Opinion:  Sunrise Amherst Condemns Harassment Of BIPOC Youth By Amherst Police

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Sunrise Amherst condemns the actions of the Amherst Police Department on the night of July 4, 2022. Sunrise Amherst, is a local hub of the youth-led, national movement for intersectional climate justice, racial equity, and the passage of the Green New Deal. 

On July 4, the Amherst Police Department took away the rights of a group of BIPOC kids in our community and the event was caught on camera. The young people were detained and one individual attempted to call their parents but the police refused to allow them to make that call. Is this how we want our kids to be treated? Police officers make 30% more than teachers and receive little training in interacting with youth. To work with our town’s youth, teachers need a master’s degree and have to go through extensive training. We should be using the money that’s going to the over-policing of the working class, and BIPOC youth, to give children a better education so they can change the world and make it a better place for upcoming generations.

This event is part of a national trend of police harassment and brutality toward the BIPOC community. In Tennessee, a 25-year-old named Brandon Calloway was followed to his dad’s house and brutally beaten after allegedly not making a stop at a stop sign. He was accused of having a weapon after he reached for his pocket. The discrimination, harassment, and brutality from the police must stop.  These kids were residents of our town and students in our school. Imagine if someone talked to your kids like that saying, You don’t have rights, you are sixteen, you don’t have rights”. The feeling that adults see us as less than people has been building in us lately but we hadn’t heard it expressed out loud until then. Even though we are the generation that is supposedly going to take on and solve climate change, the system makes us feel powerless and naive. The irony of that isn’t lost on any of us. We are trying to make it through school and plan how we will stay afloat in this world at the same time as we think about how to keep this world afloat. If you want our generation to begin to fight for a better world you need to give us our power back.

The conduct exhibited by the Amherst police officers is unacceptable. It is terrifying that those given a high level of authority in our community are not aware of youth’s basic rights. The Amherst Police Department has a policy regarding the treatment of youth that was not followed in this event. It states “Police officers should be aware that constitutional rights are not lost by virtue of one’s age.” Were these officers not made aware of town policy, or did they choose to disregard it? Anyone who is detained by police has the right to call a lawyer or family member. Despite this, one of the officers involved in the incident refused to let one of the young people make a phone call after they respectfully request it. This is unacceptable. 

Sunrise Amherst is appalled by the silence and lack of corrective measures coming from Amherst Forward, Amherst Police Department Leadership, and other Police Officers. The utter silence of these groups and many town councilors suggests that they approve of, or are ok with the actions taken by officers that night. Sunrise Amherst concurs with statements made by the Community Safety Working Group and the Progressive Coalition of Amherst. Soon CRESS Responders will hit the streets, and take a more respectful, anti-racist approach to incidents like this. We thank these responders for their work. We demand corrective action, a redistribution of funds from the Amherst Police Department, and higher quality, more transparent, consistent training and documentation practices. 

Amherst Sunrise Movement

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