Posts tagged Kalamazoo

Rapists in uniform

Trigger warning. The following videos of two local news stories may be triggering for experiences of sexual assault.

(Via J.H. Huebert @ Blog 2008-02-03 and Balloon Juice 2008-02-03.)

Hope Steffey, 47, of Salem, Ohio, is suing for compensation from a gang of men and women who raped her.

In October 2006, in Salem, Ohio, Steffey, 47, was assaulted by one of her cousins in a domestic dispute and knocked unconscious. The family called 911 for help; a sheriff’s deputy named Officer Richard T. Gurlea came out to the house to do some serving and protecting. He asked Hope Steffey for ID, and she mistakenly gave him the wrong driver’s license — one of her late sister’s old licenses, which she kept in her wallet as a memento after her sister died. The cop noticed that it was the wrong license, and, after he got the right one, he refused to give Steffey back her sister’s old license. When she became distraught and pleaded with him to give back the license, Officer Richard T. Gurlea, sanctimoniously instructed her to calm down, ran a criminal check on her real license (which came back completely clean), demanded to search her car, still refused to give her back her keepsake, and finally, public servant that he is, snapped back Shut up about your dead sister. Now treating Steffey, the victim of a violent crime who had called for his help and protection, as if she were herself a criminal, he escalated the confrontation, and, when Hope Steffey dared to point at the pocket where he was holding her keepsake and to shout at him about how important it was to her, Officer Richard T. Gurlea courageously defended himself by grabbing the assault victim he had been dispatched to help, slamming her face-down on the hood of his car, and shouting are you going to stop? Then he threw her down, pinned her to the ground, and handcuffed her. Then he arrested her for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and took her to the Stark County jail. This is what happened after she was locked up in the jail:

While they were booking her, one of the guards asked her Have you thought about harming yourself? The purpose of this question is in order to give the jailers an opportunity to label you as crazy for legal purposes, which, in their minds, is reason enough to inflict on you absolutely any kind of cruelty, violence, or invasion of your privacy, and then, to crown all, to turn around and call your torture and humiliation a precaution taken For Your Own Safety. Bewildered and brutalized, Hope Steffey asked for clarification: Now or ever? In this case, apparently the jailers figured that that was close enough for government work, so what they did was get a gang of male and female guards to surround Hope Steffey and drag her to a cell, then have least two male officers pin her down and hold her arms (she was still handcuffed throughout the ordeal) while female officers stripped her naked and searched her over her screams of protest. After this sadistic sexual assault, they left her locked in her cell, totally naked, without even a blanket to cover herself. She eventually wrapped herself in toilet paper from her cell’s commode, in a desperate effort to keep herself warm and regain a little bit of privacy.

Hope Steffey has filed suit in federal court against the Gurlea, sheriff Tim Swanson, and fifteen unnamed jail guards. Here’s how the sheriff’s office has responded:

In a written response to the lawsuit, Swanson and his deputies deny wrongdoing and maintain the arresting deputy, Richard T. Gurlea Jr., and others at the jail are allowed to use reasonable force to make an arrest and protect prisoners in their custody.

The department does not deny that Steffey was stripped of her clothes and left naked in a cell for six hours.

The defense has asked a judge to dismiss the claims.

— Canton Repository (2008-02-02): Sheriff responds to strip-search video

Tim Swanson’s idea of reasonable force and protecting prisoners may be different from yours. If so, you can share your thoughts with him at his office phone number, (330) 430-3800.

There’s a lot more that I might say about this, if I were able to keep on typing. But honestly I can’t. I first learned about this case yesterday, but to write this post I watched the videos over again and I now am shaking so badly with anger and despair that I just can’t keep banging on with the usual stuff. If you want analysis, it’d be about what I said in Rapists on patrol, Law and Orders #6: Pigs at the trough, and Corrections officers; if you imagine this is Yet Another Isolated Incident, then compare it with the more or less identical treatment of Beryl Wilson, Michael Moran, and Ricardo Montalvo by the Kalamazoo City Police, or, Christ, just google around for a few minutes until you’re satisfied. But I’m not about to dignify the fucking pigs in Stark County, or their hordes of freelance sado-fascist police enablers — fouling any Internet or media outlet they can find with putrefying excuses like She gave him a fake ID! She went psycho! They did what they had to to carry out their policies! She’s just poisoning the well so she can shake them down in court! etc. — by pretending as if there were any need, or any room, for debating this. It’s obvious, and it’s caught on tape, and there is no possible excuse. Those who are willing to stand up, in the name of Law and Order and Official Procedures, for officially-sanctioned gang rape, have already done much more to reveal the absolute depravity of their position than anything I could ever say.

Further reading:

Update 2008-02-06: I made some minor revisions to one sentence for grammar and clarity.

Kalamazoo Police Department Faces Continuing Scandals from Racist Brutality

Unfortunately, Kalamazoo Gazette reports have found continuing problems with abuse of minorities amongst the city’s police. Not too surprising, since the Police-Community Relations Board has two thirds of its seats occupied by police representatives and in the past officers accused of excessive force have sat on the review board. Gee, no wonder that every excessive force complaint filed with the board has been dismissed.

Kalamazoo City Council Pays Reparations to Victims of Racist Police Brutality

In welcome news, the Kalamazoo City Council has agreed to pay compensation to Beryl Wilson, Michael Moran, and Ricardo Montalvo—to the tune of $31,500—for stripping them of their clothing and jailing them naked. Beryl Wilson, who was awarded the highest of the three settlements, was left naked in a freezing-cold cell for 8 hours. Five other complainants are choosing to continue their lawsuits against the city.

