Friday, June 12, 2009

Arturo Castillion's court appearance today

(For background on Arturo Castillion's unjust arrest during a Poverty Is Not A Crime protest, see this blog entry.)

Today, Arturo Castillion's count two, disorderly conduct, was dropped. Which raises the question of why they arrested and wrestled him to the ground in the first place, in the process of which they claim he bumped into them (which is false), making their charge of assault and battery on a police officer weaker. (This according to Arturo's lawyer, progressive attorney Luke Ryan.) Also, Ryan is subpoenaing footage that Channel 22 took. What the footage shows will no doubt further support Castillion's case.

A large contingent of Arturo's friends and Poverty Is Not A Crime members, as well as progressive community members, came to his court appearance in a show of support. As long as no one behaves themselves disruptively, Arturo and his attorney ask for the same show of support at his trial on October 17th, where he will begin by presenting the motion to dismiss. Also, Attorney Luke Ryan is asking for any eyewitnesses to Arturo's arrest, or anyone who knows of any eyewitnesses to contact him at 413 253 3900 or .

Friday, June 5, 2009

Southerland case

Ira Mckinley and I took turns representing PINAC and witnessing Alfonso Southerland's court case this morning. As Southerland is still in a coma and could not appear, his case was continued for arraignment for July third.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

belated Bill Dwight show audio link on the Al Southerland case

Ex-city councilor, radio host, absurdly overqualified video store clerk, and all around nice man about town Bill Dwight comments on the Alfonso Southerland alleged beating controversy on his April 23d radio show(the commentary on the issue begins roughly at the 6 minute mark of the audio MP3.) He gives evenhanded coverage, giving credence to both sides, although he expresses skepticism because he believes the Northampton police culture, many of whose officers he interviewed for their positions and promotions, are above police brutality for the most part. But unlike the police and some Northampton citizens, he refuses to swallow the idea that it could never happen here, and calls for more investigation.

He notes some holes in our coverage, which are actually errors in his reporting: there were four eyewitnesses, not just two, but despite our best efforts, we haven't been able to locate the other two. People are scared.But we're definitely still trying. Also, we asserted in our press release that the alleged beating occurred during the arrest outside of Urban Outfitters, not at the Northampton PD. I'd also like to note that the Chief of Police came out with a preemptive denial the a day or so after the incident, with no attempt at an investigation and an "it-can't-happen-here"attitude. Finally, Southerland's jaw was not dislocated, but the flesh on it was razed to the point that you could see his jaw bone.

I asked Dwight to make these corrections on his show, and knowing him and his commitment to truth, I fully expect him to do so. I heard that the Chief of Police was incensed at Dwight for even mentioning the case, though he favored PINAC no more than he did the police. If the the police had their druthers,this case would fade from public attention. But given the lawsuit the family is planning, and the complaint we'll be helping them make to the Northampton Human Rights Commission, it doesn't look like they'll be getting their wish anytime soon.

two court hearings you should not miss witnessing--June 5th & June 12th

1) Arturo Castillion is filing a motion to dismiss for the charge of "assaulting a police officer", when as documentary evidence shows, it was three police officers that wrestled him to the ground unresisting.

Here are Arturo's own words:

"On March 13th, I participated in a demonstration of sixty people, organized by Poverty is not a Crime (PINAC), against the controversial Northampton Business Improvement District (NBID). While playing music and serving free food outside city hall, we distributed informational cards about the BID, encouraging the passersby to boycott BID businesses and call their city councilors. After this we marched peacefully down Main Street, dancing and chanting our opposition to the BID and its agenda.

"Onlookers and protesters watched with surprise and frustration as the Northampton police violently responded to this peaceful assembly.

"From the time the demonstrators began to march down the street, police became very aggressive—pushing us around and yelling into our faces about not having a permit. [We had never been told we needed a permit before for a small scale sidewalk protest.] Yes, it’s true, we didn’t have a permit, but the first amendment is also supposed be worth something! I guess it’s not. As soon as I tried to deescalate the situation by explaining to officer Satkowski that we would get off the street once we reached the crosswalk (the part of the road which was wheelchair accessible)[we had disabled people with us who needed the detour], he body-checked me, and when I didn’t move, he grabbed my right arm while two other cops jumped on me. While I was pinned to the ground, fully cooperating with my arrest, Satkowski unnecessarily twisted my hand as another officer forcefully shoved my face into the asphalt several times.

"It is clear that the police went out of their way to intimidate and arrest people. Shortly after my arrest, David Beyer (who was 15 years old at the time) was arrested while assisting BB Sunshine with her wheelchair, leaving her alone in the road; BB Sunshine herself was shoved by police right before my arrest. The Northampton and Easthampton police then prepared for mass arrests, with about fourteen officers (one of them a state officer), five cars, and multiple vans. A detective in plainclothes was also on the scene photographing everyone. [Yet a police sergeant interviewed by the Gazette called the fact that we snapped pictures of the arresting officers and asked for badge numbers, as was our right, "hostile" and "anti-police".]

