Monday, March 25, 2013

We Stand in Solidarity

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.

7 comments:

Momma said...

Ginger, I've forwarded this to my husband. He's an avid reader of Daily Kos and comments frequently. I don't know if it will help to get the word out, but it's worth a try.

Amy Dietrich Hernandez said...

Thank you. This is how I've been feeling. Why do we have to tell the world that this man was human? Are we really that ignorant as a society? It's just sick.

Unknown said...

This is the saddest story yet. I am so scared something like this could happen to our 25 year old son. We have been educating & advocating everyday of his life, but our work will never be done due to the ignorant people in this world...

Mardra said...

I am changed from this whole event. We all have to fight from our own corners. Thank you for swinging from yours.

Terri said...

Thank you so much! Ethan is my nephew and on behalf of our family, thank you on so many levels. Mostly, thank you for caring!!
Terri

Ginger Stickney said...

Please know Terri that my heart goes out to your family. Ethan was a beautiful person and it breaks my heart that this has happened. I hope we can fight for justice. It's the last the community can do.

michelle Halbert said...

It's a good thing I don't live where you do, I have a 4 yr old downs nephew that from day 1 I have been telling he is perfect.and if the cops don't agree they can take it up with my lawyer.This is 1 Auntie that that takes no flak from no one when he is concerned