Reminder: Touchstone’s Songs of Hope and Resistance Thursday July 23

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SONGS OF HOPE AND RESISTANCE

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In a time of unrest, uncertainty, and difficult changes, join Touchstone for a celebration of community and connectedness with a social-distance safe outdoor party in the Touchstone parking lot.

July 23, 7pm

SONGS OF HOPE AND RESISTANCE

“We are programmed to shut up. When you stand up, they want to tell you how to stand up”

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“Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and
Parkland School District speak their truths!”

Gadfly would specifically ask you to pay attention to min. 50:15 and following, the story of the student who is silenced during Black History month and the response it gets from the others. Dr. Roy has recently committed the BASD to “reform secondary American history courses to honestly and accurately include the realities of racism, the progress we have made and the long, difficult road that lies ahead.”

What are your thoughts on the curriculum currently
being used in your schools?

(min. 40:33)

  • We need to decolonize the school curriculum.
  • It shapes how we see ourselves and the positions that we can fill in this world.
  • I never felt I was going to be no lawyer, no doctor. I didn’t see no people of color doing that.
  • All I saw was people of color in the streets and rappin’. I had no people of color to look up to.
  • They’re making white people, right?  It seems like they did all these great things, they’re so smart . . . all they did was oppress our people, enslave our people, terrorize our people, brutalize our people, keep our people down and that’s what they continue to do.
  • I want to learn about people who look like me.
  • About the greatness of my own skin, about the greatness of my own blood.
  • I want to know about great leaders, I want to know about Marcus Garvey . . . I don’t want to just hear about Martin Luther King.
  • I don’t want to hear about slavery for one month . . . The thing that continues to affect us now . . . That’s what I want to learn year-round . . . Black History month . . . like some sort of celebration.
  • That’s our lives, and we’re still suffering because of it.
  • Martin Luther King did not come in and save the day, like they teach us, and end racism.
  • Racism is still here, we’re still segregated, and we’re still slaves to our own mentality.
  • I didn’t think I could be anything . . . Sports is an option . . . I guess I’ll be a thug . . . That’s how we think. We’re still a slave to our own mindset 400 years later.
  • I want to learn about the Black Panther Party, I want to learn how we was in Africa, great Kings and Queens — give me somebody to look up to, give me somebody who I want to be like. Believes in me, show me people who have done it.
  • Everyone should have a right to know their history.
  • The school system is very much colonized. It is not candid talking about Black history . . . how Africa was this beautiful place, they don’t talk about that.
  • When I heard about Black people, it was regarding slavery . . . I never heard about the mid-passage and how horrible it was.
  • I never knew about Bayard Rustin, or Angela Davis, or anybody like that.
  • We have to take it upon ourselves to know about our history and our culture.
  • Our white counterparts have the luxury and liberty of knowing their history.
  • America doesn’t want to confront themselves in history.
  • The history that we’re learning is extremely white-washed.
  • We idolize all these white figures . . . Thomas Jefferson . . . but not Sally Hemings . . .
  • History is written by the victors . . . but the victors are the oppressors.
  • Our white counterparts are being taught . . . that racism is over.
  • Our education system fails to teach that all this is still going on.
  •  . . . need to lessen the ignorance that plagues our generation . . .
  • We’re taught to be the bottom, we’re not taught to rise above and be the top.
  • Everybody’s history deserves to be spread.
  • I feel they wave the Black History flag a little too much.
  • I learned about the Boston Tea Party [during Black History month].
  • They brainwash us still to this day.
  • [When given a chance], nobody knew their history, nobody knew what to do.
  • I was told that it [a Maya Angelou poem] was too strong to read and that it would start issues in the school [teacher wanted her to read his choice], we’re always being told to shut up.
  • Silenced.
  • Black History month . . . Martin Luther King . . . Harriet Tubman . . . they’re taking the black parts out of history.
  • A lot of people don’t know what happened before slavery.
  • To see somebody in a position of power, holding you back, questioning your truth . . .
  • Uncomfortable to them, we are always uncomfortable.
  • The whole year about the Holocaust?
  • It baffles me to see how corrupt our curriculum is.
  • We are programmed to shut up.
  • When you stand up, they want to tell you how to stand up.
  • I don’t give a damn how I do it! I don’t need to be nice. You are killing my people.
  • When I go out there [see a cop], I’m scared for my life.
  • Black people aren’t dying, we’re being murdered.
  • Martin Luther King was a great guy, but I want to learn about Nat Turner, who stood up . . .
  • When I hear Malcolm X talk, I feel electrified.
  • We’re programmed to shut up, but we’re not going to shut up.

Our good luck

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Just thinking how lucky we are in Bethlehem.

In this time of national conversation about the people/police relationships, we have two wonderful local resources on which to draw (notice how deftly Gadfly avoided ending with a preposition?).

Prof Holona Ochs at Lehigh whose team has conducted 124 local interviews as part of a research project on police/community relationships and whose report should be out in the fall.

The International Institute for Restorative Practices, 531 Main St., who has conducted police/community summits in Detroit.

Wow! A lot of practical experience and know-how to aid us as we feel our way through tricky conversations ahead.

“They’re not treated like they are something, they are treated like they are nothing”

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“Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and
Parkland School District speak their truths!”

Does your education matter to you, and do you feel it matters to the people
in charge of educating you, such as teachers, and school district
administrators, and etc.?
(min. 25:25)

  • It doesn’t mater how they see us learning or how they feel about it.
  • Our education matters just as much as the next white kid.
  • I’m probably smarter than some of the people who go to . . .
  • It shouldn’t matter where you come from, it shouldn’t matter what you bring to the table, because at the end of the day we’re all trying to be great. It shouldn’t matter where you come from.
  • My education’s extremely important to me  . . . I’m an immigrant . . .
  • Black and brown kids are really overlooked in the education process.
  • There’s only one black teacher, and that’s really a problem. It’s really hard to connect when they don’t have experiences like you.
  • The school board doesn’t really try to cater to the POC community at . . .
  • I feel our voices really should still be heard, and our needs should be accommodated.
  • I really don’t think we are being seen and considered.
  • My education did not matter to them.
  • There was always a level of disconnect between People of Color and teachers.
  • You look at us a thugs, you look at us as criminals, you look at us a bums, you look at us as dumb, you look at us as if we’re not smart, you look down upon us.
  • I’m supposed to think you care about me, I’m supposed to think you’re here for me.
  • I’m not learning anything because you don’t care about me.
  • We might not know how to put it into words, but we see the level of divide between student and teacher.
  • We see how you look at us, we see how you treat us.
  • Not every teacher, there’s good teachers.
  • The school system is not set up for us, it’s set up for them.
  • [gives credit to good teachers]
  • I feel everybody should have an equal education . . . equal opportunity.
  • I feel that the curriculum . . . is not equal.
  • They get to do higher things [honor students], why shouldn’t everybody get that?
  • Why make the other people go dumb?
  • We see it . . . we talk about it all the time . . . how they categorize us.
  • It’s almost like where you live is how you’re being taught.
  • The kids on 4th St. will be taught differently than the kids on Randolph St.
  • You’re categorized into those classes, and you can see that, and it’s so sad.
  • I do feel like we’re not being taught right, that we’re not being cared about.
  • I feel like we’re not understood, and I feel like we’re not equal.
  • Why are they [People of Color guidance counselors] in those positions if their voices aren’t mattering.
  • There are two people I know who will not say anything.
  • We should have teachers who understand us, to come from us  . . . community-wise . . . people who understand us and who won’t call us like animals, thugs, ghetto, trash, the underbottom.
  • We need to be talked to like we are scholars, like we are something.
  • They’re not treated like they are something, they are treated like they are nothing.
  • Until they continue to treat us as if we’re nothing, then we’ll feel like we’re nothing and worthless.
  • I just feel like the teacher won’t care . . .
  • You don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors . . .
  • . . . teachers too lazy to do their jobs, this isn’t a movie . . . I just need you to do what you’re paid to do.
  • We need to fix this.

