I just sent the following letter to the Mayor and Town Council of Chapel Hill and cross-posted at orangepolitics.org/2011/11/guns-over-franklin
I was extremely disappointed to see the Town handle the anarchist break-in at the Yates Building so poorly after working so well with the activists at Occupy Chapel Hill/Carrboro for the past month. What happened last weekend played into every simplistic anarcho-fantasy about jack-booted thugs violently protecting the wealthy. That’s not the Chapel Hill we know, but there is a vocal group of residents that now may never believe otherwise.
I’m undecided about Jim Neal’s specific proposal for an independent commission to study the events of last weekend. Do we really have to empanel a committee to tell us what almost everyone knows (at least in retrospect), which is that the police action was unnecessarily forceful and overly broad? However, I very much want and need some clearer answers from the Town of Chapel Hill.
I understand that the police’s action was taken out of fear of violence, which was rationally based on the (limited) information they had at the time. But it was hardly the only tactic available to the Town. The range of options available could have included sending a plainclothes officer or civilian staffer to communicate with the group, possibly to negotiate or just to give them a deadline to leave. It’s not as if Riddle was being deprived of his non-use of the property, so there should have been time to consult the Mayor and maybe even other community leaders who would have provided valuable insight into the real risks involved (or not involved) before endangering the public by brandishing assault rifles on West Franklin Street and detaining people guilty of nothing but standing on a public sidewalk.
The people of Chapel Hill are owed an explanation and an obligation to try to avoid any further such actions. Below are my suggestions for how the Town can work to make amends and rebuild trust…