Eric Suher: “I Bleed Blue”

Property mogul Eric Suher sends a letter to Police Chief Jody Kasper

By The Shoestring

On June 6th, the Shoestring submitted a public records request to the City of Northampton regarding emails between the Mayor’s Office, Northampton Police Department and Massachusetts State Police sent between the dates of June 1st and June 6th, the week of the Northampton protests for Black lives. On June 25th, we received 125 pages of email records, which, among other correspondence, included a piece of police fan mail from local real estate mogul and business owner Eric Suher.

Eric Suher is the owner of the Iron Horse Entertainment Group, which includes Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall, the Green Room, the Basement, Pearl Street Nightclub and the Calvin Theater as well as Holyoke’s Mountain Park venue, the Holyoke Country Club, and a series of other businesses (including a funeral home and a silk-screen printing factory) as well as residential buildings across the Pioneer Valley. His venues in particular have seen multiple public controversies over the years, but most recently he has come under fire for mistreatment of employees and poor labor practices, as first reported by New England Public Radio in June 2019 and later picked up by the Daily Hampshire Gazette, MassLive and the Valley Advocate. As of October 2019, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has been in contact with eight workers who have filed official complaints against Suher and requested an official investigation into his business practices.

Despite the fact that many of Suher’s properties have remained empty for years, contributing to Northampton’s hollowed-out downtown, he made sure to let the Northampton Police Department know of his concerns for artificial damage by protestors in the wake of national rallying for change. While citizens have spent the last month rallying City Council members to defund the police, Suher is a perfect example of how business owners hold cops on a pedestal for the exact reason we ask for them to be abolished: protecting capital.

Eric Suher is notoriously private and rarely interviewed these days, so we thought we would let the public hear him speak in his own words. The Shoestring editorial team has chosen to share his letter to Chief Jody Kasper in full, now a matter of public record. Please note that we have not edited any part of this email and are providing the exact text we were provided.

From: Eric Suher

To: Jody Kasper

Subject: Protests/Damage concerns

Date: Wednesday, June 3, 2020 8:09:40 PM

Hello Chief,

I know this is an extremely difficult time for you and your department, and I want you to know how much I appreciate the work done by the NPD on a daily basis to keep our city safe. I bleed blue when I see how much disrespect is shown to law enforcement, especially when horrible situations occur like that which killed George Lloyd in Minneapolis.

Thankfully, the protest in Northamtpon on Tuesday caused minimal damage to city and private property, and no one was hurt. Considering what has happened in other cities throughout the country, we were fortunate.

I was surprised that during the protest there were no officers on the outside of the police station, nor anywhere along the Center Street corridor, until approximately 45 minutes after the protest began. It was only after a number of protestors had scaled the lower roof, sprayed graffiti on the building, damaged several police vehicles and disgraced and removed the American flag from the station flagpole, did we finally see just a small number of officers come out of the station and stand in the rear of the parking lot. I would think you made the decision to keep the officers inside, hoping this would allow for a more “peaceful” protest?…My concern and question is was our city adequately prepared if the protest had turned more violent, where city and private property could have suffered substantial damage and people might have been injured?

I’m not one to question authority, and I appreciate you are well schooled in your law enforcement leadership role. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t question how the NPD would have handled things if the unruly mob started to further damage both city and private property? Witnessing the protestors scale the roof and damage our new police station was extremely difficult for me to watch. I’m sure you made a calculated decision not to have officers outside, and maybe that is why there was minimal damage. However, would the NPD have been able to adequately protect the city and its residents from large scale property damage if things went in the other direction?

As you are aware, there is a large protest being planned for this Saturday in Northampton. I would hope that this protest is as “peaceful” as Tuesday’s. However, will we be prepared if not? With the advance knowledge that possibly thousands of protestors will be coming to our city, including many from outside our region and state, I trust the department is requesting the fill presence of our State Police, as well as any other outside law enforcement groups that are well versed in these difficult situations.

I would like to believe it was your good judgment that allowed for things to not get further out of control on Tuesday. I would now hope that your judgment tells you we need adequate help in the event things turn more unruly.

My thoughts and support are with you and your officers as you deal with all of this, and please don’t hesitate to call on me if there is anything I can do to help.

Sincerely,

Eric

Here is Chief Kasper’s response:

From: Chief Jody Kasper
Re: Protests/Damage concerns
Wednesday, June 3, 2020 8:38:49 PM

Good Evening Eric,

Thanks for reaching out with your support for the officers at NPD, I completely understand your concerns around a perceived lack of police presence downtown on Monday. Due to the nature of the protest, we elected to keep our uniformed personnel less visible. There were multiple officers tucked away in the downtown area ready to respond. You intentionally could not see them. Best practices in handling these types of events indicate that an increased police presence can escalate a tense situation, We had many officers ready, and thankfully, did not need them to become involved in the event. We do think that this plan contributed to what was a manageable outcome. And yes, we agreed that a nominal amount of property damage to our building was worth our restraint, because we knew that having officers go up onto the roof or wade into the crowd to make arrests would escalate the situation and could result in injuries to civilians and police. It was very difficult for us to watch the damage, as we have an incredible amount of pride in our building and our work. As for Saturday, rest assured we will have ample personnel on to cover the protest. We have units designated to downtown, and separate units assigned to the protest at the building. We will be prepared to rapidly respond to any events downtown. I believe that you were also on the email I wrote this morning, notifying a few folks that this week we also have a two-officer car specially designated to downtown from 3 pm-3 am.

If you’d like to talk about this further, feel free to give me a call. I’ll be in my office tomorrow. Have a good evening.


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