Let’s meet Prof Holona Ochs

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Holona Ochs has been mentioned prominently in our recent discussions about the police department as part of the national conversation on systemic racism precipitated by the murder of George Floyd.

Councilwoman Negron distributed information about her research prior to the July 7 Council meeting that took up the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution on the Community Engagement Initiative, Anna Smith and Al Wurth mentioned her favorably in public comments relative to the resolution, and Councilman Reynolds reported at the July 7 Council meeting that, in fact, he spent an hour and a half in discussion with her.

The Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution was amended to recommend consideration of her research: “The Administration should work with and incorporate recommendations by research experts including Lehigh University’s Core Grant team who recently conducted a large research project on policing in the Lehigh Valley.”

Looks like we’re going to hear more from Prof Ochs.Ochs

Time to meet her.

Prof Holona Ochs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Lehigh University and heads the department’s graduate program.

Prof Ochs describes her research on democratic policing in the United States:

I am also working on a constellation of projects on democratic policing in the US. The first study is a time series analysis of the police use of lethal force. This project explores the impact of mental healthcare investments across states on deadly encounters with the police and the potential for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to make policing safer for the police and the public. The second study examines the aggregate patterns of bias in the execution of lethal force across various demographic groups and geographical regions. This project includes case studies to further identify factors that may reduce the potential for bias the police use of force. The third research project on policing is an interdisciplinary study of the perspectives on policing that the police and various communities have in order to identify potential disjunctures. We expect that differences in the understandings of the challenges and complexities of policing and in expectations of the police may serve as opportunities to improve police-public relations.

The specific work that brings Prof Ochs to the forefront of our attention at this time is a study of local policing: “Democratic Policing: Bias Reduction and Police-Public Interactions.” This study was just coming to a conclusion when the pandemic suspended activity at Lehigh in March, and now we look forward to a final report on the 124 interviews conducted, with a bit o’luck, in the fall.

from Sara K. Satullo, “How Lehigh Valley cops could help change U.S. policing for the better.” lehighvalleylive.com., January 2, 2019.

A team of Lehigh University researchers are digging into public perceptions of law enforcement in the Lehigh Valley and looking into ways to reduce biases on all sides.

The research is still in its early stages with the team gathering data through surveys and focus groups with a wide swath of Lehigh Valley residents, including police officers, community groups, Lehigh students and folks who have served time in jail.

The idea for the project — Democratic Policing: Bias Reduction and Police-Public Interactions — sprung out of informal conversations about bias amongst Lehigh faculty in the psychology, criminal justice and political science departments.

“The real motivation here is to learn about those institutional factors that we can affect that will make policing safer for the police and the public,” explained Holona Ochs, Lehigh associate professor and graduate director in the political science department, who has been studying policing since 2009.

While the use of force by police in the Lehigh Valley is pretty rare, researchers think the region’s unique geography and demographics may result in real life applications across the country.

The team wants to know how participants view their community’s relationship with police and what they think an officer’s job actually is. And they want to hear from officers about the challenges of modern policing.

“We’re trying to understand where are people’s perspectives aligned and where are they misaligned,” said Dominic Packer, associate professor of psychology and associate dean of research and graduate programs in Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences. “They are really exploratory focus groups.”

Adjunct Lehigh professor and recently retired Bethlehem police Sgt. Wade Haubert thinks inherent bias is a fascinating research topic with real world applications.

“Start off acknowledging what we all know: every single person in this country has grown up in some environment where they ultimately have bias,” Haubert said. “It doesn’t mean that it is bad, that you are a bigot. Let’s just all acknowledge, we have some stereotypes. Let’s identify through a study why those things might occur and we can look at what we can do to potentially recognize that and factor that in as a conscious factor in how we make decisions.”

Informal conversations about police tactics and procedures in the wake of high-profile police shootings started forming the questions that are now the basis of the research, Haubert said. His own concerns about the direction of policing attracted him to the project.

“I was very frustrated with the way the profession of policing has changed over the last 20 years,” Haubert said. “…When I first got hired, community policing was a big thing and the Bethlehem Police Department was one of the poster children for good community policing.”

This was lost nationally in the wake of 9/11.

“We lost our ability to put the citizens first and have the ability to communicate with them and understand that most people support us,” Haubert said.

“Different communities have different expectations of the police and relate to the police in different ways and it affects the complexity of policing and whether people think the police are doing a good job,” Ochs said.

But as the region changes demographically those differences could potentially be problematic if a “past practice of acceptable policing behavior is applied to a diverse community,” Haubert said.

If a brown skinned family moves into a largely white and homogeneous borough, the police might be called as they are moving in, Haubert said. Or if you’re driving a certain type of car while gawking at mansions in Upper Saucon Township you may get stopped.

Researchers hope these focus groups can spur wider conversations among communities with the police, so residents can gain a better understanding of ins and outs of policing and how to communicate with police.

“The bigger goal is to bring different communities together with the police and talk about the challenges and complexities of policing and how different communities can better relate and interact using the police as intermediaries,” Ochs said.

“If we can build this research further we’d like to create Center of the Study of Democratic Policing — that center would be an online forum and a public space where we would organize conversations about maintaining peaceful relations without the use of force,” Ochs said.

If police departments are interested in specialized training or resources, the center could offer that as well, she said.

We’ll devote two or three more posts to getting to know Prof Ochs’ work.

“The time for action where public safety is concerned is upon us”

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Gadfly:

I’m guessing that your home was built well before the comprehensive building codes that are applied today on new construction.

Why are these current codes in effect? Because we learned through trial and error (fires where there was no firewall, for example) that we had to do better to protect the health and safety of those who live in shared structures.

Like buildings, life circumstances create the demand for updated societal structure, action, if you will.

We know the time for action where public safety is concerned is upon us. Delays only create more issues and potentially more danger.

Dana Grubb

School resource officers: “They’re not there to help us”

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“Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and
Parkland School District speak their truths!”

What are your thoughts on the funding of police, and
the policing in schools?

