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About 40 gather at Connecticut’s Capitol to demonstrate support for police following passage of accountability bill

Hartford Courant 2020-08-02 02:52:07

Following Gov. Ned Lamont’s signing of a comprehensive police accountability bill Friday, about 40 people gathered by the Capitol in Hartford to show support for officers across the state.

Some group members expressed surprise by the smaller turnout, while others reasoned news of the bill’s passage into law left police supporters feeling “disenfranchised.”

Anthony Buccheri, a police officer from Cromwell who declined to disclose his department, said he felt the bill was rushed and warned the new law will encourage officers to leave the state at a time when recruitment is already difficult and taxes are high.

“There could have been things about it that could have worked, that could have been good and helped society, but that bill was rushed,” he said. “This bill could’ve gone through the right way, had it been properly vetted. ... This isn’t the type of profession where you want to fix the bugs as they’re happening. That’s when people get hurt.”

The law requires all officers to wear body cameras, bans the use of chokeholds and creates a new independent inspector general tasked with investigating killings by police. Police have said the law would open up individual officers to costly legal settlements, but proponents of the bill said only officers involved in egregious acts would face a financial penalty.

Buccheri said that while some officers have caused image-related issues for the profession, many officers “do their job honorably.”

“The ones that screw up the profession ... their acts get them thrown out. Their acts get them arrested, and rightfully so,” he said.

While the majority of the event remained calm, a few Back the Blue supporters engaged in a brief, heated exchange with about 10 counter-protesters who stood outside the fenced-off area to show support for Black Lives Matter. In the span of several minutes, they sparred over issues related to policing and the nationwide protests following the murder of George Floyd, as well as politics, abortion and mask-wearing.

“If you can’t breathe, take off the mask,” yelled a Back the Blue protester, as another stated the Black Lives Matter protesters arrived just to antagonize them.

“Where have you been?” retorted a Black Lives Matter protester. “We have been with our feet on this grass for weeks.”

Prior to Saturday’s event, several large protests drew hundreds to the Capitol to voice their concerns about, or their support, for the police bill.

Citizens Opposed to Police States member Joanna Iovino, who organized Saturday’s counter-protest, said she was glad to see the bill passed, although she said its language was weakened.

“I’m very happy that [Lamont] signed it. It’s a first step, but there’s still a lot more work to do,” said the Hartford resident. “I would like to see more defunding of the police and redirecting those funds to the social services arena, especially local organizations and organizations run by people of color.”

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Eventually, Iovino said the organization wants to see defunding occur to the point where “it’s a minimum of people out there carrying weapons and out there patrolling the communities. The rest of the work for non-violent calls can be done by social workers, community outreach people and people who are involved in the community.”

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As the protest drew to an early close, one police supporter shared the story of how a state trooper bought him coffee while he was homeless last winter. Back the Blue protesters also gave a round of applause for the Capitol police, thanking them for “making sure everything goes smooth” as at least one supporter called the Black Lives Matter protesters “animals.”

They also discussed the importance of the upcoming presidential election and “defunding politicians not police,” criticizing local representatives for caring more about special interests and identity politics than their constituents.

“Stop voting fraud,” said one, while another said, “Back the Blue, vote red!”