New Haven Police Chief: ‘Our Goal Should Be to Rid Our Communities of Police’
by Emily DiSalvo | Jun 23, 2020 5:00am
New Haven Police Chief Ontoniel Reyes said that the underlying issues of poverty and injustice in the community need to be addressed, but not with the police.
“Some people say to me, ‘You’re a cop; you’re almost talking against having more police,’” Reyes said. “Well yeah I am. Because the communities don’t need the police. If you want healthy communities, they are devoid of police.
Reyes and other community leaders spoke at a virtual forum, “Policing in This Current Age: A Conversation,” hosted by the Jewish Federation of New Haven, Reverend Stephen Cousin and Rep. Themis Klarides. Reyes focused his remarks on the problems that communities face that police cannot solve and in some cases, are exacerbated by police.
“Our goal should be to rid our communities of police,” Reyes said. “That’s how we know we have gotten somewhere, the question is, are we ready for that right now?”
Reyes, who grew up in New Haven, said that there is much less crime on the streets than when he was a little boy. But he noted that the amount of poverty has remained the same and in some cases increased.
“The social economic issues that are still making it difficult for people to come out and succeed, education issues, all these systemic issues — if we want to stop the prison pipeline and we continue to have a large presence of police in a community and you have you have a community that is impoverished with kids who resort to selling drugs, you’re going to have police arresting kids for selling drugs,” Reyes said.
Adding law enforcement to the equation creates a cycle that ultimately results in more arrests and more people in prison, and Reyes said the way to stop the cycle is to take a look at the role of police.
“Do we need to hire good cops?” Reyes asked. “Of course we do. Do we need to make sure that we have good community-police relations? Of course we do. But to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you put law enforcement out there to handle community issues, they see drug issues and they address it. But in the same breath we say we don’t want our kids going to jail for low-level drug offenses.”
Reyes’s comments followed a discussion between other leaders and activists about the idea of “defunding the police” which has risen in popularity in the wake of George Floyd’s death and subsequent protests.
Rev. Keith King of Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church in Hamden said he is not in favor of defunding police.
“I think that is a term to suggest we don’t need the police,” King said. “There are times when people are committing crimes of violence when I think all of us would want someone with a firearm.”
He said the idea of defunding should not be so much about getting rid of the police as it is about determining the role of police alongside other professionals
“Are the police engaged in activities that other social professionals, other social services could handle?” King asked.
Issues like domestic abuse and traffic violations should not be handled by a police officer King said. For example, King suggested that it wouldn’t take an armed officer to deal with a counterfeit $20 bill, George Floyd’s simple infraction that started the movement.
Assistant Chief of Police at Yale University Anthony Campbell said there is a range of meanings for defunding the police, but he agrees that America needs police in some form.
“Funding for police and policing has to be reimagined and changed drastically,” Campbell said. “Many in the black community do not get the service that they should from the police. Some of that funding should go to social services, education but I also think it needs to be part of the educational process for anyone thinking of taking a police position.”
Police officers must learn about the history of policing in America and how this history still impacts policing today, Campbell said.
Students at Yale University, where Campbell works, have launched a petition to defund the Yale Police Department which has about 6,000 signatures.
Defunding the police is not a new term, but it has risen in as a rallying cry after several highly visible incidents of police brutality. Dori Dumas, present of the Greater New Haven Branch of the NAACP, said the phrase has so many different meanings for different people that it is important to have conversations about it with “everyone at the table.”
“Those of us that are community activists who are really trying to see the change, we need to hear all views,” Dumas said. “Then we need to sit down with people who have expertise about how we can execute and get some of these things in place. If we just keep talking about it and not moving to action, we’re not going to see it. I feel like the time is now.”
by| Jun 29, 2020 10:53 am
Adrion Russell, founder of Action Fitness, and Carla O’Brien, co-owner of District Athletic Club (DAC) on James Street, have a weighty message to share with their community: “Fitness is for everyone.”
The two businesses teamed up on Saturday to offer a free, donation-based and socially distanced outdoor workout designed for all fitness levels.
The event was scheduled about two weeks after Connecticut gyms were given the go-ahead to open their doors on June 17. The collaboration was designed to bring back clientele and to engage collective calf muscle. Attendees were also encouraged to get politically involved.
“This is the year we make change … and get the vote!” O’Brien declared to the crowd. “Today is about community, unity, meeting new people, and joining forces!”
On Saturday morning, those who registered for the workout showed up early to check in and get their temperature taken. Around 100 people meandered through District’s parking lot in athletic wear and masks, the latter of which were taken off once participants reached their workout stations.