(min. 15:09 and min. 59:50)

  • The money that’s being used to place police in our schools should be used to get more counselors, more people there to help the kids.
  • We’re there to learn . . . there’s a certain disconnect between teacher and student in the school that people don’t understand, and that fact that you have police there, I already don’t feel comfortable.
  • I think there needs to be more counselors to help these kids.
  • These kids grow up in harsh environments, these kids have trauma, and you look at them, and you just blame them for acting out.
  • You don’t need police, you need help, the kids need help, the police aren’t doing anything, they’re just standing around getting paid for nothing.
  • We need help, we need counselors to talk to.
  • Those funds should be used for the community . . . not for the police to do nothing.
  • I really think schools should consider . . . hiring POC counselors . . . probably don’t feel comfortable talking to a counselor not of their race, feeling that they can’t relate.
  • Our counselors aren’t even trained properly to address these situations. Literally all they do is help schedule our classes and help get a study hall and basically saying, O, my job’s done.
  • That’s not what we need. We come to them trying to confide in them, trying to have them help us when they don’t know how to, and it’s not necessarily their fault. Because it’s not to them in their job description.
  • Your life at home affects your life at school . . . and that’s not fair to students that they don’t have anybody to come to.
  • All that money could go into helping students becoming better.
  • Allen is notorious for fighting and there aren’t that many to justify that amount of money for SRO’s to be in that school.
  • We need to give our counselors that proper training so that they are able to adjust the situations that their students bring to them.
  • “Resource” officers? They don’t give us resources. They’re not there to help us.
  • They’re literally to just track us from the school to the prison . . . You are written up . . . arrested on paper . . . labeled for the rest of your life.
  • They’re not nice, they’re looking down on us . . . They can’t relate to us, they don’t know the type of anger we have, the type of things we go through at home.
  • They say that they help, but they don’t help.
  • What if a child does resist, because they’re scared, they’re going to retaliate like that, put a knee on a kid’s neck . . . somebody who has no knowledge about how to control their actions because they are not taught to.
  • There are literally examples of officers in school to protect the students doing absolutely nothing.
  • If you’re constantly in my face . . . harassing us . . .
  • I don’t feel safe with you here.
  • You’re not distributing the money evenly or fairly.
  • Give me facts, give me data that they have helped improve the safety.
  • I feel safer at home than I do at school.
  • What would they teach us? How when you are stopped by the police you can try not to be killed?

Gadfly’s roof isn’t leaking — yet

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Gadfly lives cozily nestled in the middle of a triple.

When his neighbor’s roof leaks, he gets water.

Since there is no firewall in the open shared attic crawl space, if one neighbor has a fire, that fire will rise up to the attic and then down on Gadfly’s side.

These facts were on Gadfly’s mind as he posted thrice this morning before now.

And as he thinks about the missing Public Safety Committee meeting.

Catch Gadfly’s drift?

Public Safety Committee chair: mcolon@bethlehem-pa.gov

 

“A person who is struggling with alcohol and drug abuse doesn’t need a guy with a gun”

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from Christina Tatu, “Allentown City Council divided over controversial police video and calls for reform.” Morning Call, July 17, 2020.

Allentown City Council is divided over whether a police officer acted correctly when he restrained a man outside of St. Luke’s Hospital-Sacred Heart last weekend by pressing his knee against the man’s head.

Polled Friday before the Lehigh County district attorney announced that the takedown was “reasonable” and that the two officers involved would not be charged, three council members said they believe the police acted appropriately, while two others said they acted too harshly. In addition, Joshua Siegel, who did not return a call or email, has proposed police reforms, and on Wednesday apologized to Edward Borrero Jr., the man the police restrained.

Council President Daryl Hendricks and Councilman Ed Zucal, both former Allentown police officers, said they believe officers acted correctly when they restrained Borrero, 37, of Allentown, who was stumbling down Chew Street around 6:30 p.m. Saturday. They said the officers did not put Borrero in any danger.

“When a subject is on his stomach, that is exactly where an officer needs to be positioned, right next to his head near his shoulder. Your knee is supposed to be at the center of his shoulder blades,” said Zucal, who believes that is what a silent, nine-minute surveillance video of the incident showed.

“The leg will be near his head but not on his head. That’s the big difference between this and George Floyd,” Zucal said, recalling the May 25 death in Minneapolis that kicked off nationwide protests when Floyd was pinned beneath the knee of a police officer for nearly nine minutes.

“At no time, according to the expert, and from what I could see, could this man not breathe,” Affa said. “From what I see and what the experts see, it’s so much different than George Floyd. That officer wanted to kill him. He didn’t want to restrain him. What we saw at Sacred Heart and George Floyd is apples to oranges.”

Councilwomen Ce-Ce Gerlach and Cynthia Mota both had concerns about the way police responded to Borrero.

“He was in front of the hospital, so he was looking for help. I don’t think handcuffing him was the right thing to do. I don’t think putting his neck in the middle of the sidewalk was the right thing to do,” Mota said. “How are we able to handle a person in crisis other than putting him in handcuffs?”

Gerlach said she was “deeply concerned” after seeing video of the incident and speaking with Borrero, who joined protesters outside Allentown City Hall during a City Council meeting Wednesday night. “We need to hear audio that corresponds with the visual to see what, if any, de-escalation tactics were used or if there was was anything escalating the situation,” Gerlach said. “I’m disturbed by the fact we were told the officers and the gentleman fell to the ground and then it appears something else happened and he was tripped,” she said.

Earlier this week, Gerlach and Siegel proposed a police oversight resolution on a number of reforms, including requiring officers to intervene to stop any excessive use of force, making body camera footage available to the public and removing any exceptions for chokeholds and neck restraints from the use-of-force policy.

Council members polled on Friday said they are open to reviewing the proposal. Zucal, however, said he doesn’t think any council members should try to “micromanage” the police department. “If we could get an outside group that’s objective, I wouldn’t be opposed to that. However, I won’t let a certain group try to minimize and micromanage the police department.”

Gerlach said she doesn’t necessarily agree with everything protesters want, but supports transferring some money from the police department to address community issues like homelessness and drug addiction.

“I think people have a misconception that this means abolishing the police department. … I don’t want to get rid of police officers entirely because there is a role for them, but a person who is struggling with alcohol and drug abuse doesn’t need a guy with a gun,” Gerlach said.

Knee to head brief emergency immobilization according to D.A.

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DA: No evidence to support charging Allentown police officers in restraint of man.” 69News, July 17, 2020.

After observing these actions both officers concluded that Borrero was in distress and in need of medical attention and a danger to himself and possibly others, Martin said. They also concluded that he was likely under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Under these circumstances, police officers have a duty to intervene to provide aid to somebody who is in distress, Martin said.

Mr. Borrero began pointing aggressively toward a St. Luke’s security officer who was walking toward him with a vomit bag, Martin said. The officers concluded that his actions were aggressive and they determined that they needed to detain him for his own safety as well as for the safety of themselves and others, including medical personnel. They intended to place him into detention so that he could be taken into the hospital, Martin said.

One of the officers, based upon his training, approached Borrero from behind and slightly to his left, in an effort to handcuff him, Martin said. The officer was able to place a handcuff onto Borrero’s left wrist while both of his hands were clenched against his head. The other officer tried to take control of Borrero’s right hand and arm and to bring the left handcuffed wrist to his back in order to place both wrists into handcuffs, Martin said.

Borrero resisted the attempt, began lurching forward and tried to pull away from the officers, Martin said. In order to gain control, one officer took Borrero to the ground. While on the ground, Borrero continued to resist and during this time was yelling and spitting, Martin said.

An officer then moved his knee to Borrero’s head in order to place him into emergency immobilization so as to safely, efficiently and effectively keep him from moving his body to avoid being handcuffed and placed into custody, Martin said. The officer moved his knee to Borrero’s head, not his neck, Martin said. After that, the officer immediately removed his knee from Borrero’s head, but, very briefly, had to put it back on his head again, while Borrero was spitting at the officers, Martin said.

At the officers’ request hospital personnel provided and placed a breathable spit shield on Borrero. Both officers then attempted to calm him and assure him that they were attempting to help him, Martin said. He was speaking incoherently but appeared less agitated, according to the news release.

