Dear DA Matt Van Houten,
Please end this time- and public resource-consuming drama of projecting the devastating consequences onto local young African-American Rose DeGroat the tendencies of a “liberal” community to locate structural inequality anywhere but here. The facts in this case of police “over-reaction” ( i.e. conscious or unconsciously racially motivated police violence) were finally put on display for all to see at Cadji Ferguson’s August 29 trial, where he was acquitted. Further, the lack of any credible prosecutorial case re: Rose DeGroat’s reasonable reaction to police violence directed at her friend was further confirmed with the actual letter, film, and e-mail documentation contained in Rose’s lawyer, Ed Kopko’s publicly available omnibus motion filed that same week.
It is nothing short of shameful that the “creepy” drunken white out-of-town instigator who provoked the whole incident was coddled by police, never questioned, and dispatched to his hotel room while long-term solid citizens of Ithaca, Cadji and Rose, were body-slammed to the ground and Cadji dangerously tased by an officer. And yet, I know that I felt compassion for this same testifying police officer at Cadji’s trial, whom I believe didn’t even register the racism and emotional ignorance in his testimony that Cadji’s display of terror in his “widened eyeballs” (facing the sudden assault of the police) indicated that he was a flight risk who warranted the taser.
The costs of structural inequality are born by all of us, including the young men who join the police force, many, no doubt with an intention to serve the public good, only to be handed military-style weapons and indoctrination, and an attitude of victimization that causes them to lose their moral judgment and close ranks against the very communities they have pledged to serve.
You, a DA apparently educated in restorative justice, know all of this, but choose to take the easier road of respecting the fragility of the voting white majority, including many “liberals,” criminalizing a courageous black woman, and counting on the working public’s not having time to learn the extremely disturbing facts of this case by attending hearings, trials and reading hugely detailed omnibus briefs. In the meantime, the well-armed officers on the local police force are neither appropriately checked by your prosecutorial power, nor spiritually respected enough to get an education about white supremacy, white fragility and the tendencies of all human beings to abuse power.
The public campaign related to these issues has only begun, so don’t bank on us getting tired. Please consider joining a spiritually and politically diverse array of your fellow-citizens in a “Free Rose DeGroat” demonstration at the Tompkins County Courthouse, 320 N. Tioga St., this Friday at 4 p.m.
Professor of Educational Studies, Emerita
Featured image: More than 100 people gathered at the Tompkins County Courthouse for a hearing in Rose de Groat’s case on Monday, Aug. 26. (Devon Magliozzi/Ithaca Voice)