those filing complaints in the city of 76,370 residents, where nearly 60% are white, 29% are Hispanic and 7.5% are Black. Whites filed 65% of complaints; 17.6% were filed by Black complainants; and 15.2% were filed by Hispanics.

Although the information has always been available to the public, Tuesday was the first time the department issued a report on it, DiLuzio said.

During the time frame covered by the report, police responded to 216,489 calls to 911 and made 13,650 arrests.

The report doesn’t detail what discipline officers faced in cases where it was determined they violated department rules. In the report, DiLuzio says 11 officers either resigned or were discharged in the past seven years.

DiLuzio said two of those officers were arrested, though in both instances the behavior occurred off duty and wasn’t related to the officers’ job performance. For lesser violations, such as an officer acting rudely, they may be sent for retraining. If the behavior happens multiple times, they could be suspended without pay, DiLuzio said.

The majority of complaints were for rude and unprofessional behavior, with 70 such complaints logged. The second highest category was for disputes with the police, which had 21 complaints. A dispute can be any situation where the resident wants the officer to do something and the officer does not do it, the report says. For example, the resident may want a neighbor arrested.

As for use-of-force complaints, body cameras can be analyzed to verify if an officer’s actions were in compliance with the department’s directives on force. The report showed six use-of-force complaints last year, up from only one complaint in both 2018 and 2017. There were five such complaints in 2016 and three in 2015.

There was only one complaint about racial profiling noted in the report. That complaint was made in 2015. In 2016 there were five complaints about being targeted or harassed by police. Such complaints usually involved an allegation that an officer gave a ticket or made an arrest because the officer and the person had prior contact and the officer didn’t like the person.

“The majority of complaints filed against officers failed to show that the officer acted or performed contrary to department regulations or state law. Police body cameras, city surveillance cameras, in-car dash cameras and even videos from citizens were very important in the investigation of these complaints and allegations,” the report says.

When a complaint is received, it is reviewed by the department’s Professional Standards Division which is comprised of several Bethlehem police officers. The division is responsible for overseeing training and works with the state and national accreditation agencies on policies and directives.

If the complaint is minor, the officer’s immediate supervisor investigates. Such allegations could include that the officer was rude or failed to take action.

Serious allegations, like gross misconduct, excessive force, death or injury and violations of law are investigated by supervisors in the Professional Standards Division. Because of the serious nature of these violations, the district attorney’s office is usually involved.

When an allegation is filed against a supervisor, the police chief will assign the deputy chief, a captain or lieutenant to investigate, the report says.

“I want people to understand that we hold police officers responsible and accountable when they do something,” DiLuzio said. “If they break a rule or are upset with someone and are rude, they get disciplined.”

Esther Lee, longtime president of the Bethlehem NAACP, said she has yet to see the report on complaints but believes it will be discussed at the group’s meeting next week. She said she has not heard many complaints about the police department.

“Over here in Bethlehem we have a pretty good relationship with the officers. I think our police are very mindful of what they do,” she said.

The Kenosha alarm clock

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Kenosha 3

Second video emerges. For another look at the first one go here.

 

In a much more happy mood, for a week or two Gadfly suggested that we start our day with a Lehigh Valley anthem. Somber now, and recognizing that possible changes in Bethlehem policing are on our plate, Gadfly suggests we wake up in a different manner.

 

“The sky is falling” scenarios keep us stuck in the status quo

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Gadfly:

When everything is reduced to points & to winning and losing, making sure every point is correct and nobody is ignoring infractions is obviously essential to diehard fans and to those who bet on the results. Doing what’s right, not so much.

In real life, where “doing what’s right” is or should be more important than scores or statistics, any premise of reducing funding to police must also involve reducing the number of incidents to which police have to be dispatched — a combination of prevention AND of providing qualified professional response [such as specially trained MH paramedics for certain types of non-violent situations] — that’s why such efforts in Eugene OR and Austin TX have been so successful.

IMO, creating “the sky is falling” scenarios like the one below keep us stuck in the status quo instead of looking for possible alternatives.