He was placed into the “recovery position,” and one officer conducted a search of Borrero, during which an uncapped hypodermic needle was found in his right cargo short’s pocket, Martin said. Although Borrero continued to yell, he was no longer resisting or spitting, and based upon his compliance, he was then helped to his feet, and walked by the two officers into the Emergency Room, according to the release.

Martin said any determinations on whether the officers should be disciplined, suspended, or fired from their positions are internal personnel matters of the Allentown Police Department. However, he said that based on the evidence he sees no basis for such actions.

Allentown Police Department Police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr., in a statement Friday, said he reviewed Martin’s decision. He said the police department’s internal review by the Office of Professional Standards, as well as the department’s use of force review process has determined, along with Martin’s findings, that there is no basis for any discipline of the officers involved.

In the statement, Granitz said that at no time during the incident did either officer place their knee on Borrero’s neck, and that there was never a point when a chokehold was applied. A review of video evidence and the interviews with witnesses corroborates this, Granitz said.

“The men and women of the Allentown Police Department remain committed to protecting the public and we take that responsibility seriously,” Granitz said in the statement.

“I pledge to continue to work closely with community stakeholders and members of our department to ensure the safety and quality of life of the residents of the City of Allentown.”

Allentown Mayor Ray O’ Connell also released a statement following District Attorney Martin’s findings. “I thank District Attorney Martin and APD’s Office of Professional Standards and Use of Force Review team for their respective inquiries into the incident outside St. Luke’s Sacred Heart. Public safety is my top priority,” O’ Connell said. “That reaches its highest level when there is trust between the police department and the residents. As mayor of the city, I am committed to strengthening the relationship between the department and the community. I take my oath of office seriously. I remain committed to the protection of the public and to improving the lives of all our citizens.”

Knee on head restraint reasonable according to the D.A.

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from Manuel Gamiz, Jr., “DA: Allentown police officers were justified in takedown. Protesters: ‘We do not accept it’.” Morning Call, July 17, 2020.

An Allentown police officer who restrained a man on the ground last weekend by pressing his knee against the man’s head did nothing wrong, said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin on Friday, finding that the force used was not excessive. Martin said in a news release that he found the takedown by two Allentown officers “reasonable.” “I have concluded that there is absolutely no evidence to support filing criminal charges against either of the Allentown police officers involved in this incident,” Martin said.

Black Lives Matter Lehigh Valley responded immediately in a Facebook video, with Justan Parker, one of the founders, saying, “This is not OK. This is not right. We’re going to continue speaking about this.” Parker said the investigation should have been conducted by an outside agency and promised to mobilize the community in response. About an hour later, the Lehigh Valley Coalition of Equity, a patchwork of representatives from Black Lives Matter Lehigh Valley and other organizations, held a press conference at the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown. “We do not accept it,” Parker said at the press conference with fellow protesters holding signs behind him.

Parker said the coalition demands an external investigation headed by the state attorney general’s office, the release of the names of the officers involved in the July 11 incident, and the officers’ suspensions pending the external investigation’s outcome. “We’re also demanding the officers’ body cam footage be released, as video footage from St. Luke’s Hospital has not been sufficient,” Parker said. “This goes along with our other demands of defunding the police and reallocating those funds back into the community. “The use-of-force police [recently] made public has already been violated with regard to the neck restraint and officers not intervening,” he said. “We will continue to push and fight for this until our demands are met.”

Bystander Glendon Hall of Allentown gave his take after watching the press conference. “It’s a very precarious situation,” Hall said. “The police are under extreme stress. The measure of force used was excessive, obviously, and folks have every right to protest, but police work long hours and are under even more pressure now than they were just 10 years ago. We have to find a way to come together and heal.”

The Congressional Black Caucus on Friday also called for “a full independent investigation” into the Allentown arrest, and for the officers involved to be “punished to the fullest extent of the law for the use of the banned chokehold.”

“I am satisfied that given Mr. Borrero’s obvious intoxication and his actions, he was clearly a danger to himself and potentially to others,” Martin said. “He was clearly agitated and noncompliant, and in order to gain control of him so that he was no longer a danger, and could be medically treated, it was necessary for the officers to restrain him. That restraint was reasonable.” Martin said the Allentown officer only briefly put his knee on Borrero’s head, and noted that it was not placed on his neck. “The officer’s knee remained in that position for about eight seconds and was removed as soon as he was handcuffed,” he said.

On Friday, after Martin announced his decision, POWER Lehigh Valley posted on its Facebook page, “Every. Word. of Jim Martin’s statement is an outrage.”

Martin said he would not be complying with demands to release the officer’s name, saying it would be “improper” to identify a person who was under investigation but not criminally charged. The criminal complaint says Borrero was vomiting, yelling “in an aggressive grunting style” and lobbing obscenities at emergency room staff, five of whom were interviewed by Martin’s office. In his report, Martin noted that Borrero stumbled into the street, where at least one car swerved to avoid hitting him, and that police intervened to get him into the hospital. “Under these circumstances, police officers have a duty to intervene pursuant to the community care-taking doctrine to provide aid to an individual who is in distress,” Martin said.

“It’s time for us as adults to shut up and listen”

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Michele Downing is a Social Worker and RN, a grandmother of two, interested in social and environmental justice, a resident of the Lehigh Valley for fifteen years, the last six years a resident of West Bethlehem.

Gadfly is sharing his “journey” as he is opening himself up to viewpoints and perspectives relevant to “the nation’s searing reckoning with racial inequality” spurred by the murder of George Floyd.

Viewpoints and perspectives that should inform the important discussions we hope to have in Bethlehem.

Michele passed this link on as “Gadfly worthy,” and I am so thankful.

Gadfly has spent the early morning listening to students-of-color voices. And tremendously moved.

Ce-Ce Gerlach, member of Allentown City Council and prominent voice on racial issues, organized “Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and Parkland School District speak their truths!”

These are not Bethlehem voices, but there is no doubt shared consciousness.

You gotta listen.

It’s easy enough to listen to a short segment at a time.

Begin minute 1:48 with Gerlach intro.

The students were posed several questions to prompt discussion.

  • What are your thoughts on the funding of police, and the policing in schools (min. 15:09 and min. 59:50)? Remember that BASD boss Joseph Roy as recently stated, “We will undertake a review of the purpose, rationale and outcomes of our School Resource Officer program.”
  • Does your education matter to you, and do you feel it matters to the people in charge of educating you, such as teachers, and school district adminsitrators, and etc.? (min. 25:25)
  • What are your thoughts on the curriculum currently being used in your schools? (min. 40:33)
  • Do you think the Black Lives Matter movement is just a trend, and what are you as youth leaders going to do to insure that this work continues? (min. 1:05:05)

Gerlach conclusion: 1:27:27

One hopes that the two youths on the NAACP Community Advisory Board are similarly articulate.

Emerson, “Self-Reliance”:  “Do not think that the youth has no force, because he cannot speak to you and me. Hark! In the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems he knows how to speak to his contemporaries. Bashful or bold then, he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary.”

