Our Collective Voice: #JusticeForEthanPosted: July 17, 2013
To my community of parents, friends, and individuals touched by Down syndrome, please open your hearts to what I have to say:
If we do not speak up and publicly condemn Ethan Saylor’s death—his right to live—no one will.
The incident report and 22 witness statements on Ethan Saylor’s death have finally been released. According to news reports, Saylor’s caregiver advised the deputies against approaching Saylor until he had calmed. Saylor’s mother was on her way. Still, the deputies disregarded the advice.
The movie theater was not full. Steps had been taken to defuse the situation. They needed five more minutes.
Instead, “Sgt. Rich Rochford told Saylor he was going to jail and then hauled him from his seat with help from Lt. Scott Jewell and Deputy First Class James Harris, numerous witnesses said.” (Read more here.)
During an unnecessary escort and restraint, Ethan Saylor died.
This is not a case of misunderstanding, training, or lack of awareness. We will keep working to train our officers to question their stereotypes of disability and reinforce their duty to serve a diverse population, of course. However, until there are real consequences for such a blatant use of unnecessary force, the world will remain a dangerous place for us all. Every person is at risk of injury or death when restrained, which is why it must be the last possible option utilized.
The Saylor family deserves an independent investigation. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office cannot be trusted to impartially investigate its own men. The use-of-force disclosure in the FCSO’s report was not even complete. How could they say with such confidence that the deputies did nothing wrong if they are unable to even give a complete report?
To my fellow parents—there will be a day when your child will face an unyielding, unforgiving situation. I hope and pray that it won’t involve violence.
Please do not huddle at home with your children out of fear. Do not lay blame on Ethan’s caregiver, who plead for the deputies to allow her to do her job. Do not think your child will never be like Ethan. Your child is like Ethan. He was a human being. Human beings deserve to get angry, make mistakes, misunderstand situations so long as they are not causing harm. Human beings shouldn’t die over a movie ticket. Human beings deserve five minutes of grace.
I know that no one wants to think about tragedy. It hurts. No one wants to hear about the same story over and over again, we despair that nothing can be done. But something can be done.
Speak up for the Saylors. Speak up for the child you will one day send into the world. Speak up for the adults who are already in the world.
Our collective voice can be loud.
Write, Email, Call, Tweet, Facebook. Demand an independent and complete investigation into Ethan Saylor’s death. If you have already done one thing, pick another one.
- Go here for steps to write Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. He can open an investigation. After you write/call him, tell him what you think on social media.Twitter: @GovernorOMalley
- The Saylors have begun a Facebook page. “Like” the page, keep up to date, help, lend moral support.
- Going to the NDSC convention? The Saylors will have a #JusticeForEthan booth. You can help with this effort by sending a PayPal donation to EthanSaylorFund@gmail.com. Don’t forget to specify that it is a gift, you do not need a PayPal account.
- Share Ethan’s story. Talk about what happened to him. Help dispel myths about what happened. Share, talk, share, talk. This is a very comprehensive post. I’ve written about Ethan here and here. Read here, here, and here. Share this video. Take your pick. Just keep talking. Ok, more? Here, here, and here. And here.
There are an estimated 350,000 people with Down syndrome in the United States. Imagine what would happen if every individual, friend, and family member made a single call, sent a single email, posted a single comment. Don’t let the world think what happened to Ethan Saylor was justified. It’s not too late. Speak up.