Letter: Defund 413 Condemns Amherst Police Harassment Of BIPOC Youth

Photo:Erin Nekervis. Flickr.com. Creative Commons

Like many other Amherst groups committed to antiracism, Defund413 Amherst denounces the behavior of the Amherst Police Department (APD) on the night of July 4th, 2022, when several officers responding to a noise complaint harassed a group of largely BIPOC Amherst youth while they were waiting for AAA to arrive and assist with a flat tire. The youth were told that they “don’t have rights” and that they weren’t allowed to make any calls because they were detained.

This behavior is unacceptable. And it’s not new or abnormal for Amherst, as evidenced by the CSWG Part A report published in May 2021 that describes similar harassment BIPOC Amherst residents have experienced from the APD.

We are glad to hear that CRESS responders are following up with the families of the youth involved in this particular incident and pleased that future noise complaints will be CRESS’s responsibility CRESS is operational. 

Though we believe that the APD needs to show accountability for this incident, we don’t believe that it should come in the form of additional training, which would just be another way of investing our resources in policing instead of in community.

Defund413 Amherst continues to demand that the Town divest from the APD so that more money can be devoted to resources that will support our BIPOC communities, for example by supporting the Youth Empowerment Center, BIPOC Cultural Center, CRESS, and other CSWG recommended programs. To that end, we demand that the Town freeze hiring at APD and not fill the vacant position created by the recent retirement of officer Brian T. Johnson.  

We also demand that the Youth Adventure Academy put on each summer in partnership with the UMass Police Department be discontinued. Police propaganda disguised as summer camp is not the kind of youth support program we believe our community needs.

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