We Need Campus Activism

I wote this LTE, the first I had ever written, to the Kalamazoo College campus newspaper, The Index, at the end of Winter quarter 2000. It responded to a ludicrous letter by Ryan Biziorek, who (applauding our camups’s most notorious anti-activist) declared that we should chill out on the campus activism because, apparently, it gets in the way of the rich white boys having a good time by forcing them to be aware. It especially took aim at feminist activism, since Womyn’s Equity Coalition and Women’s Resource Center were the only student groups that took major action over events on campus at the time. This was during a quarter in which men had harassed and physically assaulted women at a women’s self-defense workshop, and disrupted and destroyed several feminist projects and presentations on violence against women. The previous quarter, Neenef Odah murdered his former girlfriend, Maggie Wardle. Women were dying on our campus and yet the boys thought activists were going too far. I felt the need to say something, and say it very loudly and publicly, against the anti-activist tide.

Dear Index staff and members of the Kalamazoo College community,

Looking back at a quarter filled with turmoil over activism, and ahead to one in which we will only be bombarded with more speeches, marches, and awareness weeks, we as a campus community are at the perfect time to consider where we are and where we are going. And considering it myself, I, like Ryan Biziorek, would like to call for a round of applause — not just for Frank Church, but also for Stephen Beights, for all those who attended the pornography LAC, for those who tore down the tee shirts on the Quad, and for Ryan himself. Indeed, these fine citizens of the campus community (or, in the elder Beights’s case, citizens by proxy) deserve more than just applause. Their shining example demands a standing ovation, a public celebration, for all the people responsible for one of the most crude, offensive, ill-conceived series of statements and acts that I have ever had the displeasure to witness.

Better than anyone else who has written on the topic, Ryan Biziorek proves, to anyone who cares to read his odious words, the absurd and repugnant conclusions of the laid-back liberalism that pervades our campus culture. In his response to the conflict of last quarter, Biziorek has deployed a truly impressive combination of complete ignorance, total apathy, and an ability to find the perfect, carelessly appalling phrase in which to frame his complacent attitudes towards gender violence. He has provided the perfect expression of every reason why we, as participants in campus culture, need to get pissed off, need to get involved, and above all need to reject the facile assumption that we live in a blessed age that no longer needs activism.

Writing on the LAC lecture during Eighth Week by Alicia Turner, Biziorek was appalled to find that Ms. Turner was so rude as to IGNORE people who were asking questions about the flip side of pornography. What Ryan chooses to ignore, however, is that in fact Alicia answered questions about the flip side repeatedly, and only ignored those who continued to badger her with the same questions she had just answered, rudely preventing others from speaking in the discussion. He further ignores the disrespectful, hostile behavior of many of the attendees, who chattered incessantly throughout the presentation and discussion, and at one point broke out in laughter at a slide. Ryan goes on to ignore what Turner explicitly said during the lecture, and tell us that he was amazed to find that the speaker favored laws against this and government regulations against that, which I assume means laws banning pornographic depiction. If Ryan had actually chosen to pay attention to what Ms. Turner said, he would have found that she favored legislation which allowed women to seek civil redress for tangible wrongs — harassment, assault, rape, etc. — committed against them in the production of pornography, and that she opposed criminal legislation which bans obscene sexual depiction. Desperately trying to prove that his incomprehension knows no bounds, Ryan asks, Really, isn’t it [pornography] just another form of art? Pornography, by the definition given by Turner and other feminists (whom Ryan has decided to ignore) is not just another form of art; it is the violent subordination of women captured and disseminated to the public. If there is, as Ryan himself admits, harm to women and men and other types of social violence that evolves from pornography, then what other than the moral laziness of laid-back liberalism could ever enable such atrocious complacency, as trying to ignore the problem and look at the other side of the coin? The other side of rape and murder is not art; it is still rape and murder.

The absurdity reaches its height as Ryan wails of how activists do not appreciate the freedom we have as Americans, how we throw statistics at us and talk about laws regulating this and controlling that, how we are trying to regulate this freedom. Believe it or not, Ryan, there is no legitimate freedom to beat, imprison, rape, or murder women, nor to have these vicious crimes made invisible because people are too busy relaxing to care. Presenting lectures (which cannot be shoved down our throats, since attendance is voluntary), speaking out, and acting up against gender violence, are not taking away any freedom that anyone ever had the right to possess — no matter how much it may remind you of being forced to eat your veggies. It is certainly true that If we dwell on the past and if we dwell on statistics, then they only enrage us. They should enrage us. That, of every seven women you know, at least one has been violently raped, should enrage you. That just in the past two quarters, on our own campus, women have been harassed, assaulted, and, finally, murdered in acts of gender violence, should enrage you. Only the dull apathy of the laid-back liberal could allow someone to still tell us to look upon the good times and remember those because we cannot change any part of the bad times. The more the anti-activists of our community tell us to just Chill Out, Man, the more they reveal the insipid bankruptcy of their politic, and the vicious regime of terror and violence in which they are willing to live, so long as they can appreciate the basic everyday things around us, apparently including the lofty achievements of this, that, porn, and cafeteria food.

And it is just this revelation of apathy, incomprehension, and disrespect for which I applaud all those who have given voice to the growing tide of anti-activism on campus. I spent a great deal of time over the past two quarters fuming that such things could be taken seriously in our community. It is primarily because the events of the past quarter that I have finally moved beyond silent anger and begun actively participating in public statements and campus organizations which stand up and speak out in opposition to gender violence, particularly the Women’s Equity Coalition and Men Against Gender Violence. And, in no small part, I have the tasteless and crude statements of the anti-activists to thank for it. Judging from the responses I have seen, I believe that many others in our community feel the same. So thank you, Frank Church, Ryan Biziorek, and all the rest. Thank you for showing us the moral abyss that we must avoid at all costs. A standing ovation for you all.

Charles W. Johnson, K’02