Amy Bookbinder: Takes issue with column by Alan Verson

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Monday, December 04, 2017
Takes issue with column by Alan Verson

In his column “Rationally consider balancing privacy, security,” (Nov. 30), Alan Verson, a white man with a presumably steady income, says he doesn’t feel threatened by possible installation of permanent police surveillance cameras downtown.

Has he heard the voices of those without such privilege and the impact that permanent 24/7 police surveillance downtown would have on them? He describes the months-long open democratic discussion we’ve had as engaging in “hysteria, paranoia, exaggeration, and political correctness.” Really?

He suggests that the well-researched statements by Bill Newman, ACLU attorney, are “naive.” I wonder if Verson finds these words, “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am for myself only, what am I? If not now, when?” (Hillel) “naive” or maybe too “politically correct?”

What about the closing line of the widely viewed video by proponents of the proposed ordinance restricting surveillance cameras in Northampton, which is spoken by a local woman of color: “Yes, to building a society in which all, not just those with privilege, have a right to be safe.” Also “naive” or maybe “hysteria?”

The Pioneer Valley Workers Center in Northampton hosts a ride-share program for immigrants living in fear of being pulled over, detained, and deported, due to increased deportations in our area. Does Verson understand that police surveillance cameras downtown would likely justifiably increase their fear, possibly making them afraid to walk downtown, with police video footage accessible to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the FBI with only Northampton Police Department good intentions in place to try to prevent it? Or that 24/7 surveillance might threaten others, without the privilege he has, to protect them?

Verson wants “balance.” Should the right of those with privilege to feel safe outweigh the right to actual safety of those marginalized in our city?

He calls for being “rational.” Is it not rational to pass this thoroughly deliberated and vetted ordinance that upholds the intent of our sanctuary city, supports our “vibrant sidewalks” policy, and encourages diversity, fairness, inclusion and safety for all, not just some, in Northampton?

Join the conversation at 7 p.m. Thursday at the City Council, before the final vote on the ordinance.

Amy Bookbinder