Despite dreary weather, a small group of roughly 20 city activists gathered on the New Haven Green at the corner of Church and Chapel Streets yesterday evening to commemorate the beginning of a month of resistance to police terror and mass incarceration.
A national group known as the Stop Mass Incarceration Network has declared October as a month to build awareness about criminal issues such as mass incarceration and racial profiling. The movement started in 2011, but New Haven organized its own chapter of the organization this year.
At Wednesday evening’s event, people took turns telling their personal experiences with police brutality as well as taking the “Pledge of Resistance,” which involved speaking out against police brutality, methods of criminal punishment and racial profiling. Yale School of Medicine research assistant Timothy Pham, who is a leader of the New Haven chapter of the network, also read a list of 35 cases of police brutality suits from the past two years in New Haven.
“These examples are only the ones that have been reported,” Pham said over the loudspeaker. “Imagine all of them that have gone by unnoticed.”
While many of the allegations made during Wednesday’s event were personal accounts of police brutality, the New Haven chapter of the network the wake of the public’s concerns about police brutality in New Haven, notably the death of Yale professor Sam See last January.
The larger movement, Stop Mass Incarceration Network, was founded in 2011 by African-American activists Carl Dix and Cornel West. New Haven developed its own chapter in response to nationally recognized cases from this year, such as that of Eric Garner, an African-American teenager in New York City who was strangled by police officers for selling loose cigarettes and Michael Brown, another young African American, who was shot multiple times in Ferguson, Missouri while unarmed.
Stan Nishimura, one of the leaders of the New Haven chapter, said the primary goal of the network is to raise awareness of problems with the criminal justice system and to prevent deaths such as Garner and Brown’s. He hopes that once people realize what is going on they will not permit it to continue.
Yet the movement does not just focus on the extreme cases. The movement also aims to eliminate marijuana busts and also stands against New York’s previous policy of “stop and frisk.”
New Haven resident Germano Kimbro, who said he was arrested in New Haven after an aggressive stop and frisk that was later ruled unconstitutional by the State of Connecticut, said he would like to see more community based policing.
“We need police to understand that these unjust practices are imbedded in their training,” Kimbro said.
Geraldine White, a New Haven resident who was at the event on the Green, said it is important to first consider sources of the criminal activity that result in police terror. She explained that many repeated arrests stem from people’s upbringing, which often revolve around drugs and a culture of criminal activity. She said she wishes that people would treat many of the recurring crimes as mental health issues.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network will celebrate its month of awareness by wearing orange, rallying on the New Haven Green and showing a film at the Stetson Branch Library next Wednesday.