Yesterday I was briefly interviewed by Debra Alfarone, a reporter for WUSA-9 in D.C. She, and her station, have been pursuing the Ethan story with considerable diligence lately. The video clip is here.
I am really grateful to Alfarone’s willingness to pursue this story – not just for one clip or one quick hit of outrage, but to really dig and understand what’s going on. This is what journalism looks like.
At the end of the clip (I appear very briefly in the middle, making the argument that everyone should be concerned about this, not just people with disabilities), Alfarone notes that blame is beginning to be cast on the theater manager for not allowing Ethan to stay in without a ticket. This is surely true. If the manager just said, “Oh, you have Down syndrome, you can see the movie again,” then none of this would have happened. But every choice here has deep implications for how people with disabilities interact with the world. Is the manager responsible for waving the rules in the face of disability? I’m not sure.
Ultimately, as I read the report, the deputies made the decision to put their hands on Ethan as the aide pleaded for patience. This is where I place the pivot point when multiple possible outcomes to the situation coalesced into one grim reality, Ethan’s death.
And here’s one final point, a point that no one else seems to be making – Ethan’s death is not an isolated incident and it’s not just about disability (although it’s also about disability). Across America, police have decided that non-compliance demands a physical response, a taser shot, or pepper spray. Ethan’s story is just as much a part of the growing erosion of our civil liberties as many more highly publicized events in the last few years.