The author of this piece wishes to remain anonymous.
On November 19th, 17-year-old Chuy Huerta died while in police custody under circumstances unbelievable and unacceptable. After his family called the police concerned for his safety, he ended up shot in the front of his head while his hands were handcuffed behind his back. The Durham Police Department used the press to ask for understanding and forgiveness while they extended none to this child or to his family that night or after. Hundreds of people in Durham took to the streets not once but three times to support the Huerta family and to protest against the Durham Police Department; some demonstrators opposed not just its conduct, but its very existence.
Some, who feel safe in their status and homes, marveled from behind their computer screens that anyone would challenge this militarized force that harasses and polices some neighborhoods and individuals, but not others. When the police released tear gas on a march and vigil, these political voyeurs insisted there must be a less disruptive way for a family and community to mourn and protest and that the family’s grief was being exploited by outside agitators. Several organizations, employing the language of nonviolence, reconciliation and peace, sponsored a vigil at the family’s church as a safe space for people deterred by chanting and tear gas. Like the press, they now want to ignore the moment when Evelin Huerta and supporters walked out of the service because the chief of police violated the sanctity of the family’s grief by joining in lighting candles in memoriam. Having given the orders that interrupted their candlelight prayer vigil at the police station a month earlier, he did not even have the common decency to stay home and allow the family to pray in peace – this time in their own church, but rather claimed it as another public relations opportunity for himself. Who in this case is exploiting and not listening to the Huerta family? Who in their right mind thought a space that included the head of the Durham Police Department was a safe space for people mourning Chuy Huerta? And how can those who insist that the DPD must be included in a community’s grief, a grief caused by the DPD’s actions, proclaim that anyone else is an outside agitator? (more…)