Pittsfield Must Learn From Trayvon Tragedy

I was unfortunately unable to attend a rally on Park Square Friday to protest the injustice to Trayvon Martin, the Florida youth whose murder has angered millions and reinvigorated national discussions about race, guns and violence.

100-150 people gathered to take part in this important action, part of an increasing wave of gatherings as the cry for justice in Martin’s tragic and unnecessary death reaches a nationwide roar. Organizers and participants spoke eloquently about the significance of these events, local and nationally.

Justice for Trayvon takes over Park Square - YNN News

SEE ALSO: WNYT “Justice for Trayvon Rally draws crowd in Pittsfield”

Former Lee HS Basketball star Jahda Martin

The local outcry over Travyvon Martin happens to coincide with the sentencing of Terrance Brown in the 2010 stabbing death of Jahda Martin, which took place less 50 yeards from where the rally took place. The coincidence reminds us that issues of crime and violence are broad in scope, complicated, and very much a local concern.

The emerging picture of what happened to Trayvon should be a reminder as Pittsfield goes forward with its growing neighborhood watch initiatives, that they must be absolutely vigilant of those whose motivations and agendas are grounded in racial, ethnic, or cultural prejudices. I hear a lot of talk about the “wrong elements” inhabiting Pittsfield, on North Street and elsewhere, and while sometimes this is in reference to legitimate concerns and actual criminal activity, all too often these veer into judgements based on race, on appearance, on clothing, hairstyle, what music someone is listening to or whether they’re carrying a skateboard. These are not issues that only effect other communities- the attitudes and ideologies that lead to such tragedies are alive and well in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Trayvon’s death and the justice system’s failure to properly take action on it are a painful example of the disastrous results that come of creating a civic culture based on superficial judgements and stereotypes rather than factual, behavioral realities.

Police and local residents need to make every possible effort to see that initiatives to address crime in the community retain their perspective, their internal vigilance, their respect for all people, and their humanity.

La Mascara Bandida Strikes, 10×10 Excites, GOBvsLOD Re-ignites, Peter Moore Unites (w musings on Economic Development and Losing Our Urban Fabric)

A string of armed robberies caused grave concern among Elm Street residents and workers, after a masked woman in black with a small handgun knocked over first Getty, than Angelina’s Sub Shop and Palmer’s Variety

Mayor Bianchi released a statement Thursday, saying the robberies were cause for concern and called for citizen vigilance and increased neighborhood coordination efforts.

Finally, changing tact, La Mascara Bandida struck a fourth time, at the LiptonMart on West Housatonic Street.  Police have released video footage from the store:

3 young men were arrested in fires set on Dalton Ave, after crashing both of the stolen cars they were using within a short time of the arson, in the kind of absurd, Darwin Award -style weirdness that seems to typify Pittsfield Crime. (See also Top 5 Absurd Pittsfield Crimes of the previous 2 years.)

10×10 in Review 

The “descendium” of new artistic offerings known as 10×10 came to a close today. See reactions from Megan Whilden, Mayor Bianchi, and others on its merits, successes and potential areas for future improvement in: 10×10 Fest A Mix of Success

Around City Hall

Following up on a concept he proposed frequently during his two mayoral
campaigns, Mayor Bianchi is calling for the establishment of a $500,000 development for providing loans and grants to develop small businesses.  The money would come from the millions allocated to the city by General Electric, of which there is currently about six million remaining.

The proposal will be examined at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

-Some interesting discussion between City Councilors with regards to the heated disagreement over the appointment of Jeffrey Ferrin to the Ambulance Review Committee was shared on the PlanetValenti blog this week.

The challenge to the Mayor’s appointment to this volunteer came as a
surprise to some, and is politically significant because it seems to
highlight, for the first time since November’s close election, the
perceived split between Pittsfield’s two municipal “parties,” known by
their respective detractors as the GOB (Good Old Boys) and the LOD (Legion of Doom).The four councilors who specifically opposed Ferrin’s appointment, Paul Capitanio, Barry Clairmont, Jonathan Lothrop, and Christine Yon, were supporters and contributors to Peter Marchetti’s mayoral campaign, while Ferrin and the two councilors who voiced a strong negative reaction to his opposition, Melissa Mazzeo and Kevin Morandi, are seen as politically aligned with Mayor Bianchi and enjoyed mutually supportive campaigns.

Peter Moore Benefit
Sunday saw a fundraiser for Peter Moore, whose plight has drawn more
attention than perhaps any non-fatal vehicular injury in Pittsfield since
1902. Peter Moore was allegedly struck by Meredith Nilan in a Subaru SUV
on the night of December 8, though it was not initially reported that a
person was struck in the collision. Moore’s fate, and Sunday’s benefit
efforts, have received heightened attention due to the fact that Nilan’s
father, Clifford Nilan, is a Chief Probation Officer in the Pittsfield
court systems. Questions have arisen in recent weeks over whether Meridith, 24, may have received preferential treatment during an initial hearing.

Westfield Assistant Clerk Magistrate Nathan A. Byrnes had originally found
that there no probable cause to charge Nilan in the collision, but this
decision was reversed by Springfield District Court Judge William Hadley on February 10, following a redetermination request from the Pittsfield Police Department.

Hadley noted that “although much of what is alleged here is circumstancial
in nature,” he found the testimony presented sufficient to allow the
criminal complaint for negligent operation and leaving the scene of a
personal injury accident to be heard. Nilan is expected to be arraigned on
these charges February 29.

