Statement on Fall River Police

Police Accountability, Racial Justice

Statement from Lawyers for Civil Rights in Support of BLM Protestors in Fall River, MA

Following the murder of George Floyd, police reform was widely recognized as an urgent need.  But almost two years later, we are now seeing how entrenched institutional forces threaten to impede progress.

In Massachusetts, at the state level, a special commission charged with reviewing “qualified immunity” could not even reach consensus on whether the doctrine is a problem –– much less what the solution should be.  Institutional forces that prop-up the status quo would prefer to derail reform before it even gets started.

At the local level, resistance continues too.  

In Fall River, several community members recently took part in a Black Lives Matter (BLM) counter-demonstration to express support for racial justice and police accountability –– and to protest against those who support the status quo.  Yet of all the protestors and counter-protestors, the Fall River police targeted only the BLM supporters, improperly surveilling them and charging them with “disturbing the peace” and other charges.   

This type of viewpoint discrimination is intolerable. When law enforcement, including police and prosecutors, target BLM protestors, they stifle dissent and impede progress towards police reform. Criminal charges should not be used in retaliation of First Amendment protected criticism of the police.

Fortunately, these setbacks are temporary.  The injustices that flows from “qualified immunity” are too stark to ignore –– no matter what one failed Commission report says.  And at the local level, a judge in Fall River will soon have the opportunity to review –– and hopefully throw out –– the unconstitutional charges against BLM protestors.

Institutional forces that resist change may be strong, but the forces of justice are stronger.