BTW, one of your previous posts referred to the number of unarmed Blacks shot by police. Apparently that statistic was incomplete. I’m not sure what their definition of “unarmed” meant, or whether it included women — but I’m pretty sure it didn’t include non-shooting deaths. (In other words, a murder such as George Floyd wouldn’t have been counted at all.)

Peter Crownfield

Discussion about policing should center on how do we do it better

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ref: Defunding the Police won’t work

Gadfly,

I read this interesting analysis in the Morning Call. How will the remaining 4 officials treat the game of football as they are under-staffed and the game is fast-paced and unpredictable at times? Can they handle the demands with winning and losing at stake in a professional sport where athletes strive to be successful? This leads me to the below pondering.

Let’s look at policing from a different perspective, and imagine that you’re a cop. There used to be 155 of you and now there are 125. Instead of your municipality springing for body armor, now you must buy it. You receive a clothing allowance instead of that municipality picking up the tab for uniforms, shoes, rain gear, etc. Office supplies aren’t as plentiful. Technology? Repairs are infrequent, yet the standards for reporting remain the same. Is training cut back? Repairs to motorcycles and cruisers takes longer. How many added responsibilities have you been assigned because there are less of you? Is there enough time in the day to get everything done?

Now, imagine showing up at a domestic situation (one of the most dangerous for an officer to be in), and you’ve had it, because nothing else seems to be going right. You’re under-resourced, you’re over-worked and under-staffed, and you’re expected to cross your tees and dot your eyes, referee a husband and wife at war with each other, and maybe things aren’t going well at home because your attitude about law enforcement has changed due to the aforementioned conditions. It’s already a stressful job made that much more stressful by things out of your control.

Who will benefit, who will pay the price as a result? How many will decide this is the career for them?

There’s an old saying, “Be careful of what you wish for?” In my opinion the discussion about policing should center on how do we do it better? Morale is almost non existent in city hall already. It is in many places of employment. Do you want to build morale or resentment?

Just food for thought because the solutions to issues are built by analyzing each side, not just one perspective, one that is dominating the talk these days.

Anonymous

Gadfly knows the identity of the poster, who prefers to remain anonymous.

Sights and sounds to remember as Bethlehem discusses policing

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Gadfly can’t get this 47 seconds out of his mind.

We don’t know the full story. As I write this late Monday night there has been no press conference or even a promise of one.*** We don’t know the nature of the call that brought so many police to the scene (4? 5?). We hear that two girls were fighting, and Jacob Blake was trying to break it up. We hear he scuffled with the police. There is mention on one newscast of a knife, a story unverified. We hear that Blake was tazed. We see him walking around the car to the driver’s door followed by two officers, guns drawn. We watch him entering the car and shot 7 times in the back before he sits down. We learn Blake’s 3 children were in the car, children younger than 10. We hear that he had a run-in with the police in 2015. We don’t know what training the officers had. Not much is known for sure.

So much we don’t know. We’ll eventually get the full story.

But this is just hard to watch, to understand.

Listen to the 7 shots — 7 — and the horn blare from Blake’s slumping body.

Kenosha 3

Here, in a nutshell, is the problem calling for attention.

Much motivation here for our informed, thoughtful, and civil discussions, if motivation be needed.

 

*** One of Allentown’s draft resolutions — recognizing the need for quick transparency to forestall unrest and establish trust — mandated community meetings following use of force incidents, and I think a time frame close to the incident was proposed. Not a bad idea. Sounds like Kenosha is going to simmer troublingly from lack of knowledge.

longer video of the Wisconsin shooting

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Scroll down in this story for a “better” video than Gadfly posted before:

“Video shows Wisconsin police shooting a Black man multiple times as he enters a car”

Bernice King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter and the chief executive of the King Center, said on Twitter she was dismayed to see another video of a Black person being “brutalized and/or gunned down by police.”

“Anybody who doesn’t believe we are beyond a state of emergency is choosing to lack empathy and awareness,” King said.

Let’s see where some innovative thinking could lead!

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ref: Again . . .

Gadfly:

In one of your pairs of comments last week, someone used the hammer-nail analogy to say that if you start with the assumption that there’s a systemic problem, you can find evidence to support it.

