By Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service
EAST HAVEN, Conn. – Hundreds of Latinos and their allies staged a march and rally in East Haven on February 27, in response to the arrest of four police officers and the retirement of their chief after he was named an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal probe of racial profiling in the town. Marchers chanted slogans and carried huge banners made of many countries’ flags as well as hand-made signs expressing opposition to abuse by police.
Marcher Clifton Graves, an African-American activist from New Haven, called for justice and reconciliation.
“So I’m here to show solidarity and support for the Latino community, the immigrant community here that’s been targeted. But also to reach out to the good people of East Haven, which I think the majority of folks in East Haven are good, hardworking, decent people who want fairness and justice.”
Residents of East Haven are divided, with some supporting Mayor Joe Maturo while others say he’s part of the problem and should resign. In a statement released after the march, Maturo praised marchers, residents and the police who accompanied the march, and pledged to rebuild trust with all segments of the community.
The main organizer of the event was East Haven resident Herman Zuniga, a local building contractor. He said cooperation was excellent with the new interim police chief, Brent Larrabee, and at the end of the rally he said he was gratified.
“The police department is changing, but we need more changes than that. I feel blessed to be here; I feel proud of the people that came. I feel there is a sense of community and respect was really all over the place.”
Chief Larrabee, who came from outside the East Haven department, said the day went off without a hitch.
Josephine Douglas stood on the sidewalk as the march went by, and called it “ridiculous.”
“We don’t do it. We’re Americans: you don’t see us marching down the street for our rights. And we got nothin’. They get everything. They come to my country and they ride in a beautiful car, and I ride in a junk [car], ’cause I can’t get money from my government like they can.”
Darci Fischer, a lifelong East Havener, had a different view.
“I’m behind them 100 percent. You know, racial profiling is something to be taken seriously, and the fact that our mayor made that ignorant comment about the tacos just really goes to show what really goes on, I think, behind the scenes.”
She said she hoped the mayor would resign, which he’s shown no sign of doing.
Fischer referred to a widely-reported and much-criticized remark by Mayor Maturo late last month, to the effect that he might eat tacos at home, when asked what he was doing to reach out to the Latino community.[Photo By conner395]