See Something, Say Something #16

The Cops, the Klan, Herrell’s, opioids and healthcare.


Herrell’s Honors RBG 

Last week MassLive reported on new ice cream flavors at Herrell’s, an ice cream shop in Northampton, to honor the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Among the three honorary ice cream flavors are: “Ginsburg Snap”, sweet cream and ginger snaps; “Legendary RBG”, ginger ice cream with raspberry swirl and babka; and “Women’s Empowermint”, malted peppermint. 

Asked on Facebook if profits from the sale of these ice creams would go to relevant charities “or are we just using RBG’s legacy for profit?”, owner Judy Herrell noted that the shop already donates to childrens’ educational and medical charities, without elaborating on how these charities are relevant to the late justice’s legacy. 

However, despite Herrell‘s enthusiasm for “empowermint”, she spoke on a panel alongside supposed “small business advocates” backed by the wealthy reactionary Koch brothers in 2018, which advocated for a suppressed minimum wage for teenagers, reducing sick time pay, and shirking employee health care responisibilies. As The Shoestring reported at the time, she couched her enthusiasm for cutting employee sick time by noting that some of her employees called in sick during the solar eclipse in summer 2017. —Will Meyer

The Klan is bad but the police are good

Gazette reporter Dusty Christensen wrote a moving piece about the Greensboro, NC, City Council finally apologizing for a white supremacist massacure that left Northampton activist Marty Nathan’s first husband shot dead in 1979. The piece deeply implies that Ku Klux Klan members murdering a member of the Communist Party with near impunity is, in fact, morally wrong and outside of the bounds of acceptable behavior. 

The next day, Christensen published what can only be described as a reworded police press release, titled “Holyoke police seek suspect in watch theft.” The article shows a grainy CCTV-surveillance photo of a young brown-skinned man with a facemask in the jewelry store where the watch was taken and instructs readers to call police detectives with tips. As I have written about in two recent See Something, Say Something columns, this kind of writing is best described as “copaganda,” and characterizes the status quo of Gazette police reporting. 

Earlier in the same week, Christensen published more copaganda, but this time amplifying the sheer pettiness of the Easthampton Police Department. In the article “Easthampton police nab two for pro-police sign thefts”, Christensen explains how the Northampton and Easthampton police worked together to arrest two teenagers for stealing yard signs that say “We support our law enforcement officers.” Four officers quickly responded to a call at 2:30 in the morning about “the crime.” 

The piece did include reference to a Facebook comment by AKINE member Jason Montgomery who suggested that the police didn’t respond with the same urgency to the theft of Black Lives Matter signs. The same comment section — of the EPD’s post about sign theft — are filled with people wanting to know the names and faces of sign theft suspects. They are, presumably, looking for payback. 

While the article does attempt to provide some both-sides-ism for context on the police sign theft, the article goes to a greater length to legitimize the police narrative — that the law mandates cops to arrest teenagers in the middle of the night for taking an ugly sign lionizing the police. Of course, this isn’t about the law (if it was, there would be arrests for the thefts of Black Lives Matter signs), it is about the fragile egos of the cops and their supporters. 

Reading Christensen’s articles in the Gazette last week, readers might get the impression that impunity for the KKK murder of a left wing activist is bad, but police impunity to arrest and intimidate their political opponents for sign theft is a complicated political issue with two sides of the story—and that they should call the police with tips. —WM

Law enforcement has failed Franklin County on opioids; they’re getting $1 million from the feds 

On October 13th, MassLive announced that a “task force” was receiving a million dollars to “target opioid overdoses” — whatever that means. The (admirable) intent is to help people who have overdosed by tracking them through their recovery, and providing them with various kinds of support. The grant will, partially, fund “‘warm handoffs’ to ensure opioid overdose survivors and witnesses navigate care across systems”. Some may read the need to indicate “warm handoff” as an indictment of our current dysfunctional health care infrastructure that has systematically failed people who use drugs, implicitly condemning the cold bureaucratic management of our current system, but the subtle self-awareness ends there. What the article fails to mention is the utter failure of the grant recipients — namely the sheriff’s department and the district attorney — to prevent overdoses by arresting drug users and dealers and “treating” them in jail. 

As I noted at length in a 4,000 word longform See Something, Say Something last year, since the District Attorney’s office received grant money to form a militarized SWAT team to arrest drug dealers in 2014, opioid overdoses continually increased. The doctor best known for “treatment” locally said that opioid addiction was best treated in Sheriff Donelan’s jail because civilian treatment facilities were too expensive for people without the financial means to afford them. Additionally, the DA’s office had a “non punitive” diversion program that the majority of people who enrolled flunked out of. 

This regurgitating of a press release fails to understand how the institutions receiving this grant money previously failed the people it is ostensibly supposed to help. We learn in the article that opioid overdoses have only increased since the onset of the pandemic. —WM

Honoring the CEO 
Although it’s old news at this point, on August 21st MassLive wrote a puff piece honoring Holyoke Medical Center President Spiros Hatiras. He had won an award from the Studer Group, which identifies itself as “a global advisory firm that partners with healthcare organizations to develop the strategies and solutions they need to own their future,” for being a “Healthcare Hero.” Haitras heroism stemmed from responding to a request from Governor Baker to house 40 residents of Soldiers’ Home, the site of one of the country’s deadliest COVID outbreaks. Curiously, the day before the article was published, nurses rallied outside the hospital to protest the closure of its birthing center to cut costs, and MassLive didn’t mention it. —WM


Will Meyer is a co-editor of The Shoestring.

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