Dear Judge Rowley,
My husband and I attended the court hearing Monday, Aug. 26, for Rose DeGroat and were very disturbed by your brief angry address to the those present in the well-populated but quiet courtroom. We were shocked that you chose to attack us with the charge of “grandstanding,” and that you even assaulted the right of concerned citizens to address their legal representatives, specifically calling out our letter-writing and participation in legal democratic protest validated in the constitution.
Reasonably informed citizens, typical of Ithaca’s population, like my husband and I, are rightfully troubled by the use of tasering by police, especially when, as in this case, there was no inquiry into what had preceded, and the police involved were in no danger. We have watched as the gradual militarization of police forces nationally and locally, and the increasingly aggressive behavior of the police in relation to the unarmed citizens they are pledged to protect, often people of color, as in this case, have become a new norm. It’s unacceptable, and we are hardly isolated in asserting this.
Your verbal attack of an audience of concerned citizens has become another new norm under the Trump administration, but it is beneath you, a respected liberal judge in a relatively enlightened town. You owe an apology to us for this assault on our democratic rights, and especially for the miseducation you provided to the very attentive children in the courtroom yesterday who literally heard a judge attack their parents for the letter-writing and other protest against abuses of power that they are rightly encouraged to do in their public school social studies curriculum.
And you should understand that those of us who are concerned with the militarization of the local police, and believe that you should share our concern, are rapidly losing faith that the criminal justice system in this town is any different than the criminal justice system that exonerated the perpetrators of the Eric Garner killing. Worst of all, your angry remarks yesterday increased the polarization between those who have already given up on any justice, especially for black people, coming from the criminal justice system, and those who want to believe that there exists a local democratic process worth fighting to uphold. Longterm, increasing public cynicism about the viability of democratic process could be the most damaging effect of this whole ugly ordeal, especially in the context of the national and global moves toward fascism with which your words resonated.
The violent treatment of Cadji Ferguson and Rose DeGroat, two unarmed citizens, by the police is the issue that matters in this case, and any efforts to distract from that reality are not only patronizing, but also dishonest. Drop all charges against Rose and Cadji, offer them reasonable reparations, and demand the demilitarization of the training and practices of our local police.
Professor of Educational Studies, Emerita
Featured image: Dozens of people gathered after the hearing Monday, Aug. 26, regarding Rose de Groat’s felony charges. (Photo by Devon Magliozzi/The Ithaca Voice)