"Because I took part in this demonstration and exercised my supposed first amendment rights, I am currently facing charges of disorderly conduct and assault and battery on a police officer (a charge commonly brought against arrested protesters as a scare tactic), despite the fact that I was the one who was assaulted by the police unprovoked. I am being represented in court by Luke Ryan and have decided to plead not guilty to the charges. Any fund raising efforts and donations for legal expenses would be greatly appreciated and can be communicated to me through my email, My motion to dismiss hearing is Friday, June 12th at 8:45 AM in the Northampton District Court, in courtroom #1, please come and show your support."

Here's some media on the protest and the arrests, including some Advocate coverage.

2)Tomorrow, June 5th, at 8:30 AM, Alfonso Southerland, victim of alleged police brutality, will have a hearing in absentia on shoplifting charges while still in a coma. Come support his family and see if there will be any progress made on what happened to Southerland, not just what happened to Urban Outfitter's merchandise for the few minutes Southerland had it in his possession.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

the Northampton blogosphere gets some well deserved praise (if I do say so myself)

Paolo Mastrangelo, a great blogger and journalist who splits his time between NYC and Northampton, made some commentary about David Simon, former journalist and creator of "The Wire" and "Generation Kill", in his latest blog post. Apparently, Simon--usually one of my heroes for his ability to make the most of television as an art form, creating amazing, truthful depictions of the war on drugs, urban life, Marine culture and the war in Iraq--asked a senate committee to legalize monopolistic collusion by newspapers, claiming in this hearing on the future of journalism that bloggers cannot be classed in the same league as print journalists since they're not down in the trenches like old school reporters are: "...bloggers don't go to city council meetings, or know what the hell is going on if they do — a clich├ęd, out of touch refrain common among newspapermen who can't be bothered to do any reporting on the assertion."

Mastangelo finds this statement odd, because as one Gawker writer claims "as a newspaper reporter who spent a few years covering a town much like Baltimore — Oakland, California — [he] often found that bloggers were the only other writers in the room at certain city council committee meetings and at certain community events. They tended to be the sort of persistently-involved residents newspapermen often refer to as "gadflies" — deeply, obsessively concerned about issues large and infinitesimal in the communities where they lived."

Especially in *this* community:

"Citizens, gadflys, bloggers, concerned residents, whatever you want to call them. They don't cover the local news. At least not like a local newspaper does. And thank you for that. Thanks Mary Serreze, Mike Kirby, VFR Joel Saxe (Bread & Roses Radio), Daryl Lafluer,Kelsey Flynn,Greg Saulmon,Tommy Devine,Pinac, the crew from the early days of Mass Live, and the rest of you. Really, thanks. Talk about adding value to your community.

"Could you imagine if the Daily Hampshire Gazette was the only news source for Northampton? Only recently it was. "Local luminary has cancer." "Hey, look, a truck fell into the pond!" "Another year, another parade..." etc...

"I don't remember too much from my young teen years, but I do remember sitting at the kitchen table most days after middle school aghast at reading the Gazette, and saying to my mom, "this paper is so bad. who is this "news" for? Who is signing off on this shit?!" True story, she'll tell you.

"I'm very appreciative that it is no longer the only source of "news and info" because those days sucked."

It's a rush for our organization's little blog to be included in such august company, and it's vindicating to finally rewarded for all the city council meetings our organization's members have sat through. And it's true, I see the folks mentioned above at so many important city events, often while local traditional news outlets make only a brief appearance only to dash off somewhere they think is more important. And unlike traditional news staff, most of us bloggers are unpaid volunteers. So it's nice to be recognized.

Read all of Mastrangelo's article here, the Gawker piece here, more on the testimonies at the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet's hearing on the “Future of Journalism” with testimony from Ariana Huffington, Marissa Mayer, the Dallas Morning News' James Moroney, and more from David Simon at techcrush, and David Carr backing up David Simon's views in the NY Times here.

msnbc story on BID

Of course, despite our sending them a press release numerous times, and inviting them to a rally, they didn't include PINAC in the story. Guess it went against the narrow way that they decided to frame the issue: "property owner vs. property owner." It's a shame, b/c they didn't include the possibility of civil and human rights violations that also went along with the BID, as well as the BID steering committee's history of advocating for the panhandling ordinance.

They also show their ignorance about Northampton by calling us a "Berkshires" town, and probably didn't realize how truly they spoke when they said we existed under "Smith College's watchful eye."

But Alan Sheinman and Eric Suher made a good showing in the story, and it did draw attention to the huge number of property owners that opted out, as well as Suher, Sheinman and Pasuit's lawsuit.