Letters to the Editor
Originally Published September 27, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate
I write to condemn the tacit support of police racism by Arlington officials. Last year, Lt. Pedrini published a series of racist articles in the Massachusetts Police Association Newsletter. He compared refugees to Pearl Harbor bombers and suggested they should be shot, encouraged violence against peaceful protestors and described people with a history of crime and substance abuse as “animals” and “maggots” who should be “put down.” Further investigation into his background shows a pattern of alt-right activity going back several years. Rather than terminate him, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine pursued a “restorative justice” process that has been criticized by experts and stakeholders, including former Police Chief Ryan, before, during and after. Pedrini has returned to work, reportedly with gun in hand.
As a visibly transgender and disabled activist, I cannot treat this threat as hypothetical. Pedrini is a danger to me, and even more so, to the immigrants and people of color in this community. Privileged white people tend to see the best side of our police force, but people of color, homeless people and LGBT people see the worst. BPD’s violence against queer protestors, but not the simultaneous alt-right rally, this August is a case in point.
I have seen the difference myself: at a large Black Lives Matter event, I watched thousands of riot police bused in from throughout the state. They biked in formation and completely surrounded protestors, creating walls two to three officers deep, shields up and riot weapons displayed. At the even larger Women’s March, I didn’t see my first officer until hours into the protest. He was smiling and laughing, no weapons in sight. My coworkers, nice, white, liberal women, many from Arlington, later praised the protestors for being “so peaceful.” But the behavior of protestors did not differ. They were simply white.
The behavior of town officials regarding Pedrini shows a deep misunderstanding of this reality, as evidenced by their repeated dismissal of red flags and refusal to acknowledge Pedrini’s non-remorse. Publicly released emails show that the town has mobilized the police against activists on this issue, including people of color. The Select Board has falsely characterized further action as “impossible” and silenced concerned residents at meetings. Further concerns are too numerous to list here.
The “restorative justice” process must be discredited so that Pedrini faces consequences. The safety of residents is at stake.