To the Editor: Re “When Enough is Enough: The Arrest of Montrice Bolden and Police Brutality in Erie, PA” (News Article, July 31):
Alvin Tucker II standing in Perry Square during The Public Demonstration Against Excessive Force on July 28, 2016 (Photo Credit: Facebook)
Do we really need to have this conversation in 2016? After legends such as Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and even Fred Hampton (most of you have probably never heard of him) courageously fought injustice, I ended up here: blocking traffic on East 12th street as vehicles on both sides sat bumper to bumper at least 20 cars back. As the sun beamed, my chest met the grill of a SUV. The driver, fed up, released his foot from the brake and let his vehicle roll freely forward. Voices from my fellow protestors and comrades rose in unison, “no justice, no peace…whose streets, our streets!”
I didn’t budge until I got as close to getting run over as humanly possible without it actually happening. He made it through and so did a motorcycle (motorcycles always seem to weave through traffic) but no one else passed until the police arrived. When they did, we moved to the side and I led a call and response citing the Law Enforcement’s Oath of Honor: “On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust… I will always uphold the constitution, my community, and the agency I serve.” Blocking one of the main roads in the city proved effective as we received the attention and exposure we desired, especially when the media came to the scene.
This all happened outside of TJ’s Traffic Jam, where cops unlawfully assaulted Montrice Bolden on June 27, 2016. He suffered a broken eye socket, a fractured skull, permanent nerve damage and internal bleeding. After our protest, I got home and checked my social media and other outlets that spoke about us. The lack of empathy (putting yourself in another person’s shoes) and hate blew my mind! Even some of my “friends” (more like acquaintances) tried to justify the actions of the police. Other criticized the fact that we blocked 12th Street. If we had stood on the corner with signs, people might have thought we were advertising a car wash or some other event. Truthfully, we would do it again if needed. We don’t want justice next week, we don’t want justice tomorrow, we want justice now.
Justice needs to happen for Montrice, his family and other people, including their families, who have experienced police brutality. Many people have refrained from coming forward with claims or complaints because they have no faith in the system, because of fear and because they don’t know who to trust. We appreciate the U.S. Justice Department for conducting a more thorough investigation, although that just marks the beginning. We will not feel satisfied until they have taken swift action. We want Steve Deluca, John Nolan, Ira Bush and J. Russell removed from the Erie Police force (not awarded desk jobs). Some of these guys have despicable reputations for intentionally provoking, harassing and using unnecessary force against Black people for years! That it happened once upsets me, but how in the world do you build a reputation for such disgusting acts without facing the consequences?
Don’t get me wrong. I know great cops who ethically do their jobs. I saw many who showed their love and support at this past National Night Out. They need to have a no-tolerance policy for excessive force.
We need more Black police, so I encourage my brothers and sisters to step up, apply and play a more active role in making our community safer. Organizations, businesses and cities alike rise and fall on leadership. I urge more leaders, especially young professionals, to step up and make an impact. I challenge universities and colleges to get in on this action.
Can you name any events held in Erie that celebrate Black culture or Black life for that matter (I’ll wait, crickets)? The city finally got a Hip Hop and R&B station and it doesn’t play the latest hits, it plays songs from the ’90s (great station but still it’s 2016; we need more). I have currently started organizing a Hip Hop show/festival that promotes and celebrates Black Culture. We expect a diverse crowd. The proceeds will go back to two Black-owned businesses in Erie. Look for that later this month or early September. A lot of people have never left Erie, so they don’t know that in other places (like my hometown in Maryland) you see Black doctors, Black attorneys and Black public figures frequently. We need to think bigger, faster.
Say what you want, millennials accept change and love diversity. And unless that happens in Erie, don’t expect them to come running here. Diversity will make the area more attractive and appealing, thus helping to solve the stagnation in population. As a city, Erie works like a body. Early in its construction, architects intentionally sectioned off the East Side so that visitors didn’t have to see it in order to enter the city. They also refrained from using and investing resources there. You wouldn’t cut off your leg and expect your body to function properly, would you?
Racists forget people can have children with whoever they want now. I have a friend who has racist parents who just found out she has a Black boyfriend (surprise, surprise). Guess police brutality doesn’t pose a problem until it hits home, and it can, through integration. A friend or extended family member could very well experience it. The universe has some interesting ways of opening our minds.
How do we convince people on WORKING FOR justice for all? We don’t. We sift through people like a deck of cards and work with the willing. I don’t aspire to convince people through this, although I’ve made some convincing arguments. Either we grow or we die, either Erie progresses or it regresses. It does not plateau. Join us August 10th at 1 p.m. to rally and support Montrice in his preliminary hearing at the courthouse downtown. When we defy hate, we defy gravity.
*By the way for those who don’t know Fred Hampton rose as a young gifted leader through the Black Panther Party and the FBI assassinated him. *
-Alvin Tucker II