By Avery Martin
A driver drove through a crowd of protestors in downtown Northampton on June 15. No action has been taken against the driver, according to the District Attorney’s office and the Northampton Police Department.
Video taken of the event by The Shoestring shows a black SUV driving slowly but directly into two protesters, whose arms are raised, and pushing their bodies backwards.
The demonstrators were protesting the FY2022 city budget, which increased police funding and funds the new Department of Community Care at half of the level recommended by the Northampton Police Review Commission.
The Shoestring obtained the NPD’s report of the incident, which appears to be based entirely on the testimony of the driver, and describes seeing cars “jumped on and attacked.” The driver “saw an opening in the crowd and fled,” according to the report. A second incident report similarly mentions spray paint and protesters hitting cars, but includes no reference to a car driving through the crowd and striking protesters.
The lack of repercussions against this driver echoes a national trend of “anti-riot” laws being introduced this year which provide legal immunities for drivers who strike or injure protesters with their cars. Florida and Oklahoma have already passed such bills. The laws were introduced in response to the Black-led uprisings for racial justice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. During the summer of 2020, cars (including police cars) drove into protesters at least 104 times.
In a 2018 memo and her 2011 book, Northampton Chief of Police Jody Kasper expressed significant concerns about terrorist attacks as a justification for increased police presence and tactical gear. The actual threat posed by terrorism is negligible compared with other violence, and increased policing has not been demonstrated to prevent terrorist attacks.
Despite her worries about terrorism, Chief Kasper has not expressed any concern about a car striking civilians in Northampton. When contacted by The Shoestring regarding this event, Kasper declined to comment.
Avery Martin is a researcher and reporter at The Shoestring and a student at Mount Holyoke College.
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