Kate Leboff at rally

Kate Leboff reads one of the Unbroken Promise Initiative's letters they are sending to Ithaca Police Department. 

At their weekly Sunday rally, leaders of the Unbroken Promise Initiative (UPI) presented a second letter they are sending to the Ithaca Police Department demanding accountability, defunding and a reformative overhaul of the department's militarization. 

UPI founder Jordan Clemons and Kate Leboff, who is also deeply involved with the initiative, both addressed the gathered crowd, many of whom have been coming out each week for the last seven weeks to protest racist police violence, sparked in late May when nationwide protests broke out over the Minneapolis Police Department's killing of George Floyd. The crowd then took their weekly march, pausing outside of Ithaca Police Department headquarters and in the pedestrian walkway between Restaurant Row on Aurora Street before returning to the Commons. 

Leboff read both the letter that the initiative sent to IPD and a new, second letter that the group will be sending because they have waited two weeks since sending the first and have not received a reply. The first letter is primarily a list of seven demands from the group aimed at local law enforcement, City Hall, the Tompkins County District Attorney's office and Common Council, including a slew of specific allegations against local police officers of racist conduct, inappropriate sexual relationships, wage theft, misconduct during legal proceedings and more. It asks for the disassembly of IPD's SWAT team, a review of the Nagee Green case (over allegations that a police officer's prior perjury was not disclosed to the defense team), defunding of IPD, weeding out corrupt officers and more. 

Having seen no action on the demands in the first letter, and not hearing back from IPD at all, the group decided it was time to push forth with more demands and more pushes for accountability. 

"We the people of Ithaca are outraged," Leboff read from the letter. "The leader of our police department, mayor, and Common Council have not listened to and have ignored our concerns and demands in regards to the Ithaca Police Department. Our leaders have taken no action to make our community safer from police corruption, have done nothing to help the citizens of our community feel safer and have played deceptive games while forgetting they serve us and work for us."

The letter continued that the police should rid themselves of long gun weaponry like AR-15s (the group deems them "weapons of war" and argues that they are unnecessary in Ithaca and that the danger they bring outweighs any benefit they might create), as well as pursuing one of UPI's foundational requests, which is that IPD dismantle its SWAT team as part of a larger demilitarization reform. Most specifically, Leboff said the group wants the SWAT team's equipped truck to be repurposed into something with purely peaceful, community-beneficial intent. 

"We demand you turn your SWAT vehicle into a mobile vehicle for the community, then it may be welcomed into our community and neighborhoods of color," Leboff quoted from the letter. "It could be made a mobile testing center for COVID-19, for free immunizations or healthcare, a mobile dentist clinic for our neighborhoods in need. Use it for the people, not against the people." 

The letter concludes that Mayor Svante Myrick and Common Council are not acting fast enough to address the concerns of Ithacans who want to see the police demilitarized. 

Sandwiched between the two letters was a rumination from Clemons on his upbringing and some of the difficult choices and situations he had to navigate because his family was facing severe poverty and his mom was struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine. The most poignant scenario described involved a teenaged Clemons, who had turned to drug dealing to support his family, fighting with his mother because she wanted to get drugs from him but he didn't want to fuel her addiction. Eventually, he ended up giving in after the altercation turned physical. The situation led him to have a breakdown. He told the story to illustrate that the leaders of the movement are willing to be honest about their own pasts and actions, no matter how uncomfortable they are, and that local law enforcement and those in power should be as well. If police officers are honest with themselves and reflect on the system they are a part of, Clemons said, they should be ready to resign their positions as officers. 

"It's about being truthful. You're in a position where you've probably done things that have lost the trust of the people that you serve," Clemons said. "As a result, we don't think you are fit to be in the position that you are in. Please step down. [...] F*ck your reform, the system needs to go. If it's going to continue to exist, it continues on our terms."

Clemons ended his remarks with another call for local elected officials to pay attention to the demands of his group and others that are calling for reform, reminding them that if they do not, the ultimate power to remove them rests with voters. 

"Do the right thing now or pay the price at the polls soon," Clemons said, quoting the second letter's final line. 

(2) comments

Scott Noren

I'm glad the last line was 'pay the price at the polls'..I think there are far too little choices for mayor and other local positions where people run unopposed too often. The challengers also sometimes tend to be unrealistic choices at times. I really like the idea believe or not of the SWAT vehicle as a mobile Covid testing and 'other use vehicle', as long as people don't put the police in the position to have to deal with extreme violence..That so far has not really been the case here locally, thank G-d. I think instead of out on the street one sided, we need an outside forum where people talk to each other and don't shout or use foul language. It's just more peaceful that way....

Roland Braman

The demilitarization of police is great.

Nagee Green had a wide open and public Facebook account. After the stabbing he posted "Feeling like Michael Meyers right now", a reference to the movie serial killer who stabs people. How much of a confession do you want? People who say "Justice for Nagee Green" make me sick. He took the life of a man who had promise because he bumped into him. Stabbing? Put Nagee Green in prison forever.

This is too great of an issue to lose support to grifter criminals looking to excuse their own behavior using tortured logic to paint themselves victims of racism. Nagee Green stabbed a promising young man to death and confessed on social media. Rose Degroat clawed a cops face on video. (My wife is pink as a piglet and she spent a night in jail just for mouthing off to a cop) Please, please don't blow this opportunity to end hundreds of years of police oppression of African Americans by backing people that don't deserve backing.

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