The following public comment was made at the Town Council meeting of June 21, 2021.
My name is Marisol Pierce Bonifaz and I am from District 1. I work with Amherst Sunrise as the Co-Defund the Police Project Lead. Amherst Sunrise Movement has been working on a campaign, in partnership with Defund 413 Amherst, to protect ARPS school funding since March. We have gathered petition signatures, compiled informative posts, hosted a Town Hall, and have spoken at previous Town Council meetings. With this experience, I have been moved by the sheer amount of support there is in Amherst towards protecting school funding and reallocating cuts towards alternative services such as the Police Department. Over two hours of public comment was made at your May 17th Town Council meeting on the faults in the FY 2022 Budget, and Amherst Sunrise gathered 160 signatures of concerned Amherst voters looking to protect and prioritize Amherst’s education system.
Town Council, this is your last chance. We have researched, we have spoken with you, we have rallied, and we have raised our voices, and it is up to you: will you reflect the voices of Amherst in your decision, or will you ignore our demands and continue governing with your own agenda? Listen to us. Listen to the young voices being raised in this town, listen to those affected primarily by the police, listen to the community organizers who have worked tirelessly in Amherst for years, and listen to those most affected by these budget cuts. Last year, when there was a conversation on defunding the police, the Town Council claimed there was a need for more research, more information. So more information was provided. The Community Safety Working Group, working diligently and thoroughly all year long, presented a detailed alternative to policing. Instead of respecting this work and representing the voices of Amherst residents, the budget is only funding 6% of what the group requested. As a young person in this town, I am progressively losing hope in Amherst’s government. Town Council, vote no on the proposed FY 2022 budget. Vote no because the next generation deserves a better education. Vote no because the BIPOC community deserves to feel safe in Amherst. Most importantly, vote no to reflect Amherst’s values.
Marisol Pierce Bonifaz is a resident of District 1, a student at the Pioneer Valley Preforming Arts School, and the project lead for Amherst Sunrise’s Defund the Police