Fear is a stone throw away from political repression, literally.
Update: The closed session meeting was finally cancelled on the day of the vote, but the City Council chambers were filled with police officers in uniform, in order to intimidate public speakers. Two dozen citizens still spoke out against the tank. Only one San Leandro citizen without business ties to the police department spoke in favor of it.
Mayor Pauline Cutter has called for a special closed session meeting of the San Leandro City Council tonight, to take place before the Council votes to acquire a BearCat (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck) for the Police Department. The Council will secretly consult with SLPD Lieutenant Michael Sobek on a “threat to public services and facilities.” When a neighbor inquired as to the nature of this threat, citing concerns for the children and students that will be participating in tonight’s rally, Cutter responded:
M., the agenda was revised because I decided not to have the pictures taken Monday night since there was going to be so much happening.
I believe there will be a lot of folks at the rally, I know it’s been posted all over the Internet and I just wanted to provide the new members some education on what their choices are if they feel threatened or unsafe during the meeting.
I will try my best to make sure everyone gets heard and everyone feels safe. I’m not expecting anything to happen but just want to give a little support to the new members and let them know that we have options if the meeting gets disrupted. I can honestly say I know of no plans for the police trying to interfere with the rally if fact I would imagine they of all people there would like everyone to have a peaceful rally.
There have been numerous rallies before City Council meetings, on contentious issues ranging from the flying of the Chinese flag over City Hall to the use of classroom funds to pay for police officers to spy on students. A rally against police militarization before a Council meeting a mere three weeks ago garnered broad media attention and resulted in no greater disruption than spontaneous applause at points made by public speakers.
The fact that the City Council will be meeting secretly with the Police is particularly worrisome, as it suggests that the “options” Mayor Cutter wants her colleagues to consider solely involve police repression. The Council, after all, will not be meeting with the City Attorney to understand what constitutes constitutionally protected speech at public meetings nor will it meet with facilities personnel to understand the security features present at the City Hall chambers. Council meetings on contentious issues are usually heavily attended by police officers both in and out of uniform.
Even more worrisome is the fear of the citizenry that Mayor Pauline Cutter has voiced through this action and which her colleagues have yet to repudiate (they are invited to do so in the comments section). A Mayor and a Council who fear their own citizens will surely arm the Police with repressive weapons to be used against them and will authorize the use of such weapons at the slightest hint of social unrest. In this context, neither the purchase of the BearCat nor the policy which authorizes its use in every conceivable situation, including peaceful protests, is casual. But it’s exactly such attitudes that must embolden citizens to stand up for their human rights and civil liberties and demand an end to police militarization and government repression.