Wellesley Police Chief Jack Pilecki issued the following statement on Monday, a day after hundreds took part in a mostly silent vigil and protest in Wellesley against racial injustice and police brutality:
The death of George Floyd as a direct result of an individual Minneapolis Police Officer’s action, coupled with the absolute inaction of three other police officers who stood by, is nothing short of disgusting. The tragic act itself, seeing Mr. Floyd plead for air, is reprehensible beyond words. It does not matter that this awful event occurred a thousand miles away in Minnesota. It matters that the most basic and sacred of trusts—that the police department is here to protect and serve the public, was violently and horribly violated. The brutal violation of that sacred trust is something that absolutely shocks my conscious, and should shock all law enforcement officials through-out the country. Police violence towards anyone is illegal and immoral, and should never be tolerated. Abuse of police power absolutely sickens me, and I condemn it.
I have always supported positive, constructive change in law enforcement and in our own department. I will continue to work with the community, town leaders, and our officers to oppose racism and injustice anywhere. The actions of four people in Minneapolis is not, however, a reflection of all police officers nationwide, including our own men and women of the Wellesley Police Department. Wellesley Police Officers, who put their lives on the line every day, treat everyone with the respect and dignity that they deserve. We will continue to work internally with our officers to ensure that Wellesley has a well-trained and professional department that we can all be proud of.
The Wellesley Police Department, as always, will continue to keep our community safe for our residents and visitors.
Wellesley Board of Selectmen
The Wellesley Board of Selectmen has also issued a statement:
“We have all watched with heavy hearts the appalling video from last Monday of George Floyd’s detention and subsequent death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Reflecting indifference to the value of human life and lasting an unbearable 9 minutes, the video was at once shocking and painfully familiar. That video alone should move all people to denounce unnecessary violence and force by law enforcement officials against person of color, and people have done so many times before. Yet time and again similar videos appear and not enough changes. The Board reaffirms its pledge to diversity and in the strongest of terms condemns the treatment of Mr. Floyd and the use of entirely unnecessarily force. We offer our heartfelt support to our African-American neighbors, friends and colleagues, as well as a recommitment to work with all community partners to address underlying issues of race in all contexts. The riots, protests and violence that began in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death and were shared on national media reflect pent-up anger, resentment, restlessness and hopelessness grown stronger during the fight against the first global pandemic in 100 years. The country’s leaders have declared throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that “We are all in this together.” Historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin was correct, however, when she said recently, ‘We may all be in the same river, but we are most certainly not all in the same boat.’ COVID-19 has made all the more evident social ills that exist and fall disproportionately upon people of color. Communities of color are suffering disproportionally during the pandemic just as they have suffered since the founding of the country from disparities that affect all aspects of their lives, from health to education, careers to housing, mortality rates to economic advancement. And those of us outside the communities of color cannot for one moment appreciate the enormities of these challenges. It is no surprise that people of color are yet again devastated and angry. The challenges to addressing these inequities are many. Wellesley strives to strengthen community values of welcoming equity and inclusion. The World of Wellesley has for over 30 years offered programs and events addressing issues of racism and works every day to build a more inclusive community. More than 1,500 people attended a silent vigil on Washington Street yesterday to protest the death of George Floyd and to call for racial justice. The School Department has hired a director of diversity, equity and inclusion to support and recruit faculty of color, train educators, enhance communications and sensitize students in our school system. All of us must work together to address the issues and improve interracial interactions. At the heart of the town’s efforts to avoid violent confrontations with any individual, Wellesley’s police department has worked assiduously over the past decade to build a practice of community policing and develop protocols for de-escalation. Last year the department engaged the services of a social worker to support officers in challenging situations. Public safety officials and officers across the town learn that town values communication over confrontation, and humanity over force.”
Wellesley Public Schools statements
Wellesley Public Schools Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Charmie Curry letter to colleagues:
We are in desperate times. As educators, we have a unique responsibility to moderate these times for our students, and our wider learning communities. This responsibility cannot be understated, especially in such a time as this.
At the onset of the COVID19 crisis, we bore witness to the racial prejudice directed at Asian Americans. We continue to read about bias-based behaviors that wrongly accuse Asian Americans of being responsible for the virus’s spread. Concurrently, we are bearing witness to the disparate treatment of African Americans at the hands of police. This is not new. We continue to witness the devaluing of Black lives, and the everyday indignities faced as a result of unconscious racial bias. In the last few weeks, and last week in particular, we have been mourning Ahmaud, Breona, George. In years past, we have mourned with the families of Amadou, Abner, Mike, Oscar, Philando, Sandra, Sean, Stephon, Tamir, Trayvon, the members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina …
Our students and faculty/staff are watching the news reports; they are experiencing all the emotions that can be associated with routinely bearing witness to such inhumanity. These realities are weighing on them.
I want to share a resource from Sheldon Eakins, PhD and the Leading Equity Center that you may find helpful as you speak to students, families, faculty/staff about the current national climate. I encourage you to check in on students, families, and faculty/staff specifically about these issues. The costs of not engaging are far too great.
Please reach out should you need additional resources/support.
Separately, Wellesley Public Schools Supt. David Lussier issued this statement over the weekend:
Dear Members of the Wellesley Public Schools Community:
In a spring that has been defined by COVID-19, it might be easy to overlook the recent events highlighting the deep racial divides that still exist in this country. The video footage of Ahmaud Arbery being attacked while simply jogging down the street and George Floyd pleading for his life are far from isolated incidents and are, in fact, emblematic of realities that our communities of color face in this country every day. And as horrifying as these examples are, I know that I can leave my house right now and feel no anxiety that my skin color might put my life in jeopardy. My white privilege affords me that luxury.
But then I think about our students, their families, and staff of color who attend our schools. What are they feeling when leave their homes? How are they feeling after watching the same haunting videos I have seen? They don’t have the luxury to compartmentalize their reactions from their daily routines. In short, they don’t share in the same privilege that I and others possess.
We are a school district that prides itself on a set of core values to which we strive to adhere every day. These values are largely grounded in how we treat one another. It is in this spirit that I have to acknowledge that our communities of color are experiencing a great deal of pain right now. And as members of our broader school community, it is important that we speak with one voice to both object to the attitudes and actions behind these recent events and to stand in support our families and colleagues who are uniquely impacted by them. That’s what One Wellesley is all about.
Please continue to stay safe and take good care of each other.
Dr. David Lussier
Superintendent of Schools