The following public comment was made at the meeting of the Amherst Town Council on May 3, 2021
I am extremely disappointed to see the lack of funding for the CRESS program (using only the frozen police positions) while seeing an increase in the police budget itself. This shows a clear lack of priority in centering our BIPOC residents and in honoring their lives and experiences as valuable data when making decisions about our town. It is a check-the-box response to the critical needs of our community and is incredibly racist and oppressive. If any of you have followed the history of this town from Jeffrey Amherst through law suits filed by the NAACP, you know that this is not new. Generation after generation of BIPOC community members have served on committee after committee, have been subjected to trauma, and then have had their work ignored over and over until the work is forgotten and started all over again.
Investment is a direct reflection of our values and we continue to fail Black and Brown residents, families, and young people. It’s extremely disturbing to see the funding spent on other things in our town like $117 a day on gas for police officers to circle our town day after day surveilling Black and Brown residents. Even investing in the library (a building) before we invest in the safety and well-being of Black and Brown people is ridiculous and again, is a clear reflection of the values those in leadership in our town hold, which can also be reflected on this Zoom by the sheer absence of Black and Brown people on this council itself.
This is a problem. Even the police themselves expressed publicly at a CSWG meeting that they would be “dancing in the street” if they didn’t have to handle non-violent calls – the majority of all calls made to our police dept. We must defund the police and invest in our BIPOC community based on the needs and solutions THEY identify. This is what equity and anti racism looks like.
Amara Donovan Is a resident of Amherst.