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Bloomfield Queer Rally: at the hearings

Before:
Im sitting in the court room waiting for the hearings to start for the 5 people arrested at the B I’ll be taking notes and blogging as the afternoon goes on.. I’ve never been here before and most everything police related that is post-arrest is something I am clueless about. I understand there will be a lot of cases today, and they most often do the easy ones first. I’m sitting in the very first row. I’m told that at times things can be said that may be hard to hear if I were to sit farther back, so I’m as close as I can be. The room is full and I’m sure that many of the folks here are present specifically for the 5 arrested on Wednesday.
After:
I didn’t really take notes during the hearings as I expected. I sat with Hugh McGough, who will himself be a judge and Beth Pittinger who is with the Citizen Police Review Board. They are watching these cases closely, however, I understand they haven’t received a signed statement yet, just preliminary complaints. She told me how to file my own complaint. It simply takes writing up what happened and having it notarized, so by the end of the week, my complaint will be filed with them. Here is the link for the CPRB.

I also met David Japenga’s attorney who is really something. If I were in trouble, he is exactly the attorney I would want on my side. He was unhappy because Japenga was being treated differently than the others who were arrested, and I agree, it is totally unfair: people who were doing the same thing should be treated the same. More about David Japenga later.

I expected a court like on Perry Mason, but this wasn’t really like that at all. At times there was just the judge, the defendant, their attorney, and the arresting police officer. Very little would be said, and then it was on to the next case. There were a few cases where the lawyer would try and lay out a case and more would be said.
The 5 who were arrested were all held to the end, which left me wondering what made these seem harder than the earlier cases. Except for Japenga, they all were quite similar to the early cases, where the defendant approached the bench, very little was said and then on to the next one.

I was especially interested in seeing who the 5 arrested were: I had only watched one of the arrests. I wondered if any of the 5 were among the angry qeers who had been resistant to leave Liberty Ave. None were.

There were huge differences between the charges and the way the police were handling Japenga and the other 4. This is something worth watching as the question remains; if people do the same thing, shouldn’t they be treated the same? Other than Japenga the 4 cases were postponed with the option to do 50 hours community service and have the charges expunged from their record. I heard 2 conflicting things about this. Japenga’s attorney told me that the expungement meant nothing would remain on their records. One of the persons however told me they would be left with a disorderly conduct charge.

All were charged with failure to disperse and obstruction of highways and other public passages. One was charged with resisting arrest, and this was the arrest I had witnessed. He did in no way resist! Based on what I saw presented, I don’t think any of the 5 should have been arrested.

In the last year, I’ve been learning more and more about how our community interacts with the police and the policies, procedures and issues that impede an improvement of the relationship between the two. This began with Verucca’s incident in the Spring of 2010, but I really dug in after the gay bashing in Highland Park. In that case, there were 2 elements which greatly added to the problem, and I worked with Patrick Dowd and the Zone 5 commander on those. These were ways the 911 and police policies made it difficult for members of the LGBT community. This situation sheds light on a whole new set of issues to be looked at, and changes demanded.

Meeting Japenga’s lawyer and listening to the case against Japenga was amazing and while his intention was to get as much as he could for Japenga, I saw his efforts as going beyond that and helping the larger community understand what happened. While some have accused me of having a pro-police agenda, I believe I have sought to express the truth as I saw it, speaking soley from my own experience. My goal had been to make sure there is as truthful a representation as there can be. I valued Japenga’s lawyer for adding more information to that picture.

The officer who is listed as the arresting officer did an interesting thing. So many of the police there, were dressed casually and not in uniform. Dee in, the arresting officer was as well, but when he went up for the case, he had changed into his police shirt. I didn’t see any of the other officers do this. While he is listed as the arresting officer on all of the 5 arrests, he is NOT the officer I saw arrest the one person. Officer Edwards was the guy who grabbed him, slammed him onto the cruise and handcuffed him. Why wasn’t Edwards the arresting officer for that one? How is it that one officer can do an arrest but another be credited for it? Was there some reason why Edward’s name couldn’t be on the arrest?

Through some hard work, the lawyer got 2 of the charges against Japenga dropped, but 2 remained. The failure to disperse charge rests on the question of if the police gave a command to disperse on Friendship Ave because the police have no witness to place Japenga on Liberty Ave. The police’s written report doesn’t include anything about there being a call to disperse on Friendship, but the officer claimed that it had happened and he had simply forgot to include that in the report. I know I never heard a command to disperse, and there was a room full of others who were ready to testify that there had been no such command. But there was some technicality about the type of hearing it was such that the credibility of the officer’s testimony could not be questioned. That can only happen at a full trial. I’m sure we will see that issue come up again.
The good news for Japenga is that there will be a trial, and this lawyer is very good. The bad news is that he awaits that trial in jail.

The arresting officer claimed that he wrote the report about 2 hours after the arrests. How is it that such an important element (a call to disperse) was left off of the report? Some will read this and blame the officer (which may be valid) but I think a larger issue exists. The police officers lack adequate management from the very highest levels, and across thew entire police department, there isn’t a push for thorough, detailed reporting. For this to be the norm, that expectation must come from the highest levels of the Police Department.