Before the official workout began, some prepared with solitary stretches. Others practiced their conversation skills after months of social isolation. And many completed the 2020 Census and registered to vote at an onsite tent sponsored by the Greater New Haven NAACP.
This article has been edited. To read the full article, please click here.
The Eta Alpha Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., held a candle-lit vigil Thursday evening to mourn the deaths of the black Americans who have died at the hands of police.
Please see the article from the New Haven Independent down below.
Alphas “Shine A Light” On Brutality Victims
by| Jun 19, 2020 10:35 am
One by one, a man stepped up to the podium set in front of the Amistad memorial before New Haven City Hall and read the name of another black American killed by police.
Once they had spoken the name, the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha leaned the candle each one was holding to ignite it on the lighter Ty Jenkins (pictured above, right) held out to them.
The Eta Alpha Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., had invited its brothers, and the brothers and sisters of other fraternities and sororities in the New Haven area, to a candle-lit vigil Thursday evening to mourn the deaths of the black Americans who have died at the hands of police.
After a few speeches and a prayer, the brothers had lined up with unlit candles to read a list of names the fraternity had put together.
But there were not enough brothers to read all the names. Montrell Seay (pictured above) was the last to light his candle, and he stayed at the podium for a few minutes reading name after name.
Nine-year-old Grant Bivens was the next to speak. He had learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. in school, he said. “When I first learned about him, I thought ‘Good, I won’t have to suffer from racism.’ That’s not true,” he said.
Though the Alphas had organized the event, they invited the members of other area fraternities and sororities. About 100 people showed up for the twilight vigil on the eve of Juneteenth.
“We’re here to shine a light on the individuals whose breaths can no longer be breathed and whose hearts can no longer beat,” said Sean Mosley, president of the Eta Alpha Lambda chapter of the Alphas, which is the New Haven-based chapter of the national fraternity. “I salute our brothers and sisters,” he continued, as the bell in the clock tower above him rang out eight o’clock, “who have rang the bells of discord and protest over the last month.”
“Frankly, brothers and sisters, we are tired of talking,” he continued. “The only question we have now for our national, state, and local elected officials, the only question we have for our legislators, the only question we have for our criminal justice officials, is the following: what legislation will you propose and co-sign that will finally heal the 400-year genocide that has been exerted on our people of color in this nation.”
After the brothers had lit their candles, and had carried the flames to those gathered on the sidewalk and lit their candles as well, everyone knelt in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The wind snuffed out a few candles. Neighbors leaned their flames over to the now smoking, dark wicks to reignite them.
The light was fading quickly, and by the time Jenkins broke the silence with a simple “thank you,” the candles seemed brighter than they had eight minutes and 46 seconds before.
They sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
“My grandfather made me learn it before I left the house,” said Jenkins. He waited for the bells above him to toll 9 p.m., and then led the crowd in reciting the poem “Invictus.”
Yves Salomon (pictured) wore a white shirt, and the light of his candle glowed off his chest, framed above by a camouflage-patterned mask.
Salomon is the president of the Organization of New England Chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha. He too had given a speech at the beginning of the evening.
“When I think about the future, despite our current circumstances and the brothers and sisters that we’ve lost, I’m hopeful. Yes brothers and sisters, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful because for the first time in my 40-plus years on Earth, I’m seeing the entire African diaspora and brothers and sisters around the world galvanizing to say enough is enough.”
Nothing has brought together such a strong movement in the past, he said, and asked: “How does that hope manifest itself into change?” He repeated the question.
“The real change starts here, right here at home in our communities,” he said. “We don’t have to just look to Washington to change our day-to-day lives. We have the power to effect change locally, through grassroots organizing and participation in our local elections. Point blank, folks, we have to care about who our aldermen are, who our police chiefs and commissioners are, and definitely who our mayors and district attorneys are.”
President of the Greater New Haven Branch of the NAACP also spoke at this event. See images below.
This article has been edited for this post. For the full article with pictures and video, please click here:
You are invited to participate in a conversation on Policing in the Current Age, Monday June 22nd at 4:00 p.m.
Please click this link below to register to attend!
Backyard Bash Brings Black Triumphs Alive
by| Jun 22, 2020 9:41 am
A Father’s Day and Juneteenth celebration hosted in a Newhallville backyard highlighted New Haven-based organizations and movements to recognize the local Black community’s past and present triumphs.
The intimate walk-through celebration at the Ivy Narrow Bird Habitat was hosted by the Amistad Committee and Connecticut 29th Colored Regiment C.V. Infantry.
Organizers Jackie Buster, Kai Perry, Kelly Mero, and Meredith Benson had originally canceled the event due to safety concerns about hosting a large gathering amidst Covid-19. When the nationwide Black Lives Matter protest began, the organizers decided it was necessary to put the event on.