Resident chatter around Gadfly’s water cooler about a public safety meeting

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Council meeting Tuesday. Gadfly’s betting that Public Safety Committee chair Colon has found the work-around and we’ll hear about it then. But you just might want to make your wishes known politely: mcolon@bethlehem-pa.gov

  • The police made a presentation to the NAACP Community Advisory Board. Have them film that and make it available. In fact, maybe that presentation was filmed or recorded. Follow the format of the “Ask the Mayor” coronavirus “press conferences.” Let people submit questions, then answer them.
  • Possibly hold a series of meetings in town hall, each with the same agenda and limited to X number of participants. A policeman could cut attendance off at a safe number to maintain social distancing; Council Members could attend virtually or in person (the technology set-up already exists at this venue); and, the technology already exists to livestream it.
  • It’s not rocket science.
  • It would be good for a lot of people to be together to hear what other people think and feed off each other’s ideas, but the main idea is for people to talk, express their ideas, so basically you could just use a voting model. People could line up — socially distanced —  like they do at polling places and simply go one-by-one to the mic and say their piece. Don’t delay.
  • All the concerns about access, digital divide, and equity are valid — but they apply equally to the regular Council meeting. If the setup isn’t good enough for the PS meeting, how can it be good enough for the full Council?

Thinking outside the box about a Public Safety Meeting

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What’s the best way to have this meeting?
Councilman Colon, Chair of the Public Safety Committee

Councilman Colon, chair of the Public Safety Committee, spoke from inside a box at the July 7 City Council meeting.

George Floyd died May 25. Chief DiLuzio made his “George Floyd’s Death & Policing in America” statement to Council June 3The first local demonstration was held June 4. Councilman Reynolds and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith sent their “Use of Force Directives and Community Engagement Initiative” to Chief DiLuzio June 9. The Mayor responded to the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith memo June 16. Council discussed and passed the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution July 7. We are now on the edge of the July 21 Council meeting. Two months from the murder. Time passes.

Chair Colon wanted a Public Safety Committee meeting by this time. But COVID-19 boxed him in.

From what we can deduce from his comments July 7, Chair Colon “favors doing things in person” and would like “to see a large crowd.” But Town Hall, the Liberty Auditorium, and even the Liberty Stadium are not workable within the state pandemic guidelines or logistical efficiency.

And so he asked, “What’s the best way to have this meeting and capture the comments by as many members of the community as possible?”

A few posts back, Gadfly asked if you followers would have some alternate ideas for the kind of large-scale in-person meeting that Chair Colon wants, a meeting that we badly need before momentum shifts away from the issue of police reform and systemic racism and before budget season gets too far along.

Crickets. So Gadfly guesses you want him to break the ice. And make a fool of himself.

Let’s see if we can stir some thought that gives Chair Colon what he wants or nearly so.

So let’s think a bit wild, a bit out of the box.

Instead of one meeting, several.

Let’s try for a meeting in each of the 8 police districts. Would have the feel of neighborhood meetings, perhaps making exchange of views easier, drawing out a balance of views (we aren’t really hearing from those believing in a status-quo yet), and encouraging views from across the entire city. Different districts no doubt have different views of the police.

Let’s try for a venue in each district that could hold 30 or so safely socially distanced — school? church?

Let the moderators of the individual 8 meetings be the 7 Council members plus the Mayor — the districts they moderate chosen by lot. This integrally involves all the key people and dramatically demonstrates their commitment to working together and to listening to community voices.

Let the 8 meetings happen simultaneously. You know, like it’s one big meeting. Create a PR buzz about it beforehand. Have a slogan. Do a media push. You know, “Tuesday night July 28 Bethlehem Speaks Out on Police Reform!”

Film the meetings and post immediately on the City or the Council YouTube channel.

It will be the job of each of the 8 moderators to prepare a bullet-point summary of their individual meetings (a 10-bullet maximum) that will circulate to the public and be delivered (within a 10-minute maximum) at the August 4 meeting at which there can be public discussion.

The Public Safety Committee (Colon, Negron, Crampsie Smith) then boils out an appropriate smaller number of issues and action items for full Council to deliberate.

Does that start to break the ice, bust the box, stir some other options?

Don’t leave Gadfly twisting out here all alone.

This is fun.

Have at it!

Again, where are we?

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What’s the best way to have this meeting?
Councilman Colon, Chair of the Public Safety Committee

We are temporarily putting the Public Safety Committee meeting on hold
until we can find a work-around
President Waldron

Where are we? Gadfly asked three days ago.

About the Public Safety Committee meeting, he means.

The Community Engagement Initiative has been handed off to the City. Apparently it’s up to the City to initiate the Initiative.

But what about that Public Safety meeting?

Gadfly feels even more urgency about that meeting after watching and listening to the protestors pounding on walls of the building in which Allentown City Council was at that moment meeting last night.

Council spent almost 20 minutes last meeting July 7 explaining its paralysis.

Councilman Colon, Chair of the Public Safety Committee (there are technical issues with part of his comments): “It it weren’t for COVID-19 and the restrictions it’s put on Council . . . we’d have had this meeting already.  .  .  . We’re expecting a large crowd, and I’d like to see a large crowd, but I want to see everybody who wants to attend able to attend. . . . [state guidelines, 250 meeting max] Is it really a public meeting, who gets to control who comes into the meeting? . . . the possibility of a virtual public safety meeting, which I am in support of, but . . . digital divide. . . . I am someone who favors doing things in person. . . . I think the situation is unique, I’m open to feedback from members of Council. . . . I want this accessible to as many members of the community as possible. . . . I don’t want this to be something that we’re getting in to September. . . . What’s the best way to have this meeting and capture the comments by as many members of the community as possible?”

President Waldron: “There’s a lot that goes into a public meeting. . . . For something as important as these conversations, I’m hesitant to rely on that infrastructure if we go to another venue and won’t be able to guarantee the level of accessibility of folks who are online to listen in or make comment remotely. . . . Our restrictions really that we are hung up on is that 250 number. . . . There’s a lot lost in having a remote meeting versus an in-person meeting. . . . Whichever way we came to, people were going to be excluded. . . . We are temporarily putting the Public Safety Committee meeting on hold until we can find a work around. . . . It wasn’t safe or prudent to move forward with scheduling a meeting till we had more guidance from the state and the school district and a better vision of COVID-19. . . . By no means are we trying to avoid this meeting.”

Understood.

But Gadfly hears the drumbeat of protestor hands pounding on the wall — don’t you? Cup your ears and listen.

And Gadfly worries about the optics. The Public Safety Committee that Councilman Colon chairs did not take up or even comment on the 6th and Hayes traffic stop at their March 3 meeting. And to tell the truth Gadfly — being admittedly bitchily gadflyish here — has wondered about Chairman Colon’s sense of urgency. He has consistently over the past several meetings said this is a time to listen, to keep the dialog going. But Gadfly remembers feeling oddly struck by his comments at the June 3 Council meeting to the effect that “I truly believe that Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, we’re not going to be the ones to change the world, to change the country. I think we can continue beyond today as we have. Change is incremental . . . change takes time.” Gadfly remembers thinking then, no, that’s not right, we should be thinking that we are the ones to change the world, that we should be seeking to exercise active leadership. That’s what he was looking for his leaders to say. Now is the time for action. Councilman Colon sounded a bit too patient for Gadfly’s likin’.

Gadfly remembers now Councilman Reynolds saying, “It’s about creating real change . . . The structure is designed to create public pressure such as we’ve seen tonight to create change within the city and within our police department . . . I’m trying to create something here that will allow for permanent access for these conversation and actions that need change . . . What I am trying to do here is create a permanent structure that will change the face of that conversation going forward . . . This is an opportunity, an opportunity for all of us to create real change.” Gadfly remembers thinking that the Reynolds leaning forward with urgent tone was more to his liking.