Preliminary estimates of more than 150 attendees at the matinee fundraising show, organized by Andy Poncherello, with help from Dan Valenti and various Pittsfield volunteers.

Losing What Urban Fabric We Have

A story in the Pittsfield Gazette from a couple of weeks ago, just recently
posted online, is very much worth taking a look at, as it reveals the plan
to demolish the historic Plunkett Building at the corner of First and Fenn
Street to accommodate the relocation of the First Street Dunkin Donuts.

Former city councilor turned valuable civilian community advocate Mike Ward, was kind enough to share his insightful take on this development with me, in which he presents a scathing view of what this symbolizes in the direction development in the community seems to be going:

“It’s the biggest waste of space I can imagine. We’re gradually losing our
urban fabric — it’s like a perverse suburbanization of our downtown. All
the old buildings that have fires are razed and not replaced. We lose the
density that makes it a walkable and contiguous downtown, and every change is more automobile-centric than what existed before.”

Finally, Monday saw a bit of President’s Day fun, as we collected (with a little help from the public) a comprehensive history of local Presidential visits. Some were funny, some quite dramatic.  Worth a look.

Glasser memorial service, and the ongoing search for closure in Pittsfield slayings

Monday I attended a memorial for David Glasser at Price Memorial AME Zion Church, where 40 or so friends gathered for a service in remembrance of his life.

Despite worldwide media coverage of the circumstances of his death, and that of his friends Robert Chadwell Edward Frampton, I discovered Glasser’s name is still not recognizably familiar to many Pittsfield residents. As for myself, his name and face are pe etched in my mind, perhaps permanently, despite having never met the man.

It bears repeating, then, that these three men were slain three months ago in what by all accounts so far is arguably the most horrific crime committed in this community in two decades.

“He was an unpretentious, trusted to friend to many, and remained true and faithful until the end of a very difficult period of his life,” said Pastor Will Durant “But what we have to remember that that’s all it was, it was a period of life. It does not in any way diminish who we was.”

“I don’t know that many of us have as many newspaper articles written about them in their life as David did in one year of his life.”

All of this gave me pause to consider the day I first got to know the name David Glasser.

For me, it all began with a call from a friend of a friend, that a small army of police had blocked off Potter Mountain Road between Hancock and Pittsfield. This was September 4, a week after Hurricane Irene. I vividly recall hobbling around the road closure on a sprained ankle on a rainy Monday morning chatting up the officers to no avail; so vividly it’s as though it happened last week.

A press release from the DA’s office a couple of hours later connected the massive search I witnessed around the State forest with an earlier bulletin we’d run on iBerkshires. At this time the only mention of these three men had been the briefest media bulletin from the DA’s office that 3 men had gone missing, poorly and confusingly phrased, as though their disappearance was in some way connected to the storm.

Over the course of that afternoon I started Googling and began to comb LexisNexis, stumbling into a trove of mentions of David Glasser. I think over the course of that day myself, various Eagle staff, and other interested parties put together essentially the same theory that, although not confirmed until a couple weeks later, was law enforcement’s working theory from the very beginning. Indeed, a cursory search of news coverage easily uncovered the entire year’s worth of articles to which Reverend Durant referred. The whole sorry story of escalating conflict between Glasser and the primary accused, Adam Lee Hall, plays out within and between the lines of those news items.

Like everyone, I made certain assumptions, characterizations of everyone involved that are hard to avoid when all you know of people is what you’ve heard and what you read. Unlike some, I never lost a sense of the magnitude of the tragedy of what happened. Tragic from the very beginning, because long before the announcement came that the bodies had been found, all you had to do was look into the faces of certain friends and relatives of either the victims or the accused and you just knew that something brutally final had happened, that those men were never going to be found alive.

Worse, in many ways, was the seemingly muted, at times even mocking, reaction from the community overall. This was nothing like the terror, shock and outrage I remember over Lewis Lent, with the disappearance of Jimmy Bernardo and attempted kidnapping of Rebecca Savarese. It didn’t even resemble a fractional version of that, almost the opposite to some. As one commenter put it, “What’s the big deal? So some bikers took out some crackheads. Good riddance all around.”

I remember how truly sad, and embarassed, and ashamed I felt for Pittsfield when I read that comment. This was repaired in some measure by the backlash of responses from those who stood up to this naive and over simplistic view, residents and friends of David’s who depicted a different view of the man, a caring, helpful friend who did more good than harm, despite facing a lot of challenges and demons.

The picture that emerged of David, who was a frequent volunteer at the Christian Center and known to many throughout that neighborhood, was of a rather frail man, a man who had no doubt made some mistakes in his life, but nothing that anyone can sanely say merited or invited this horror upon himself. This was not a dangerous man, or common thug. This was not in a person that a couple of years ago could have reasonably expected to be swept up into a situation where he and two of his friends would be brutally massacred and buried in a gory pit in Becket. There is simply no sane way to spin what happened here as a case of “they had it coming.”

Not that I claim to know exactly what happened. We can’t even hope to know the complete story of what happened until the trial begins, and perhaps not even then.

I just know that I can’t help be haunted by what has happened, and I know there are others that feel the same way. I can only hope that as the steps of this process continue on through memorials to trials, some greater sense, some type of closure emerges.