When I left the courtroom it wasn’t clear what the 4 would do, and the decision can’t be easy. On the one hand, some believe the officers have a very weak case against the 4, and if they have it go to trial, they could win. Especially with good lawyers such as from the ACLU. On the other hand, going to trial can be expensive, take time, and there is the chance they wouldn’t win.

Here’s the real issue: when the police go overboard and throw their power around, and use arrests as a way to intimidate a group of people, it not only does damage to the relationship between the police and that group, but harms the Police’s credibility overall. The Police have no easy job, yet one has to wonder if they make it harder than it has to be in some situations.

7 Comments

  1. F Japenga, let him rot in lockup.

  2. You have very little understanding of the legal process and your credibility is harmed by the fact that you alledge that the officers “threw their power around” when there is no evident of such a thing.

    What you are doing with these blog posts is making the relationship between the police and the community worse with you unfounded lies and misconception of the power an athority of the police.

    • Thanks for adding your voice to the dialogue.  I just love it. I have angry anarchist queers thinking I do them harm and now you saying I do harm to a relationship with the police. Interestingly, I happen to be a person in active dialogue with the police. 

      What I am doing is offering my perspective on what I saw and experienced. You are entitled to your own opinion.

      If you look at all of my posts, I would say that this incident demonstrates many issues that impact the ability of the Police to protect the LGBT community, as well as the ability of the community to trust the police. All of which can be addressed and things improved.

      In my very first post about the entire event the night of the event, I said:

      “Some will talk about tonight as if the police were the problem and they proved why so many within the LGBTQ community don’t trust the police. Others will say that young queers who have no respect for any authority figures went out if their way to push a confrontation.

      For me the truth is some combination of both. Much much to write about.”

      The truth is somewhere in between the two extremes. I don’t know the actual word could, but my guess is I have written about 9000 words total. In all of that, it is possible for anyone to find one thing and decide it is good or bad.

    • Oh get over it. I’ve found it interesting to watch TCW’s awakening in terms of being forced to acknowledge the massive problems with the police force and their treatment of minorities and marginalized groups. You I guess haven’t gotten that far yet. TCW has a lot of growth still to do so you have time to catch up. And, I’m assuming you weren’t at the trial or the event. Nice. We always need more people who weren’t present giving their opinions on what happened while doing nothing overall for the cause or anyone.

      • Thomas Waters says:

        Queerio, I think you misread what I’ve written in a big way or jump to massive conclusions. If you go back to the VERY first post, I said that I believed the problem was not all the police and not all the protesters, but somewhere in bewtween. And I believe I have remained true to that all along.  I NEVER said there were not massive problems with the police. If you feel I did, cite where. But when some took issue with my perspective at the start of the rally, I was branded as “pro-police.” This is a failure by a few readers, not a change in my awareness.

        I can’t say if I feel the problems are massive or small or… I’d put no judgemental evaluation on them. Even if they are small, they should be addressed and resolved. After the Verucca incident and after the gay bashing in Highland Park, I worked closely with the police to identify issues that needed to be changed and fixed and then helped with a plan to fix them. There is still lots and lots of work to be done, and I believe we will continue to fix problems as they can be identified and solutions found.

        I have been amazed to no end throughout all of these posts how rigid and addicted to a binary thinking of good/bad these so-called queers and anarchists are. Funny, they reject a gender binary, but fail to see the rest of the world outside of their own rigid thinking. You (generic you) perpetuate a victimhood mentality which benefits no one except you can self-justify your own rigid one-sided viewpoint.

        For me, the rally had four distinct parts that I participated in, and perhaps one more that I did not. 

        In the 1st part, the rally on Liberty, I experienced the police acting very civil and professional. I experienced the police looking for a win/win situation so that the rally participants got what they needed and the law was followed.

        The 2nd phase was the interactions between a few queers who fefused to leave Liberty and who hurled undeserved insults at the police.In this phase, I too believe the police went out of its way to act professionally and treat everyone fairly.The 3rd phase was when the queers were in the park, and there were 2 police left to keep an eye on things. Here too, I do not think the police acted wrongly.The 4th phase was after the rally partiipants began to march up Friendship Ave. In this phase I believe the police over reacted, and things happened that should not have happened.The 5th phase would be the re-gathering of people back in the park after the arrests. I did not stay and so I know very little about this.This doesn’t illustrate my evolving viewpoint as much as it illustrates that there were parts of the evening where I believe the police behaved professionally and fairly and other parts of the evening where I’m not sure they did. I wouldn’t even support thinking of it as “the police” as much as I believe that what I and others saw may be very officer dependent. For example, I only saw 1 protester get arrested, I would say I believed that officer didn’t act properly, but I wouldn’t generalize that to all officers  or all arrests.I also don’t believe that what I saw happen had anything to do with “minorities and marginalized communities,” specifically. But I can’t really explain that more until after the complaints I have filed have been adequately reviewed. I have every intention however of explaining that thought at some point down the road. I fully grasp why people can think the police act this way however (towards minorities and marginalized groups).

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