But the same holds true for assuming that police could solve all these problems if they only had more funding, more training, and better management & scheduling. So supporters can find evidence that tends to support that approach.

Common sense tell us that no matter how good the PD is, not everything is a law-enforcement problem, not every situation is best handled by an armed police officer. So let’s see where some innovative thinking could lead!

(As Albert Einstein said, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’)

Peter Crownfield

Ethics Training for City Officials Thursday August 27 6PM

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City Council is required to go through ethics training every two years, if Gadfly understands correctly.

The Mayor and department heads will attend as well.

Would be good for anybody contemplating running for office. Campaign season for mayor and other offices begins in a short 4-5 months or so.

The public is invited.  Gadfly is curious and plans to attend. See the document at the bottom of the page for an idea of the content of the meeting.

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE MEETING

Date:
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Time:
6:00 pm
Location:
Town Hall

DUE TO THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY, TOWN HALL ACCESS IS CURRENTLY RESTRICTED. IF YOU WANT TO MAKE PUBLIC COMMENT, PLEASE FOLLOW THE PHONE COMMENT INSTRUCTIONS BELOW.

PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS 

REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during the City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting on August 27, 2020, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Council President announces he will take public comment calls. If you would like to sign up to speak, email the following information to the Bethlehem City Clerk’s office (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 12:00 PM on August 27, 2020 (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the City Council President will call you from (610) 997-7963. After all signed-up speakers talk, the Council President will ask whether anyone else would like to make public comments. If you want to speak at that time, call the Bethlehem City Council public comment phone line at (610) 997-7963.

NOTES. Calls to the public comment phone number will only be accepted during the designated public comment period with a 5 minute time limit. If you call and the line is busy, please call back when the current speaker is finished. As soon as your call begins, please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address. A five minute time limit will apply to any public comments.

You can watch the City Council Meeting on the following YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw
Documents:
JFrankenburger Power Point Presentation 2020

Defunding the Police won’t work

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James Knerr, “Defunding the Police won’t work.” Morning Call, August 19, 2020.

With all the talk about defunding the police, let’s take a look at a similar situation i.e. the National Football League.

Since everybody hates the NFL referees anyway, let’s decrease them from seven per game to four per game.

The money that would normally be spent on the other three would then be given to a Football Social Agency. This agency would speak to every player and explain that it is unsportsmanlike to commit penalties like holding, clipping, etc.

Does any reasonable person believe this is going to work in the NFL? Of course not.

Then why would would anybody think it will work in real life?

Think about it, some social agency is going to convince people not to commit crimes and be model citizens. Wow.

Fellow Americans, you better wake up and smell reality before it’s too late.

Pretty funny, eh?

Saving the Colonial Industrial Quarter treasures from water damage

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from Charlene Donchez Mowers, “Bethlehem’s famed colonial buildings are in danger. We must save them – soon – from floods.” Morning Call, August 23, 2020.

As I read through the pages of my Morning Call newspaper recently, I was dismayed to see the photograph of our Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites’ Colonial Industrial Quarter under water, illustrating several challenges highlighted in the Town Square article written by Paul Muschick.

The area has been flooded numerous times in past years, wreaking havoc on this historic area and its structures.

The Colonial Industrial Quarter, which sits along the Monocacy Creek in downtown Bethlehem, can be considered America’s earliest industrial park, with 35 crafts, trades and industries operating there by 1747. It was the largest concentration of pre-Industrial Revolution trades in the American colonies.

In recent years, you may recognize this historic site as the backdrop for our Historic Bethlehem school tours and 5-K Turkey Trot as well as Musikfest and Celtic Classic.

There was a terrible flood of this area during Hurricane Ivan in the mid-2000s; there were two floods in 2010, one in July and one in October. There were two floods in August of 2011, not to mention more minor flooding in the years since, and then Tropical Storm Isaias hit us last week.

Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites needs help to protect these historically important assets. This site is part of Historic Moravian Bethlehem, a national historic landmark district, one of only eight such districts in Pennsylvania.

