-Updated 03/10/09 - 14:29- if anyone attended this rally let me know how it was and what was said, I'd appreciate it. I was not able to cover it due to the short notice.
I received the above press release via email last night, apparently around the same time anyone else did. I thought about not posting it, but decided that I'm obliged to... but with some caveats.
First, let me be clear that I was not one of the supposed "other groups and activists" mentioned in this press release. I had no part in this, was not talked to or consulted about it, nor was I informed of it prior to the official press release, which was all I received about it from the October 22nd Coalition who appears to be working in conjunction with the National Action Network.
Second, I don't support it. To be specific, since I know so little about it and based on the content of the release, I'm not able to support it. Heck, I can't even go to it because of the short notice.
I really can't support it because calling for a rally at the very last minute, a full 12 days after the release of the video showing Malika Calhoun being assaulted by King County Sheriff's Deputy Paul Schene and almost a full month after the initial story broke about Schene being charged with assault over the attack, seems a bit late to the game, especially since neither sponsoring group had anything at all to say about it up to this point.
In fact, it appears ill-planned and ill-conceived to on give everyone not even a full day's notice of such a rally. It appears doomed to offer only a token show of support which will only give the appearance that nobody in King County cares about police brutality. If it were properly planned we would have heard about a planned protest well in advance so word could have gotten out and it could have been better attended.
Third, I can't support the aim of the protest, which is to hold King County Sheriff Sue Rahr solely accountable for what Paul Schene did.
If you think the sheriff should have done more than just put him on paid leave then protest against the county that negotiated the current contract with the police union that determines how she can discipline officers in cases like this.
While you're at it, lobby the state legislature to reform the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) that always sides with the police unions against local governments when they try to enact accountability reforms but are turned back at the bargaining table by aggressive police unions. Tell them to give local governments the power to enact the police accountability reforms that their citizens have demanded instead of kow-towing to powerful police unions and their political endorsements.
Have a problem with Schene only being charged with a misdemeanor that caries a MAXIMUM one year sentence? Don't blame the sheriff, she doesn't choose what he is charged with. Don't blame King County Prosecutors either for only being able to charge him with the laws that exist. Protest the state government to pressure them into enacting a law against official misconduct and make it a felony offense for officers to abuse detainees like Schene did to Calhoun.
Don't like it that Schene likely can't be fired even if he's convicted for a misdemeanor in this case? Lobby the state government to give local departments the discretion to fire officers for misdemeanors like this and reform the PERC so it stops overruling departments that do fire officers for similar offenses and penalizes them for doing so on top of giving officers back pay and forcing them to rehire bad cops.
But... since these two groups apparently don't understand the situation here and didn't bother to ask around, they are over-simplifying the problem by going after Sue Rahr, who has actually been amenable to accountability reforms... and who has not come to the defense of Schene like Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske would have.
Instead, these groups seek to punish her for trying to do what we, as police accountability activists, would hope most police leaders would do in a case like this, which is to be open about what happened and press charges against an officer who did something wrong without being shamed into doing so in the press first.
Instead, these two groups who refused to include other police brutality activists in their plans are going to put up a half-hearted and poorly planned protest based on an ill-informed premise that will ultimately do more harm to everyone's efforts to improve police accountability than anything. Especially by over-simplifying a very complex problem that needs reforms imposed from far higher up than they are targeting.
Let me be honest here... I loathe having to say all this, I have few allies in Seattle and there aren't many people who support improved police accountability here, so it's important to cultivate relationships with anyone who wants to stop police misconduct. I wish I could support this, I wish I could be there... but I wasn't given enough information to support it and the information I see doesn't address the issues that need to be addressed to help reduce cases of police misconduct in this area.
But, I don't do this to make friends, I do this for the people who suffer from police misconduct and I owe it to them to make sure my efforts are directed towards reducing police misconduct, so I cannot betray that and support efforts that appear, to me, to potentially do more harm than good to that effort.
So, my apologies to the October 22nd Coalition and the National Action Network, but I cannot support your planned rally tomorrow in good conscience. I wish you luck in the future and hope that, next time, you work harder to reach out to other groups and plan your efforts better. I hope I'm wrong about your rally today, but based on what I received I can't support it.
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