The other day H was riding his bike home from class. He ran a stop sign and was stopped by a cop. The first thing the cop said to him was "Are you blind?" in a sarcastic manner. The very.first.thing. A couple of attitudes are revealed in this encounter. The first is the casual way disabilities are thrown about in our language. The assumption of something being "wrong" and thus fair game for use in sarcasm, jokes, etc. The second is the baiting. Why couldn't the cop just be polite? Respectful? Instead, he choose to use a tone and language that would make one angry, defensive, afraid. H's encounters with the police are too often filled with this kind of tension. It's almost as if the police want an excuse to throw my husband down and cuff him. Any excuse to violently respond to a situation that is better handled with less violence.
I can easily imagine what Ethan Saylor felt when confronted by three men in uniform as he sat alone in that empty theater. I suspect he felt intimated, confused, and likely scared. He was in a somewhat dark place filled with people, a lot of them from the sounds of it (19 witnesses) who did not understand what was going on with him. A lot of people react aggressively when they are faced with that kind of intimidation. I might act aggressively if I found myself in such a situation.
And what was going on in the minds of the security guards aka deputies? I can't imagine they were scared. It was one man who was sitting refusing to leave. Perhaps swearing from the sounds of it. He was clearly disabled. Maybe it was a slow day and they were bored. After all, three of them of showed up for what could have easily been a one job. What was going in the mind of the employee? Were they really scared they'd lose their job? Or were the annoyed that they had someone who wouldn't leave.
The only answer I can think of is that they didn't see Ethan as worth the trouble. Perhaps they didn't really see him as human but rather as a disability that made them uncomfortable. I don't know. But I have no proof of those things.
What I do know is that THREE off duty deputies working as security guards wrestled Ethan to the ground and cuffed him with THREE sets of handcuffs because he was "acting defiant". They left him on his stomach in a compromised breathing position and only rolled him over when "people" around realized he was in distress. No word on who those people were. And the press release says that what killed Ethan was Down syndrome. Yup, you read that right. Not an excessive use of force. Down syndrome. And ironically they may be right. Because it seems that what killed Ethan was ignorance about Down syndrome. And that's being kind. I just might go so far as to say that it was prejudice. An inability to see Ethan's humanity. Even more puzzling is that Ethan's death has been ruled a homicide but the deputies are not being persecuted. Huh? So I guess Down syndrome caused the homicide? Hmmm. The release goes onto say the deputies acted in accordance with their training. What a sad, sad thing.
Personally, I'm pretty outraged. I am outraged that I can't seem to get the media interested in this case. I am outraged that so few people outside of the Down syndrome (and sometimes with in) don't get it. I think we need to make a clear statement that our children are worthy of outrage. Ethan Saylor lost his life over a $12 movie ticket. What does this say about our values?
Today I have emailed several news organizations including Democracy Now! and Daily Kos as well as my local papers. I have also contacted various advocacy groups and am working on writing something up for a Socialist news site. I am brainstorming ideas for an Internet vigil or some kind of campaign so that we can remember Ethan Saylor. Please take some times to go over to Down Syndrome Uprising and check out their action plan! Take the time to sign a few petitions to ensure that justice is served. Thank you.