So the optics are bad. President Waldron has said and explained why that Council is not trying to duck a Public Safety meeting. But the optics are bad.

Of course, the next Council meeting is within sight, and maybe the work-around has been found.

Maybe all is good.

But Gadfly will take a shot at a work-around in the next post.

Allentown protestors take a knee for the knee’d

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Last night Allentown City Council spent 3 hours reading the many citizen comments on this incident into the record. Interesting. Worthwhile. See video here, begin min. 3:10.

from Jacqueline Palochko, “For three hours, Allentown City Council read comments from the public about police video as protesters demanded reform outside City Hall.” July 25, 2020.

It took three hours for Allentown City Council to get through comments from the public that mostly called for defunding the police department while protesters gathered outside City Hall to also demand reforms, including that all the officers involved in a video that showed an Allentown officer kneeling on a man be fired.

Also at the meeting Wednesday night, councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach and councilman Joshua Siegel proposed a police oversight resolution that calls for a number of reforms, including requiring officer intervention to stop any excessive use of force, making body camera footage available to the public and removing any exceptions for chokeholds and neck restraints from the use of force policy. The resolution has been referred to the July 29 meeting. It’s not the first police reform proposal that Siegel has proposed.

Wednesday’s meeting came just days after the video, which went viral and sparked a few local protests. The majority of the comments read during three hours were from people who said they were “infuriated,” “saddened,” and “outraged” about the video. Many suggested police funding be reallocated elsewhere, such as to mental health services, education and affordable housing.

“I demand that you immediately begin removing funds from the Allentown Police Department,” Muhlenberg College student Sydney Baron said in a comment.

“In the video widely circulating around social media, it is painfully obvious that the APD’s use of force in this scenario was excessive and dangerous,” Anna Tjeltveit wrote.

As council members took turns reading the comments, a group of at least 100 outside City Hall chanted “defund the police,” “if we don’t get no justice, they don’t get no peace,” and “no power like the power of the people” during the meeting that lasted more than four hours. At times early on in the meeting, the protesters could be heard banging on the doors on the city’s live stream.

The protesters held signs that said, “make an apology” and “defund now.” A large black banner that read “Black lives matter” in gold was also set up.

Because meetings are held virtually since the coronavirus pandemic, public comments are emailed in and then read at the meeting. When the meeting first started, council debated whether it was going to read all the comments at the beginning or end of the meeting. Councilwoman Cynthia Mota said all the comments should be read in the beginning, following the normal rules of a council meeting.

“Just listen to the people out there,” Mota said, as protesters watching the livestream outside applauded. “I’m willing to stay as long as I need to stay to hear what people have to say.”

A few comments were in support of the police department and encouraged the city to invest in more money for officers.

“The Allentown Police Department is essential to the safety and security of the citizens of Allentown,” Donald L. Cease wrote. “What we should do is increase funding to help make the department better by increasing the number of officers on the streets, increase training, expand mental health counseling and social workers that work in the field.”

Among the list of demands by POWER Lehigh Valley and six other Lehigh Valley activist groups are:

    • Release all body camera and surveillance footage from the incident Saturday
    • Fire all officers involved in the video, release their names and make their career history public and under review
    • Have Mayor Ray O’Connell, police Chief Glen Granitz Jr. and City Council President Daryl Hendricks make a statement of wrongdoing of the police department and commit to holding the department accountable
    • Defund the police department by $25 million and reallocate those funds into the community
    • Reallocate the $50,000 being considered for equipment to community-based violence prevention.

Borrero was intoxicated and screaming obscenities and posed a danger to himself and others, according to an affidavit.

Comments on Wednesday night suggested officers could have done something instead of cuffing him. Danica Schofer, a Muhlenberg College student who grew up in the city, said Allentown officers often came to her house growing up because her grandmother had a violent form of dementia.“She yelled and spit and hit and was called “non compliant” many times,” Schoefer wrote. “But she never had a knee on her neck. She was a white woman.”

When the meeting ended, the protesters again started to bang on the doors of City Hall and chant “Black lives matter” and “defund the police.” Gerlach and Siegel joined the protesters, who applauded for them, after the meeting.

Speaking to the crowd, Siegel said Borrero needed help rather than to be cuffed last Saturday. A protester then told Siegel that Borrero was in attendance, according to Facebook Live videos posted by the group Lehigh Valley Stands Up.

Siegel turned to address Borrero and apologized for what happened to him.

Standing in front of Borrero, everyone in attendance then took a knee in solidarity with him.

Restorative and transformative justice system in Seattle

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Reprinted in today’s Morning Call. Apropos of Gadfly’s train of thought over the last several posts, thanks to Mr. Crownfield.

from Naomi Ishisaka, “Envision a criminal legal system that doesn’t throw people away.” Seattle Times, July 13, 2020.

Our existing system of criminalization and mass incarceration is not working, by any measure.

These poor outcomes are leading more and more people to look at community-based alternatives to the legal system and incarceration, such as restorative and transformative justice.

Restorative and transformative justice practices are not new. Indigenous cultures around the world have practiced some form of restorative justice for millennia, rooted in the belief that no matter what a person may have done, none are disposable. More recently, efforts to extract ourselves from our current failed system of punishment and retribution have led to more interest in how those principles could be more widely implemented.

In a nutshell, restorative justice looks at incidents and harm between people. It asks who was harmed and how to address and rectify the harm and requires participants to take accountability.

Transformative justice seeks accountability but also looks at underlying conditions and social structures that created the conditions for harmful behavior and works to change or transform them to prevent future harm.

How could transformative justice work in practice? Seattle’s Creative Justice program provides an example.

Creative Justice started in 2015 as an arts-based approach to end youth incarceration and the dramatic racial disproportionality in youth detention. Co-directed by attorney and community organizer Nikkita Oliver and lead engagement artist Aaron Counts, the program uses art as an alternative to incarceration.

Why? Because incarceration doesn’t help young people, Counts said, nor does it make communities safer.

With a majority of the city council now pledging to support defunding the Seattle police by 50%, we have an opportunity to invest in different solutions. We can take a transformative approach and tackle some of the root causes of crime, such as generational poverty, housing instability and unequal education, as we overhaul the legal system at the same time. In fact we must, because there is no “them,” there is only “us.”

BLM proposal to Allentown City Council includes Citizen Review Board

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From the Black Lives Matter Lehigh Valley Facebook page: Below is a resolution that will be brought before Allentown City Council on Wednesday that addresses many of the specific demands we made at Monday’s protest.

