A Knee is Not Enough protesters lodge complaints against officers

  • About 200 people march down Main Street in Easthampton toward the police station during a rally organized by the group 01027: A Knee Is Not Enough on Saturday, Aug. 1. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/6/2020 6:36:52 PM

EASTHAMPTON — More than 15 complaints have been filed against two city police officers for allegedly failing to intervene to stop lewd and offensive conduct against protesters at a rally last Saturday.

The alleged incidents occurred at the protest organized by the community group 01027: A Knee Is Not Enough, which drew hundreds of people.

As the protest made its way past the Pascommuck Club, the complaint provided to the Gazette, which served as the model for the complaints filed, alleges that a group of about 10 men who were sitting on the porch of the club began “shouting obscenities, and making lewd and vulgar sexual gestures of a violent nature towards the marchers.”

A Jeep was also parked on the front lawn of the club, which had a Punisher skull on it with a thin blue line, which the complaint says “is widely accepted as being a symbol that promotes police violence.”

The complaint goes on to say that two off-duty police officers and a retired police officer were present on the porch, and that they made no attempt to de-escalate the behavior of the group.

“While these actions were despicable and a violation of the Code Of Ethics the Easthampton police purport to uphold, these actions also speak to the larger systemic racism and sexism within city government that we are trying to combat,” reads part of a statement released by A Knee Is Not Enough about the incident.

The Code of Ethics reads in part that officers will keep their private lives “unsullied” and that they be “constantly mindful of the welfare of others.”

The statement goes on to say that Police Chief Robert Alberti indicated to the group in a Monday meeting that if police officers were present during the incident, he would take actions similar to previous responses to violations of the code of ethics. According to the statement, Alberti said that he had “verbally reprimanded, written up, suspended, and moved to terminate” officers for violations of the code and other complaints in the past.

“It is our hope that the Chief, after receiving complaints about this incident from numerous rally attendees, volunteers, and AKINE members, will be true to his word and follow policy regarding justifiable complaints from his community,” the activist group’s statement reads.

Alberti declined to comment on the complaints. Mayor Nicole LaChapelle also declined to comment on the complaints, but she did say there are procedures in the mayor’s office and at the police department to deal with them.

Jason Montgomery, a member of A Knee Is Not Enough, said all of the complaints filed were by people who witnessed the alleged incident, and that the complaint provided to the Gazette was modified by some of the respondents to reflect their own experiences.

Montgomery said he heard a lot of obscenities directed at the crowd, but didn’t see who uttered them. He said he also saw the person who owns the Jeep with the modified Punisher skull standing next to it, and that the person wasn’t a police officer.

Montgomery said he heard from business owners that the Jeep was parked to be visible to protesters, and he said that the Punisher logo with a thin blue line superimposed over it is known as a condonement of police brutality.

“I think it is inappropriate for officers to be associated with that,” Montgomery said.

The Punisher is a violent, fictional vigilante, who often kills the criminals he fights, while the thin blue line symbol denotes support for police.

Sometime after the protest, graffiti appeared outside of the Pascommuck Club stating that 40% of police officers abuse their spouses and children.

Montgomery said that the graffiti wasn’t the work of A Knee Is Not Enough, and that group members had been informed by business owners on Union Street that it had appeared sometime in the early morning hours of Sunday.

“It did not happen during the protest,” Montgomery said. “We don’t condone graffiti.”

A Knee Is Not Enough is demanding that the city adopt a series of reforms around policing, including removing the city’s school resource officer and reducing the police budget, and the protest highlighted the group’s demands.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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