By ERWIN FREED and ROZWELL SIMMONS
On Aug. 9, anti-racist activists organized a demonstration against the prior day’s police violence in downtown Stamford. The mobilization is one of a series of marches and rallies calling for justice for Steven Barrier, who died while in police custody in October 2019. The current protests have included a week-and-a-half-long protest encampment in Latham Park.
The entire time that protesters maintained the Latham Park Abolition Camp, city police and the mayor threatened them with arrests and violence. While there are no hours listed for the park on the Parks and Recreation website, officers accused activists of remaining in the park past its closure at 10 p.m. People familiar with Stamford’s geography will understand the absurdity of this decision, considering that Latham Park is a completely open space in the middle of Stamford’s busy Bedford Street—home to much of the city’s nightlife. The city even held previously planned events during the encampment, including an outdoor concert with local band Me and D, who offered solidarity with the protesters from the stage.
On July 15, officers handed a cease and desist letter of sorts to the camp’s organizers. The letter was a strange artifact, written on Stamford PD letterhead with the names of Mayor Martin and Police Commissioner typed on the top, although it was completely unsigned. The document, which is undated, reads in full: “My name is Captain Bretthauer of the Stamford Police Department. You are in violation of City Regulations. We are ordering you to pack up your tents and to leave the park with your tents and belongings.”
There was no specific list of the violated regulations nor an indication of whom the indicated “we” referred. Stranger still, Captain Bretthauer appears to be responsible for Stamford’s District 4, which does not include Latham Park.
Saturday’s demonstration attacked
On Aug. 8, the Stamford PD carried out a series of violent acts as a march calling for justice for Steven Barrier and to defund the police crossed Broad Street by the University of Connecticut campus.
The incident was incited by police officers who had detained a demonstrator as they walked towards the rest of the protest. This occurred as the demonstration was winding down and participants were walking back to the starting point of the march. The action had lasted over two hours and had been completely peaceful.
From there, police are seen on video punching, throwing, kicking, and pushing protesters, who are voicing their apprehension at the unprovoked attacks. Police claim that nine activists were detained. Charges include inciting a riot and breach of peace, both of which describe the actions of the police and not the protesters. All of the activists were released after bail was posted through a combination of donations from individuals and the CT Bail Fund.
Won’t be scared
Undeterred by the SPD’s attempt to smash the movement for justice for Steven Barrier, local activists mobilized again on Aug. 9, demanding an end to police harassment and brutality in the city. Speakers kept the focus on Steven’s case, connecting the attack on the demonstration the day before with the violent negligence that ended his life so prematurely.
Organized on an emergency basis by Justice For Steven Barrier and Justice For Brunch, the action saw the mobilization of over 40 protesters from around Fairfield County, including Greenwich, Darien, and Bridgeport.
The way forward for this movement is clear. The best way to stop police repression is by drawing in the largest participation possible of community members, social justice groups, organized labor, and the interfaith and immigrant organizations in Stamford.