Letter: Local paper once again uses appalling judgement

Posted

I am writing in response to your newspaper’s column, called “Speak Out.” Most of your readers know that “Speak Out” is an anonymous phone line where anyone can say anything and their message will be printed. Last week, an “anonymous” caller claimed that I shared a post on Facebook saying “that there are no good cops and all cops are bastards” and included the acronym ACAB.

They also questioned my support of one of our senators, Cindy Coyne, who is a retired state trooper — a completely preposterous notion! When I read this column, my first

reaction was confusion, as I had no idea what it was referencing or what ACAB meant.

So, I went to your office and spoke with your editor. Apparently an “anonymous” caller left a message, they researched their claim, and “found” a post on my personal, private Facebook page. I asked why they chose to print something so inflammatory, without any effort to provide context, and why they’d allow someone to do this anonymously. Part of the response given was “we’ve been doing ‘Speak Out’ for 30 years.”

It’s appalling to me that the newspaper did not ask for comment or context from the “anonymous” caller’s targeted individuals. Since the Phoenix chose not to, I will share this important context:

On June 26, I shared a viral post, original author unknown, on Facebook about Black Lives Matter and the racial justice uprising around the country. The author describes how white people have led us to this place of social unrest by continuing to “gloss over” racist actions and ignoring the experiences shared by Black community members. I found this both compelling and thought provoking. The post included the acronym ACAB, and while I do not agree with this sentiment — I can understand it.

Police brutality against Black people in our country is rampant. And while we are fortunate in Bristol that our Police Department is taking action to make sure this doesn't happen here — we must remain vigilant.

This viral Facebook post is long and pointed. The Phoenix should print it in its entirety so there will be context and people can try and understand what Black people are going through in our country right now. Because of the attack “anonymous” caller makes, I can only assume that they are trying to widen the division in our community with false claims rather than trying to understand and learn more about Black people’s experiences.

It’s sad that we must deal with these “anonymous” political attacks when our focus is on safely getting out the vote in the Democratic Primary during a pandemic. I urge all eligible Primary voters to either vote now at Town Hall during regular business hours or visit vote.ri.gov for information on updated polling locations for the Primary on Sept. 8.

Erich Haslehurst
Bristol

Mr. Haslehurst is chairman of the Bristol Democratic Town Committee.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.