More importantly, Historic Moravian Bethlehem has been short-listed for nomination to the World Heritage List. This is the highest recognition afforded an historic site in our nation. Of the 1,121 World Heritage sites around the globe, there are only 24 World Heritage sites in the United States; two are in Pennsylvania — Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and the Frank Lloyd Wright House, Fallingwater, near Pittsburgh.

Saving these important treasures is part of our mission of preservation and education, not only for Bethlehem, but for our region, state and nation. The Colonial Industrial Quarter is part of the fabric of our community, a place that people have come to love and enjoy. This is one of the most photographed areas in the Lehigh Valley.

Each time the Colonial Industrial Quarter floods, restoration and repairs are needed. This is achieved through modest flood insurance proceeds and the efforts of the City of Bethlehem assisting with grounds cleanup.

As a potential World Heritage site, Historic Moravian Bethlehem will need to develop a management plan to protect these valuable buildings. We are calling upon our community and elected officials, and the colleges and universities in the Lehigh Valley to reach out to gain support to institute a plan to solve these issues quickly.

We must protect these irreplaceable structures with their incredible history for today and for generations to come.

Amen here too!

“The black and brown people are always left behind”

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We’ve been thinking a lot about and talking a lot about systemic racism.

Gadfly couldn’t help but fold that in to the public comment by Southside Little League President Roy Ortiz at the August 18 City Council meeting.

The Southside Little League needs relocating.

Mr. Ortiz called attention to the perennial flooding of Southside’s field,  a situation that impedes their play, a situation that the City has wasted money band-aiding for years.

Councilman Colon remembers the bad situation when he played ball.

And Gadfly can go back over twice as long to the days when he coached and administered in the Northeast and North Central Little Leagues.

That Southside field has always been trouble.

Mr. Ortiz observed that of the 6 city Little Leagues, the Southside always gets “the short end of the stick.” The field is not up to code; it should be condemned. “Our kids don’t deserve this,” he said, “begging” for relocation. Coming to Council because he hadn’t been able to connect with the Recreation director.

Mr. Ortiz got a sympathetic ear from Councilmen Reynolds and Colon, but it was Councilwoman Negron, the conscience of the Southside, who put the button on the lingering situation.

“The bottom line is that it is always, always the problem that the lower income communities, the black and brown people are always left behind,” said Councilwoman Negron, “The attention is not there. And that is wrong. And it is time to right the wrong.”

Amen.

Again . . .

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We hold our breath.

It could happen here.

But since nothing like this or near like this has happened in Bethlehem in recent history, Gadfly senses no groundswell over the past weeks to change the system of policing.

However, the information provided about police training at the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting did not seem to go over particularly well in Gadfly’s opinion.

And Councilwoman Crampsie Smith and Councilman Callahan have voiced support for more training.

There would seem to be in general three ways to foster more training:

  • increasing the police budget
  • an internal change in the way officers are deployed to open up time for training
  • outside funding, grants, etc.

Waiting to exhale.

Melding the medley: listen to the composite commenters

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

Gadfly loves your voices.

The Voices of the People.

And tries to do all he can to amplify them and assure you that you are listened to.

That’s why Gadfly was, frankly, ticked off at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

All that drama getting a Public Safety Committee meeting scheduled.

The six hours of meeting.

Then thud.

More than 25 people spoke, approaching the witching hour. I think Chair Colon woke one of them up when he called.

Then thud.

Our Councilors listened to the public. Gadfly wanted to know what our Councilors heard.

They had a week to review, to recollect, to reflect.

Thunk.

So here’s what Gadfly heard. Gadfly has slow-walked us through all the public commentary. And, now, combining almost entirely verbatim text that you read in previous posts with a pinch of creative license, Gadfly would like you to imagine a Composite Defunder (think Hispanic male) and a Composite Defender (think, perhaps, a 50-ish white resident) addressing City Council.

