Tonight, the Keene city council could have made history as the first ever political designation to reject arms manufacturer LENCO and the federal government’s pushing of the BEARCAT police attack “tank“.
They could have heard the voices of the people who were crying out against this intimidating monstrosity that will inevitably militarize the Keene police even more, and as city councilor Carl Jacobs appropriately pointed out, distance them further from the community they supposedly serve.
They could have. But they didn’t. The BEARCAT passed 9 to 4.
Despite the outpouring of opposition in the community against the BEARCAT, not a single councilor changed their vote from December, when they originally voted in favor of it. That vote was 13 to 1. Why were the numbers different? The new city councilors who took office in January were the ones to vote against it. So, the councilors who originally voted for it completely disregarded all the input they received from the community in various forms:
- In a Keene Sentinel online poll, 72% said they city council was wrong to accept the BEARCAT. (Only 12% favored the BEARCAT in the poll.)
- WKBK’s Dan Mitchell stated on-air that 90% of his callers were against the BEARCAT.
- City councilor Bettina Chadbourne related during tonight’s meeting that of the 80 phone calls she received from various members of the community, (old, young, business owners, men, women, etc) only ten calls were in favor of the BEARCAT.
- The public hearing on the BEARCAT featured dozens of speakers, the supermajority of which opposed the BEARCAT.
- A random walk down Main St. would show anyone who bothered to ask people that the supermajority of people oppose the BEARCAT.
- Most letters to the editor of the Keene Sentinel were in opposition to the BEARCAT.
- During the meeting the councilors who favored the BEARCAT got no applause from the packed room, while the councilors who spoke in opposition to the BEARCAT were blasted with applause.
The reasons given for supporting the BEARCAT by the councilors were pathetic. Mitch Greenwald believes the Department of Homeland Security has our best interests in mind. Dale Pregent believes it will help in a flood. Janice Manwaring trusts the Keene Police to be good boys with their new, violent toy. Look for video here at Free Keene soon.
Not one of them changed their minds. The emails they received, the calls, the personal contacts – none of it mattered. None of it outweighed what the Keene police wanted.
Silly me. While I was cynical from the start that the BEARCAT would actually be rejected, I thought there was at least a chance someone would change their mind and do what the people clearly wanted them to do in this instance. Not so. Not one.
The courageous ones who deserve your appreciation were Terry Clark, Bettina Chadbourne, Carl Jacobs, and David Meader.
The cowards who deserve to be shamed and lose any attempt they make at re-election are Mitch Greenwald, Janice Manwaring, Dale Pregent, Kris Roberts, David Richards, James Duffy, Phil Jones, Thomas Powers, and Ruth Venezia. Chuck Redfern had to recuse himself because of some connection he has to Homeland Security – reason enough to vote him out next election.
June Donegan was not present for this meeting. It is not known how she would have voted.
Thank you to everyone who has been active regarding this issue. We made international headlines as the only place ever to stand against the BEARCAT. Over 300 of these have gone to police departments across the country, and only Keeniacs had the courage to stand up, speak out, and organize.
It’s not over. Obviously, we won’t forget this come the 2013 election where BEARCAT supporters Greenwald, Manwaring, Pregent, Roberts, Venezia, and Jones will all be up for possible re-election. However, before then, who knows what interesting activism will be able to happen regarding this war machine that the federal government is shoving down our collective throat.
The most important lesson, in my opinion, is that the system doesn’t work – not even at a local level. (Though, had Keene been politically structured as a town, the BEARCAT would have gone down in flames, as at town meetings the people actually vote, not the “selectmen”.) Everyone knows the system doesn’t work at the federal level. Look at the huge opposition to the bailouts as an example. Despite congressmen admitting that they received 80-90% of calls against the bailouts, they almost all voted for it anyway. I thought that maybe, just maybe, that since these people on the city council are our neighbors, that we’d have a chance of changing some of their minds. I was wrong. It’s obvious that in most political issues, it’s impossible for a so-called representative to actually represent besides themselves. However, it’s amazing that in a situation like this, where the numbers were so overwhelmingly favoring one position, that the councilors ignored all the input, and did what the police (and feds) wanted them to. Peer influence meant nothing to them.
Heaven forbid someone in power admit they were wrong and have the courage to change their mind.
Congratulations to the people calling themselves the Keene Police and City of Keene. Tonight they succeeded in proving that they don’t give a damn about what the people in the community want and effectively destroyed even more of the precious legitimacy that is so crucial to people seeing them as something other than an occupying criminal gang. Even though the advocates of peace lost in the vote, we won in the long view, because the aggressors have shown their hand yet again. They don’t care about your desires to live in a peaceful place. They only do what aggregates more power and money to them and their buddies. It’s clear they are the masters, not the servants.
If you aren’t here yet, what are you waiting for? Please move to the Shire and help us change things for the better.