Chelsea City Council Calls For Police To Rescind BLM Citations
February 17, 2021
By Mike Kruzman / firstname.lastname@example.org
Chelsea City Council is trying to get tickets issued to protestors last summer rescinded and refunded.
In late July, 18 people, many of whom were minors, were issued citations from Chelsea police during a Black Lives Matter gathering. Many were members of the youth-led Anti-Racist Chelsea Youth (ARCY) group. They alleged that Chelsea Police targeted them exclusively, taking surveillance pictures and issuing $180 tickets for impeding traffic.
Mya King is a 16-year-old girl of color who said she was assaulted by a counter-protestor and issued a ticket, while the person who assaulted her was not. At City Council’s online meeting Tuesday, her mother Priya King shared the effect it’s had on her daughter, saying Mya is now "beginning to doubt her voice." She said her daughter feels as though she is being punished for speaking out for a better world.
Ezra Peiter is a 14-year-old member of ARCY who recounted the event, testifying to the assault on King. Peiter said he is embarrassed to tell people he is from Chelsea with all the racism and bigotry he has seen. He spoke to other alleged police abuses that day, including police taking pictures of him and others and posting them online. He added that they were told by police that “if they kept this up, there would be bodies in the streets.” He called for permanent, concrete change.
Several other residents, including many who were issued tickets, spoke during public comment asking City Council to direct the police chief to repeal the tickets. Many spoke to systemic racism they perceive to be in the community and warned that history will remember how City Council acted on this. A popular theme at Tuesday’s meeting called for City Council to make sure Chelsea is on “the right side of history."
City Council was largely in agreement with members of the public who spoke out, but was cautioned by legal counsel about setting a precedent they may not be allowed to set. As it was explained, they could direct the police chief to rescind the tickets, but he wasn’t obligated to follow that order. They were also asked what would happen if the police department decided not to follow the order. Mayor Melissa Johnson said that should they set that precedent, it brought into question the ethics and procedures that would be used on future decisions about citations people are unhappy with.
Despite legal counsel’s cautions, Council Member Tony Iannelli wasn’t satisfied with kicking the decision further down the road. He said that while they would be setting a precedent, it is their duty to carry out the desires of the community that elected them into office.
The motion to direct the chief to rescind tickets was amended to be a recommendation. Knowing it still may not get them to the desired endpoint, it did satisfy the legal counsel's concerns.
Mayor Pro-Tem Cheri Albertson said that if they set a precedent and one day regret it, they will come back and figure it out. She said it may be a “wobbly limb” they are going out on, but they have a responsibility to the “fervent voice” of the community to respect that voice. Albertson said they “have to start someplace to bring about positive change.”
The motion passed unanimously.
Later in the evening, City Council approved a motion to issue a request-for-proposal for firms that could conduct a third-party investigation of the Chelsea Police Department and their practices.