The Composite Defunder

To begin, let me say that I am not anti-police. I am pro-Bethlehem. I am pro my community. But I see a problem with the way we do policing. First, the BPDs own data bears out that people of color are having more police encounters, are having more use of force directed at them. Furthermore, that same data suggests that the Latinx community is not reporting to the police. As an Hispanic male, the answers that were given about the disparities in the use of force were wholly inadequate. And I could tell you about a troubling discriminatory experience my wife and children had with the police. I shouldn’t have to say that my wife’s skin color is not a threat, shouldn’t have to say that my bi-racial children’s existence is not resistance. Second, let’s talk about the problem with police responding to mental health calls. Introducing members of the community with health issues into the criminal justice system is not helping them. Anguished reports from such people demonstrate that encounters with police are traumatizing even when they don’t end with injury or death. The police say that the violence they do to such people is simply “taking them down” to protect them from themselves. To normalize the fact that we are talking about brutalizing a human being as a method of de-escalation is just really not acceptable and alarming. We should not be normalizing these kinds of police behaviors. So, we’re saying we need to think about what other people’s experience with police has been like. Just like the visceral feeling the 60-something straight privileged white woman feels when she witnesses her South Bethlehem neighbors treated in a way perhaps unlike white folks anywhere. For many of those people, for your black and brown neighbors especially, those not here tonight whom you are pledged to protect, the system is broken. What if we worked hard to recruit residents from our own neighborhoods to become police officers as a means to alleviate discrimination? And when we say defund the police, we are not saying eliminate the police. What we are saying when we say defund the police is we want you to fund appropriate response to mental health situations. When we say defund the police, we are simply saying don’t fund them to respond to certain calls — pay social workers, pay mental health professionals instead. We need a city budget that is in line with all our priorities for all our people. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. Fight the good fight toward, as one of you said, ending systemic racism and creating an equitable city.

 

The Composite Defender

I’m proud to be a citizen of Bethlehem and proud to have the Bethlehem police. I am very proud of the police department and think that being nationally accredited and accredited by the state shows how far ahead we are as a city. I think we have one of the best police departments in the state. I will go as far as saying we have one of the best police departments in the country. Over the past 10 years Bethlehem Police officers have definitely saved hundreds of lives, probably many more. I don’t know what more you can ask from our Chief and our police department. If there are problems, the department is more than capable of working on them. Therefore, any ideas of disbanding or defunding the police are appalling to me. I am just really disgusted with these people who are calling in and attacking our police department. There is no such thing as defunding, dismantling, abolishing the police department. These people are insane. They need to go somewhere and live in Minneapolis where all this stuff is happening. I ask you, who will stop the rape or death of your loved ones if we abolish or defund police departments?  Who are these people? What qualifies these radical activists as stakeholders in our community? Black Lives Matter is at its core a Marxist organization, admittedly led by trained Marxists. Would an organization whose goal is empowering Black citizens trash and burn its Black communities to the ground? The overthrow of our government is the goal. There is no appeasing these radicals. One of them even said right out at a Council meeting, “we don’t need to hear from any more white people.” A lot of people may say that abolishing the police department is different than defunding it, but make no mistake, the goal is to eliminate the police department. I have looked at the statistics, and I was impressed by the very low numbers of the use of force. And, in any event, you have to remember that if people don’t comply, then use of force is going to be used. There are 18,000 police departments in the United States. Nationwide, there were 13 or 14 unarmed Blacks killed in 2019 by police. That doesn’t sound like systemic racism to me. It saddens me to think that the unconscionable actions of a few have cast a pall on so many dedicated and honorable police officers. I feel that some of the questions posed by Council seemed like a fishing expedition for bad behavior when there was none. Your meeting is full of professors who live in ivory towers. Maybe we need to expand our views beyond Council’s chosen local criminologist. And maybe Council needs to examine its own implicit and explicit biases. Some Council members are struggling to understand the difference between statistics on a page and real life policing; you would do well to participate in a defensive tactics scenario. In conclusion, I love our police department, I respect our police department. If your idea is to turn our city into the likes of Seattle or Minneapolis, don’t get too comfortable in those City Council seats. If defunding the police department happens in Bethlehem, I will work diligently to replace each one of you that voted for it. I appreciate your time listening to me.

Resident words were Gadfly’s script here. Did Gadfly get it right? Or, if not, how would you capsule and characterize the public “testimony”? What are you thinking after reading these imaginary presentations before City Council? How should City Council respond? How would you respond if you were a Councilperson? Who got the better of the opportunity to present their case? You know Gadfly loves asking you to role play.