Resolved by the Council of the City of Allentown, That

WHEREAS, Allentown City Council is committed to a dialogue that includes examining police operations, legislative and community oversight, requiring certain reporting requirements and establishing a policy on force; and

WHEREAS, Allentown City Council supports along with the Human Relations Commission the Eight Can’t Wait recommendations from the Obama administration related to the use of police force; and

WHEREAS, City Council will meet on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 6:00 PM to begin to take public comment and work on recommendations for policing in Allentown; and

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of Allentown will foster a dialogue inclusive of but not limited to reviewing, discussing and adopting some of the following:

Making Body cam usage mandatory – if not used then face discipline including termination;

Require that Allentown Police Department (APD) inform council of any changes to the Civil Rights, discipline and use of force policies and that if any of those changes effect adherence to 8 Can’t Wait, and if there are any changes council must vote on the change;

Explicitly adopt of policy that no knock warrants are banned;

Remove any exceptions for chokehold and neck restraints from the use of force policy;

Explicitly state that stop and frisk is banned;

Explicitly state that officers have a duty to intervene in any excessive use of force and that there are discipline consequences including termination for not doing so;

Establish by legislation a Citizens Review Board that reviews among other things for cases of excessive force and when a weapon is discharged;

Require Bi-annual reports of use of force, discipline, positive interactions, policy changes and types of calls/responses that are disaggregated by race and gender to be given and discussed at Council’s Public Safety at a public meeting.

Provide that misuse of force situations are immediately given to the attorney general (3rd party);

Officers who are suspected of violating the use of force policy and are under investigation are immediately placed on suspension while the investigation is conducted, this should be automatic, so the public has peace of mind and officers have accountability;

A quarterly reporting requirement that contains a breakdown of the nature of calls in Allentown, i.e. reason for call: mental health, domestic disturbance, violent crime, traffic accident, and an annual report. The report should be made public immediately following their release;

Make body camera footage available to the public and easily accessible with no delays in its release;

Begin to draft a plan of divestment of resources currently allocated to the police department to other areas or sectors of the city such as mental health, housing, drug & alcohol treatment,social services, etc;

Mandatory community meetings following use of force incidents to contend with the psychological ramifications and fear that emerges from the use of lethal use of force and force community concerns to be fielded and responded to.

Be It Also Resolved that City Council Effectuate such recommendations through legislative action as possible through amending your code or asking legislators to change.

Be it Finally Resolved that these recommendations be considered and reviewed no later than three months after passage of this resolution.

Allentown incident “a reflection of a warrior model of policing”

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You can see the full 9-minute video here.

from Daniel Patrick Sheehan and Manuel Gamiz, Jr. “Did Allentown police do anything wrong in video that sparked protests?” Morning Call, July 14, 2020.

When Kutztown University criminal justice professor Arthur Garrison saw the video of Allentown police officers struggling to subdue a man Saturday outside a hospital, what caught his attention wasn’t an officer’s knee on the man’s head but the indifference the officers displayed toward a man who clearly needed help.

“It is clear the police were interested in control of the man, not providing medical aid as a primary goal,” he said. “So the use of force follows. It’s a reflection of a warrior model of policing where the first thing is domination and control.”

“They were at the entrance of the emergency room and they see a man vomit in the street and need help and they just stand there watching him,” Garrison said. “They did not immediately rush to provide aid. Their indifference was the first thing that struck me.”

According to court documents posted Tuesday, Edward Borrero Jr., 37, of Allentown, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors, as well as a summary offense of public drunkenness. It does not appear that he was taken into custody.

The cellphone video brought an immediate response from protesters, who marched Saturday night to a police substation at 10th and Hamilton streets, demanding answers. On Monday night, they were joined by hundreds of others, who called for the officer’s arrest and the defunding of the department.

Emanuel Kapelsohn, an Allentown consultant who teaches firearm and use-of-force techniques to police and helps agencies craft use-of-force policies, said it was no surprise that the Allentown video, a distressing echo of the Floyd arrest, sparked outrage and protests.

Kapelsohn said he was as appalled as anyone at Floyd’s slow asphyxiation under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. But what happened in Allentown was distinctly different, he said.

“I don’t see anything wrong,” he said, of the placement of the Allentown officer’s knee. Kapelsohn — an attorney and reserve deputy sheriff who has been an expert witness in state and federal use-of-force trials — said the positioning of the officer’s knee, which lasted about eight seconds, didn’t constitute a neck restraint, which is banned by Allentown’s use-of-force policy, and posed no risk of cutting off the man’s air supply or the blood flow to his brain.

The events leading to the struggle are important to consider in judging what happened, he added.“ This was someone obviously in some kind of distress,” Kapelsohn said. “The police and hospital personnel are coming to help and that’s for his benefit, not theirs.”

Garrison — the Kutztown professor whose book “Chained to the System: History and Politics of Black Incarceration in America” comes out next month — said he saw more issues before the officer placed a knee on the man’s head.

“He wasn’t threatening, and that’s the issue that you look at when you look at police use of force,” he said. “When the cops came at him, he got on his knees and was submissive and the first thing they did was reach for their handcuffs, not see what was wrong with him.

“There’s two ways police see the world, either a warrior model or a guardian model,” which he said is a policing mindset focused on protecting citizens.

Another thing Garrison found interesting about the video was seeing two hospital staff members wave away a car that was slowing down as it passed the encounter, blocking the view of the police restraining the man.

“The nurses first engage by protecting the police,” he said. “Only when he is handcuffed do the nurses provide any attention and place some kind of hood over his head. Then they finally walk him to the emergency room.”

Kapelsohn said the reaction to the video is understandable because of what he called hypersensitivity in the wake of the Floyd killing.

In that case, he said, “that officer seems to be torturing him.”

Garrison said that while the knee to the man’s head and neck was brief, “you would think in the post-Floyd world, the officer would not have done such a thing.”

“If you have your knee to somebody’s neck, on concrete, he’s not going anywhere and that’s the point of domination and control,” he said. “It’s this kind of attitude and approach that can lead to a man dead under the police knee.”

Community Advisory Board discusses police use of force policy

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On the City Facebook page: “Last evening we kicked off the first monthly meeting of the Community Advisory Board — sponsored by the local NAACP and President Lee — with Mayor Donchez and 23 members of the community participating. The city’s Use of Force Policy and the responsibilities of the city’s professional standards unit were discussed.‬”

As of 8am this morning, there were two comments to the post: “Was this a secret???” and “Was this invite only?”

Exactly Gadfly’s sentiments.

Gadfly ventures to say that there’s a kind of hunger in the wider “community” for such a presentation and subsequent discussion.

Will there be a report on the meeting? Gadfly has been confused about how this group fits into the need for local public discourse responding to the George Floyd murder.

He hopes that the local press was there and that we’ll see an article on the meeting.

Who are the members of the “Community Advisory Board”? Below is a list.

At the very least, one wonders about representatives from Black Lives Matter on the Board. At the very least, one would hope that the activists who spoke at Council July 7 were present and participating last night.

Gadfly hopes that the police presentation will be repeated at the Community Engagement Initiative the Mayor may be forming per the City Council resolution and a Council Public Safety Committee meeting now in limbo because of COVID-19.

7/13/20 Community Advisory Board Membership

Robert Donchez, Mayor

Esther Lee, President Bethlehem Unit NAACP

City Council – Grace Crampsie-Smith, Michael Colon

Northampton County Executive – Lamont McClure

NAACP – Tomacene Nickens, Rabbi Levy,  Carl Nelson

Clergy – Rabbi Michael Singer, Canon Dale Grandfield

Education – Dr. Roy, Superintendent BASD

Health Department – Kristen Wenrich

Homeless – Bob Rapp, BES

Latino Advisor – Cesar Cordova, Vivian Robledo Shorey, Olga Negron,  Yadira Colon-Lopez

Youth (2) – Spencer Williams, Sydney Duffy

Police – Chief Mark DiLuzio

Police Union – Bill Audelo, President and (to be named)

Teacher’s Union – Laura Keding, President

Representative Steve Samuelson

Alex Karras, Chief of Staff

Voices from the Allentown protest

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from Michelle Merlin and Andrew Scott, “More than 200 march, demand change following video showing officer kneeling on man.” Morning Call, July 13, 2020.

