Something is happening to the media narrative.
Since Saylor died in January, the only people to cover the story were local reporters, especially the people for Washington Post Local (this op-ed from July has a wrap-up of links). This is part of why I tried to write about the story in a way that would nationalize it, to show that this is not an aberration. I didn’t especially succeed based on my readership numbers.
But with the new petition, with the reporting by WUSA*9 in D.C., MD lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur pushing for answers (this may be the catalyst) and .. well, who really knows, the story is spreading. CBS picked up the story, and Yahoo!, and now ABC. It may be that the petition, which now has over 200,000 signatures, is driving the story. Hey, maybe you could go sign it.
It’s heartening to see. Last May, when I wrote my first blog post about Saylor, no petition had more than about 1000 signatures, because the issue had gained no traction outside of the disability community. Now things are moving.
So what are the questions we still have about the case?
1. If you read the 98-page report and all the witness statements, the chain of events from the moment the police put their hands on Ethan until he was dead on the floor remains a little unclear. Did they take him out of sight of people for a moment? Did they put their knee on his back? What is the exact chain of events that happened here. I’m still not sure we totally know and I’d feel a lot more confident if the MD Gov’s office investigated, rather than the Tea Party Sheriff of Frederick County Maryland. The more I learn about him and his supervisors (the more I learn about Blaine Young, the chair of the country board, the less I think he’s likely sensitive to disability rights), the less confidence I have in their desire to do anything but cover their liabilities. So that’s one – have an outside party establish the chain of events.
2. To what extent did this have to do with disability and lack of training (that’s the Mizeur argument, and it’s a fine argument), and to what extent is this about the cult of compliance that increasingly (I argue) shapes police response to non-compliant individuals. I keep making this case and am getting no traction. Either I’m wrong or continued evidence will bear me out. But people like me, who are angry, have to remember that it’s possible the
police followed all their procedures exactly correctly and this was a
freak accident. That’s part of why I am arguing that the mistake was
responding to swearing and non-compliance with physical contact, rather
3. Who is to blame? The movie theater manager? The police? The aide? Ethan himself? His parents for letting him go out without more supervision? I’m very concerned that this last will be the lesson many take away from the case, that to let someone with DS into their business is to court trouble. You can see that in other writing about disability, where the person with disability becomes rendered into a permanent child, incapable of making their own decisions. I don’t want Justice for Ethan to reinforce ableism, and I can see a clear pathway to that happening.
What else? What else do we need to know?