Michele’s suggestions for our reading list

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

Gadfly loves these suggestions of works for us to read.

It shows where people are coming from, what’s shaped their views, and gives the rest of us an opportunity to share another’s perspective on the world.

In her response to Cindy O’Brien’s public comment at the end of the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting (Cindy was literally the last caller!), Michele Downing recommended three books.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Layla Saad, Me and White Supremacy

Ibram Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning (he who wrote How to be AntiRacist)

We can’t really give you text to read here, but the above videos will give you a sense of the authors and how their works and worldviews relate to systemic racism.

Great coincidence regarding Ta-Nehisi Coates. CBS Sunday Morning (which Gadfly considers the sanest show on television — ha! not that you care or asked) did an excellent piece on him this morning. View “Vanity Fair magazine seizes the moment.”

The coincidence was a sign to order Coates’s book. Gadfly did.

Got any suggestions for our reading list?

A Public Safety Committee meeting medley

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

The 25+ residents who called in to the Public Safety Committee meeting August 11 provide a reasonable pool of the varied community voices on the general subject of defunding or otherwise altering our policing structure.

Gadfly has presented audio and print records of their commentary in full (always go to the primary source, right?) and paired them in “conversation” with a counterpart to sharpen the divergent perspectives.

Trying to help you understand. Trying to help you think.

Another way of understanding commenter views is this collection of soundbites from their commentary that you see below.

Gadfly suggests that each item on these lists could be a fruitful conversation starter. “We need a city budget that is in line with our priorities,” for instance, might lead us to ask each other what the primary purpose of government is. Someone might answer “keep the peace,” and someone else might jump in and say, “Yes, but . . . “ – and an interesting conversation about budgets as moral documents might ensue in which everybody might be enlightened.

We are trying to get a better idea of each other’s positions as we move toward what will no doubt be some policy proposals by City Council and the City Administration.

And we should be trying to influence those Councilors and Administrators who may be direct or indirect readers of this blog.

Gadfly invites you to favor us with your perspective on the collective voice of each position or to “run” with ideas generated by one or more of these soundbites.

Which “side” are you on? Do you agree with everything on your side? What do you agree with on the other side, what most disagree with? Which soundbite jumps out at you?


For defunding

Those who spoke for defunding said such things as:

My identity as a straight white 60-something woman means I receive more respect and hold more privilege than any in my South Bethlehem neighborhood when it comes to potential interactions with police.

What if we worked to recruit to really raise our own folks to become our police department?

My wife’s skin color is not a threat.

To normalize the fact that we are talking about brutalizing a human being as a method of de-escalation is just really not acceptable and alarming.

I am not anti-police. I am pro-Bethlehem. I am pro my community.

As an Hispanic male, the answers that were given about the disparities in the use of force were wholly inadequate.

Encounters with police are traumatizing even when they don’t end with injury or death.

Let’s just point out that something’s broken in the system in Bethlehem.

When we say defund the police, we say don’t fund them to respond to those calls — pay social workers, pay mental health professionals.

This didn’t start with George Floyd.

Introducing members of the community with health issues into the criminal justice system is not helping them.

Tolerating racism in any form is racist.

Let’s really talk about the people this is really affecting and that we are showing up here for. It’s not us, it’s for the people who can’t be here tonight. Our black and brown neighbors.

When we say defund the police, it’s we want to fund appropriate response.

You should not be normalizing these kinds of behaviors.

We’re saying we need to think about what other people’s experience with police has been like.

The data bears out that POC are having more police encounters, are having more use of force directed at them.

The system is not working. The Latinx community is not reporting to the police.

We need a city budget that is in line with our priorities.


Against defunding

Those who spoke against defunding said such things as:

Black Lives Matter Inc . . .  is at its core a Marxist organization, admittedly led by trained Marxists.

There are 18,000 police departments in the United States. There were 13 or 14 unarmed Blacks killed in 2019 by police. That doesn’t sound systemic.

Your meeting is full of professors who live in ivory towers. I don’t think these people understand what it means to be the victim of a crime.

