HUDSON -- A loud crowd turned out for a community conversation on law enforcement and diversity Monday night, as speakers met with both cheering and heckling. Community members voiced concerns to council members and Chief Geoff Willems following nationwide protests against police brutality and calls for reform. City representatives listened, but did not engage in any dialogue.
About 200 people gathered at Lakefront Park. A portion of the crowd carried blue line and Trump flags.
Many of the night’s speakers expressed support for the Hudson Police Department and its officers, but called for them to do and be better.
Andrew Hassan thanked the council members, Willems and officers for being there, saying he wants to continue conversations like this one.
“Throughout history, every single time something’s gotten better is because someone’s come forward and said something’s wrong,” he said.
The son of an immigrant Black Muslim father and white Catholic mother, Hassan said the issue of inclusion in the community hits home.
“I’m here today not because I want to be, but because I have to be,” he said. “I’m done being quiet. I’m done waiting.”
Kerry Reis told the city representatives they likely wouldn’t hear any calls to defund the police here. Instead she said she’d like to see the city teach officers to use social media in prudent ways, help officers understand what a hate crime is, appoint people to boards and committees with an eye toward diversity and actively host events that bring people together.
“Let’s not pretend we don’t have a problem here,” she said.
Hudson High School seniors Maia Paulisich and Lily-Ann Gabriel said the community has experienced the theft and burning of pride flags and a physical assault on a gay man downtown. If discrimination like this is seen in one area, they said, it is likely present in others, too.
“We do not feel that the community or law enforcement have been taking previous hate crimes seriously,” Paulisich said.
“If the City Council and/or law enforcement does not react to these actions, they are enabling future violence and it will continue,” Gabriel added.
They want Hudson to grow into a culturally sensitive community where all can feel welcome, they said.
Emily Janisch said that the city’s claims that excessive force has not been used since 2004 is inaccurate.
She recounted a personal experience, saying she was not resisting arrest when an officer escalated the situation, arresting her without grounds and physically assaulting her. She was recovering from neurosurgery at the time, sustained several injuries in the incident and had to wait for medical attention.
She said she attempted to work with the city and police department, but was met with resistance. She eventually settled with the city for less than her medical costs, she said, but still has an arrest for obstruction on her record.
The officer involved had no certified training for excessive force on his record, either before the event or now, Janisch said. She questioned what the city and department were doing to make sure something like this never happened again.