More than 200 protesters gathered Monday evening in downtown Allentown in response to a Saturday night video, taken outside outside St. Luke’s Hospital-Sacred Heart, showing a police officer kneeling on a man’s head, near his neck.

Carrying banners stating “Black Lives Matter” and chanting “Defund the police” and “No justice, no peace,” the racially diverse crowd gathered at the Allentown Civil War memorial in response to what the video showed.

“I’m tired of this …, ” protester Rodney Bushe said to the crowd. “I’m tired of witnessing brothers and sisters with knees on their necks. I can’t breathe.”

They demanded the officer’s name, suspension and arrest; that police be defunded; an external investigation; and that elected officials either do more to end police officers’ unnecessary use of force or vacate their seats.

“These politicians try to act like we are savages who can’t manage ourselves,” said Arthur Benson, a member of the Lehigh Valley Black Lives Matter group and Action Town Activists. “We haven’t been allowed to have a seat at the table.”

Speakers at the event decried that police were violent toward a man vomiting outside a hospital who was in need of medical attention, not police force. They called for the city to defund the police and put the money toward education, mental health services and social services instead.

Zahnia Richardson attended the protest and said she found the video of the man outside the hospital disheartening. She supports the idea of defunding the police.

“I feel like a lot of the issues you need police for stem from lack of education, lack of mental health support. You could take from police funding and put it toward [things like that],” she said.

Jimmeka Hernandez, who participated in the the protest, said the video upset her. She said her children saw it and asked if it was real life or a movie.

“We educate our kids that police aren’t the enemy, but there’s a lot of police officers that aren’t doing their jobs correctly,” she said.

The crowd took a knee when Chantel Jenkins, the mother of one of four teenagers charged with inciting a riot during a January basketball game at Whitehall High School spoke. She told protesters her “worst nightmare came true,” when she saw police arresting her son and taking him into custody.

The Allentown branch of the NAACP on Sunday night issued a statement saying the video was “concerning and disturbing.” They said that once the investigation into the incident is complete, they’ll have more discussions.

“As the Allentown Police Department works through their new police policy protocols, we want them to ensure us that they are acting in a manner of integrity that shows both respect and safety for its citizens,” they said in the statement. They did not attend the rally, Secretary Barbara Redmond said in an email.

Full video of Allentown knee incident

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from Andrew Scott, “Nine-minute video shows man outside hospital before officers approach, police takedown, aftermath,” Morning Call, July 13, 2020.

Allentown police on Monday released a nine-minute video showing a man kneeling, then objecting when officers put their hands on him before they forcefully restrained him, with one officer kneeling on the man’s head, near his neck, Saturday outside St. Luke’s Hospital-Sacred Heart.

The video was posted on the police department’s website as the city tries to quickly investigate the encounter, 23 seconds of which were caught on a video posted on social media Saturday. That footage showed the officer kneeling on the man, in a hold similar to the one that killed George Floyd when he was arrested by Minneapolis police. The Saturday video sparked protests in Allentown.

The video released Monday, taken from across the street from the hospital, shows the man walking slowly, almost staggering, on the road in front of the hospital and experiencing what police said appears to be a mental health crisis or drug or alcohol impairment. The officers were at the hospital on another matter when they noticed him.

The video shows the man appearing to vomit several times as he comes onto the sidewalk, drop his cellphone and have trouble walking and standing. The police gesture toward the emergency room entrance, suggesting he should go inside.

The video shows the man straighten up after he finishes vomiting. He then staggers backward into the road and an approaching car swerves around him. He then starts walking away from the officers, in the direction from which he had come, but then turns back.

About four minutes into the silent video, the man seems to gesture to two officers with his arms outstretched as they approach. As they get close, he kneels down, with his hands clasped beneath his chin before continuing to gesture and point. He briefly starts to rise to his feet, then kneels again as they come closer. He also appears to be talking to several hospital staff outside. When the officers try to pull his hands behind him, he tries to pull away.

Almost five minutes into the video, one of the officers appears to trip the man to bring him to the ground. He falls to the ground and police quickly kneel at his side to restrain him.

Shortly thereafter comes the scene caught in the video that was posted to social media, where an officer kneels on the man’s head, near his neck, for about eight seconds.

The video continues afterward, showing a spit mask being placed over the man’s head. The final minutes of the video show police and hospital staff escorting the man into the hospital, where police said he was treated and then released.

Mayor’s Community Advisory Board meets tonight

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Town Hall, 6pm

About 25 members — socially distanced that will about fill the Rotunda.

(Who aren’t members? Doesn’t look like any of the young people who organized demonstrations or who spoke at Council Tuesday and are part of activist organizations.)

No notice to the general public by the City as far as Gadfly can see.

I guess we’re not invited.

Nor is there any indication of video.

No matter.

Nothing much of interest on the agenda.

Only a presentation on Police Reform by the Police Department.

Wouldn’t miss Jeopardy for that.

But hope the press is there.

Christina and Sara, depending on you.

Where are we?

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We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.
Anna Smith

Where are we?

Gadfly’s not sure.

After just spending a half-dozen posts or so on last week’s City Council meeting, Gadfly’s not sure.

When Gadfly was 20, he was an impatient man — time was so expansive, he didn’t want to waste any.

Now that Gadfly is 80, he is still an impatient man — time is so short he doesn’t want to waste any.

Councilman Reynolds forthrightly and forcefully argued that the rationale for the Community Engagement Initiative is “to start the conversation,” “to create public pressure,” “to create change within the city and within our police department,” “to create a permanent [organic] structure that will change the face of the conversation going forward.”

At 80 your mind skips a beat. Gadfly doesn’t get this. The resolution that passed urges the City to set up this structure. There is no guarantee that it will happen. And the Mayor has already set up a Community Advisory Board with the NAACP. So what will happen to the Council resolution? It’s fate seems out of their hands.

(At Council Councilwoman Van Wirt took note of the multiplicity of committees: “When I thought about all these different committees, it seemed like we were a bunch of brooms trying to do a good job of cleaning up and kicking stuff around and not really organizing enough to sweep it up.”)

Well, there was always the promise of a Council Public Safety Committee meeting. But COVID has shot that to hell.  Listen, if you will, to this almost 20 minutes of conversation at the July 7 Council meeting about why there can’t be a Public Safety Committee meeting. It can’t he held in Town Hall. It can’t be held at Liberty. It can’t be held in Liberty stadium. It can’t be held online.

So where are we?

From the news I’m listening to, I wouldn’t be confident that COVID restrictions are going to let up any time soon.

So where are we?

Here’s what it feels like to me. Which happened on my street about 10:30. A car alarm went off. Terrible clanging. Never ending. Soon neighbors gathered around the car looking stupidly at it and each other as if our wishes would make the terrible sound go away. Our wishes would not make the terrible sound — a sound that made any other thought impossible — go away.

That’s what Council feels like to me. Ringing an alarmed car, impotent to act. Nobody with a key.

Time is not particularly on our side.

Are there any suggestions from Gadfly followers as to what Council should do to advance the conversation that is so needed and so desired?

We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.

If only we could figure out how to meet.