Everybody I spoke to does not want any defunding; if anything, they want to add more funding for the best training.

I’m proud to be a citizen of Bethlehem and proud to have the Bethlehem police.

Using the hammer/nail analogy, if you assume there is systemic racism, then everything will be caused by systemic racism.

What if any are the stakeholder qualifications of the radical activists that have caught your attention?

I don’t know what more you can ask from our Chief and our police department.

It saddens me to think that the unconscionable actions of a few have cast a pall on so many dedicated and honorable police officers.

Any ideas of disbanding or defunding are appalling to me.

Would an organization whose goal is empowering Black citizens trash and burn its Black communities to the ground?

I think we have one of the best police departments in the state. I will go as far as saying we have one of the best police departments in the country.

Maybe we need to examine our own implicit and explicit biases.

The overthrow of our government is the goal. . . .There is no appeasing radicals.

I feel that some of the questions posed by Council seemed like a fishing expedition for bad behavior when there was none.

I am just really disgusted with these people who are calling in and attacking our police department.

Who’s going to protect the lives of our children of our community if we abolish or defund the police department?

There is no such thing as defunding, dismantling, abolishing the police department. These people are insane. They need to go somewhere and live in Minneapolis where all this stuff is happening.

Maybe we need to expand our views beyond our local criminologist.

Over the past 10 years Bethlehem Police officers have definitely saved hundreds of lives, probably many more.

A lot of people may say that abolishing the police department is different than defunding it, but make no mistake, the goal is to eliminate the police department.

I ask you who will stop the rape or death of your loved ones if we abolish or defund police departments.

I am very proud of the police department and think that being nationally accredited and accredited by the state shows how far ahead we are as a city.

You have to remember that if people don’t comply, then use of force is going to be used.

I was impressed by the very low numbers of the use of force.

I love our police department, I respect the police department.

Peter suggests we read this: see what happened when modest and reasonable steps were enacted in a city that already has a successful program of specially-trained paramedics

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Good conversation builds community.
The Gadfly

Gadfly:

Much has already been written on this blog about both the quality of BPD as well as the known problems. Increased attention to anti-racist, less-violent, and non-punitive approaches will cost money. Unless we are suggesting a tax increase, shouldn’t funds for these improvements come from reductions in spending for the approaches that need to be changed.

Blowback from the so-called “defunding” proposals is to be expected, especially from those who have not encountered the problems or have other reasons for supporting the police no matter what. Read the following to see what happened when a series of what seem to be modest and reasonable steps were enacted in a city that already has a successful program of specially-trained paramedics to respond to mental-health-related situations.

Peter Crownfield

Austin City Council votes to cut police department budget by one-third.mainly through reorganizing some duties out from law enforcement oversight.” Texas Tribune, August 13, 2020.

The Austin City Council unanimously voted to cut its police department budget by $150 million on Thursday, after officers and the city’s top cop faced months of criticism over the killing of an unarmed Black and Hispanic man, the use of force against anti-police brutality protesters and the investigation of a demonstrator’s fatal shooting by another citizen.

Those criticisms coincided with protests across Texas and the country calling for reforms on police tactics and the “defunding” of law enforcement in favor of redistributing funds to social services and alternative public safety programs. The council’s move makes Austin the first of Texas’ four biggest cities to drastically cut police department funding. The share of the police department budget that was cut is among the largest percentage decreases in the nation this year.

These immediate cuts would include eliminating funding from three planned police cadet classes and reallocating funds to areas like violence prevention, food access and abortion access programs.

Another $80 million in police budget cuts would come from a yearlong process that will redistribute civilian functions like forensic sciences, support services and victims’ services out from under the police department and into other parts of city government. About $50 million would come from reallocating dollars to a “Reimagine Safety Fund” that would divert money toward “alternative forms of public safety and community support through the yearlong reimagining process.”

The council’s proposal also includes eliminating 150 vacant officer positions, so that the police department will begin fiscal year 2021 without any unfilled sworn positions.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that the council’s actions represent the triumph of political agendas over public safety, and vowed that the Texas Department of Public Safety will “stand in the gap” to protect Austin until the state Legislature can take up the issue next session.

