To the Editor:
This weekend, video surfaced of three Athens Police officers pinning a black man down on Court Street and squishing his face into the bricks. The officers punched, Tased and slammed him to the ground as a multiracial group of students shouted to release him. The man, Ty Bealer, had simply been standing by a car with friends. He suffered multiple injuries.
Mayor Steve Patterson, Police Chief Tom Pyle and Service-Safety Director Andy Stone hosted a press conference. They repeated the same tired line one hears at every police press conference after an incident of racist police brutality: that officers acted reasonably and with restraint. They also claimed to have a longer video that exonerates the officers, but they won’t release it to the public and refuse to reveal any details about it.
They said it’s easy to judge after the fact, but that at the time, given the mysterious context that they won’t reveal, brutalizing this young black man was their best option. Why, then, are the students in the video, who witnessed the incident firsthand, shouting at the police to let Ty go?
Moreover, they claimed that the officers’ actions couldn’t have been racist because bar staff pointed Ty out to them as a patron who was causing trouble. Anyone who has spent time on Court Street at night knows that bar patrons act unruly all the time. But they don’t all end up punched, Tased and pinned down by three cops with their face ground into bricks.
The police should immediately drop all charges against Ty, release the full video to the public, and fire the officers who perpetrated this horrible act.
Moreover, it’s up to all Athens residents to organize to make sure that this never happens again. This starts with recognizing that police do not keep us safer; studies show no correlation between police per capita and crime rate. Instead, police make life more dangerous for working-class and oppressed people, especially black and indigenous people.
Our city shouldn’t be pouring a third of its budget into oppressive policing in the poorest county in Ohio. If I am elected to City Council, I will take as much money and power and as many weapons away from the police as possible at every opportunity. I will redirect those resources toward anti-poverty programs, which are proven to be more effective at keeping people safe.
Carriage Hill Drive