“There’s not enough opportunity to celebrate as Black people. We are often grieving or fighting the battle of oppression,” said Perry.
This is the third year the organizers have hosted a Juneteenth celebration. This year’s gathering pushed visitors to walk through the celebration to get information on work being done by organizations throughout New Haven, then tune in on a Facebook live broadcast with speakers.
Babz Rawls Ivy hosted a series of live interviews on WNHH FM with invited guests on the front porch of 205-207 Ivy St. Topics ranged from voter education, police brutality, helping kids understand racism, and policy-based social change.
Antoinette Badillo, NAACP Greater New Have political action chair, tabled with President Dori Dumas, registering eligible visitors to vote. Badillo brought along 100 registration forms and encouraged New Haveners to register to have their voices heard. “It’s especially important because our ancestors fought for this right. Why give up the opportunity?” she said. A free Juneteenth face mask was given to each person who registered.
The pair also provided visitors with information on the 2020 census. “We want them to understand that the census helps to resource our communities. We all deserve to be counted,” Dumas said. “Being engaged is empowering.”
Badillo and Dumas talked with one visitor, Divonne, who expressed his distrust for the government and therefore efforts like the census. “You guys remember Tuskegee,” he said, referring to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.
“I remember and you remember Tuskegee, which is why we need to do this,” said Dumas. “If we want better things like streets, after-school programs, and hospital services, we have to be counted.”
This article has been edited to highlight the contributions of the Greater New Haven Branch of the NAACP. For the full article, please click the here:
by: Chris Lundberg
(WTNH) — In the weeks since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody, one thing has become clear — this country is hurting. The question now is how do we begin to heal? On Thursday, News 8 was proud to bring you “The State of Race” — an exclusive Town Hall aimed at helping to answer that question and taking a step to bridge the racial divide.
The show brought together government and community leaders, activists and law enforcement officials to discuss how we begin the healing process.
Many of the panelists said it was hard to watch the video of Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, but some said they weren’t surprised by Chauvin’s actions.
Like many of the guests on this Town Hall discussion, Dori Dumas has made some history in her current position as President of the New Haven chapter of the NAACP. Dumas is the first woman to hold that position since the New Haven chapter’s inception in 1917.
An Elm City native, and James Hillhouse High School and Albertus Magnus College graduate, Dumas entered the role of chapter President in the summer of 2014 saying that closing the education gap would be a primary objective during her first term.
Recently, Dumas and the New Haven chapter were involved with a drive to help black and brown communities in the city with access to PPE like masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, telling News 8, “Black and brown people matter. We want to live and be safe. We think it’s so important that everyone has a mask. Even those who can’t get someplace, purchase one that everyone has a right to be protected, everyone matters, we want our community protected.”
June 2, 2020
The Greater New Haven NAACP shares in the pain, outrage, disgust, and frustration over the tragic murder of George Floyd by the police. We mourn his death, we are fed up, and we unite with communities throughout this country to say enough. Black and brown communities are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and health disparities, as we are experiencing a much higher rate of fatalities. We are experiencing a life and death crisis due to not only the virus but also domestic terrorism in the United States at the hands of law enforcement. Yet hope is alive. Seeds of resistance planted decades ago by organizations such as the NAACP still grow, and reseed.
The recent deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia have served as a catalyst to awaken those who never doubted their own safety jogging, bird watching, sleeping or shopping. It has also brought to the surface the rage and sorrow of the people whose basic civil rights are constantly denied. People in both groups are crying out together and are seeking ways to put an end to centuries of racial injustice in the USA. While America looks for strong voices to lead us through these turbulent times, where days feel like never-ending nightmares, we at the The Greater New Haven NAACP will continue to work locally, and will follow the National Guidelines that are strategic and offer hope and a path forward.
We encourage brown and black people as well as our white brothers and sisters and all others who want to commit to being anti-racist to join us. We invite community members, who feel like being inactive right now is to be a bystander and to be complicit, to join us.
We are working with other local organizations, the faith community, and our local officials to find ways to bring about the needed change. We share the aims and direction of the National NAACP and will keep the focus on redressing the institutional racism against our communities everywhere and work to bring an end to the criminalization of black people and dismantle the systems that perpetuate racism and unjust policing. We will post opportunities for engagement on our website and social media. Institutional racism in America is problem that all of her citizens need to actively address. The Greater New Haven NAACP has a long history of fighting for justice and we will continue that work, and we need you join us. I am including resources that are aligned with the work we will be doing.
Yours in the struggle,