“Austin’s decision puts the brave men and women of the Austin Police Department and their families at greater risk, and paves the way for lawlessness,” he said in a statement. “Public safety is job one, and Austin has abandoned that duty.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the Austin City Council’s decision to reduce the police department budget was a “political haymaker driven by the pressures of cancel culture” as Austin continues to combat violent crime.

“Unfortunately, the targets of this ‘cancelling’ are the brave men and women who selflessly put their lives on the line to keep our families safe,” he said in a statement. “The city council’s action to slash funding disregards the safety of our capital city, its citizens, and the many guests who frequent it.”

The Austin Police Association tweeted its opposition to the council’s plan.

“The council’s budget proposals continue to become more ridiculous and unsafe for Austinites,” the group tweeted. “They are going to ignore the majority who do not want the police defunded.”

The Austin City Council spent hours Wednesday listening to more than 200 speakers voice their opinions about cutting the police budget during its public comment period.

Sarah Hay, a District 10 resident, called in to express support for council member Greg Casar’s “Reimagine Public Safety” fund.

“Specifically, we support reimagining traffic safety and enforcement within this proposal,” she said. “We can easily divest over $18 million from traffic enforcement when most of these functions can be administered by unarmed civilians and is not required to be police work.”

But others said the council’s proposed plan to reduce the budget was not enough.

Two members of Undoing White Supremacy Austin, a local group that seeks to promote racial justice, read a testimony from Alicia Torres Don, an Austin resident who said she is concerned that the money from the police budget will not be redistributed quickly enough under the council’s plan.

City councils around the country have been voting to cut police department budgets, including Los Angeles, which voted to cut $150 million from its proposed $1.86 billion budget, and New York City, which slashed $1 billion from its nearly $6 billion budget. Portland’s mayor and school board said they would discontinue the presence of armed officers from local schools and reallocate the $1 million designated for these officers into the community.

from Jordan Smith, “Austin Police Budget Cuts Prompt Threats From State Officials | The Intercept, August 19, 2020.

“‘Reimagining public safety’ does not mean simply reorganizing departments or taking the same functions that APD currently performs and moving them, complete with their current staff and culture, to a civilian department,” the groups said in a joint statement. “When we say ‘reimagine public safety,’ it’s a step beyond defunding the police. It means imagining a world where we don’t rely on cops, cages, and other punitive approaches to keep us safe.”

Moore understands the frustration, but he believes Austin has taken a powerful step toward that future. “Either we ask for the big thing and we don’t get nothing and then we’re stuck in the same place, or we can start chomping away at the elephant one bite at a time,” he said. “I think we took a pretty good chunk out when council took the vote last week.”

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, state officials and other lawmakers from outside Austin were quick to decry the cuts and pledge legislative action against such “short-sighted efforts,” as a Dallas-area state senator put it. Gov. Greg Abbott pledged to have state police “stand in the gap” to protect the city, while George P. Bush, the elected state land commissioner, took to Twitter. He posted a video of a row of cars with broken windows in a parking garage downtown and implied that the vandalism had taken place the same night as the city council’s vote. “The need for police funding is as clear as ever,” he wrote. “This is a dangerous path to go down.”

The grandstanding was little more than transparent fearmongering. The city hasn’t cut any current positions, so there’s really no “gap” to stand in. Besides, the state police already play a big role in Austin, where they have jurisdiction over state property — including parking garages like the one where the vandalism Bush was decrying took place. State police said the vandalism actually happened on August 8, four days before the council vote, and was discovered during a routine patrol.

Moore is also ready to push forward. “I just hope we can try to break the barriers of everything that has been socialized within us so we can truly allow ourselves to imagine and get creative with things outside of boxes, outside of what the norm is, so we can come up with something pretty groovy,” he said. He notes that major shifts in U.S. history have been rife with uncertainty: abolishing slavery, women’s suffrage, desegregation. “We always had these assumptions that the most terrible thing was going to happen if we stopped doing the status quo,” he said. “Yes, there’s still oppression and people are still fighting … but because we’ve taken these big steps in history, it’s only made us better.”