By now, if you’re reading this article, you’ve probably read other pieces published in this paper regarding the situation of a West Chester University student who was arrested last week at a Black Lives Matter protest. If you haven’t, here are the CliffsNotes:
Taylor Enterline, a junior criminal justice major at WCU, was arrested the evening of Sunday, Sept. 13, at a Black Lives Matter protest in Lancaster. Enterline was acting as a medic and tending to those who were victims of tear gas utilized by police — which is consistent with her activism of the past few years at protest events, according to those close to her (and adeptly reported by Chikayla Barriner in the paper last week).
Magisterial District Judge Bruce Roth set Enterline’s bail — and that of several others arrested on Sunday — at $1 million, a decision decried as unconstitutional by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. Enterline was also denied contact with her family and access to her family lawyer until Wednesday, Sept. 16, according to those close to her family.
At every step, this entire debacle has been wrought with flagrant injustice.
Yes, Enterline’s bail was later reduced to $50,000 and she was released (she now awaits a preliminary hearing — currently scheduled for Oct. 5 — to determine whether her case will go to trial). But the fact that she has had and will have to endure this legal abuse in the first place is an egregious offense by our so-called justice system.
The night she was arrested, Enterline was assisting with medical needs at SafeHouse Lancaster, a local organization which “equips young people to do activism work,” according to Isaac Etter, the organization’s Co-Executive Director. SafeHouse’s work at individual protests is dedicated to providing medic services and deescalating encounters with police.
Deescalation was fated to fail that particular night, however.
“The tension in the air was elevated,” Etter told me, because this protest was a response to the killing of Ricardo Muñoz by the Lancaster Bureau of Police. “The state police were called in, and there is usually aggression [at the protests] when they’re involved.”
“Protesters were told to disperse, given no more than five seconds, and then the state police immediately began firing tear gas. There was no time for people to really clear the scene.” This was the first instance of any violence that night, Etter said. “Any violence by protesters was in response to escalation by police. There was none before that.”
This seems to maintain the theme of police escalation and violence that exists at a national level, according to analysis of hundreds of videos of nationwide protests by ProPublica [https://projects.propublica.org/protest-police-tactics/]: too often, police are the ones who initiate violence against protesters.
This violence also includes the use of unmarked, undercover police vehicles used to target and arrest protesters — vehicles which were used by police the night Enterline was arrested.
“They were leaving in undercover cars, four to five policemen in a car,” according to Hailee Paige, a lifelong friend of Enterline’s who was also there the night of the latter’s arrest (as quoted in the Quad’s original coverage of the protests). “We were walking down to get our car and all of a sudden … people were running, cops were pulling up, tackling people, guns out, everything. It was just chaotic.”
And if that had been all Enterline was forced to endure, it would have been an offense beyond description. But, she must also now suffer through the court system and has already been subjected to a ludicrous $1 million bail by Roth.
This is not the first time Roth has imposed a laughably unjust bail amount: in 2016, he set bail at $5 million for an “accused repeat drug dealer”[http://local21news.com/news/local/bail-set-at-5-million-for-suspected-lancaster-herion-dealer] named Jose E. Gonzalez. Gonzalez was later convicted, but Roth used bail as a punitive measure before Gonzalez got his day in court — something the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits.
It strains belief that it is a coincidence that the victims of Roth’s excessive bails are all either advocates for racial justice or themselves people of color.
Even this is indicative of a larger national issue: last week, after the charges in Breonna Taylor’s case were announced, protesters who mobilized in response were arrested and held under $1 million bail. Bail for Brett Hankison, the officer who killed Taylor, was set at $15,000.
Taylor Enterline is, by all accounts, the best of us. She has dedicated her adult life to calling out and fighting injustice, even to the point ,as has been demonstrated by this situation, of putting herself at risk.
And our legal system victimized her.
This isn’t just. It isn’t keeping American citizens safe. The sole motivation behind the persecution of people like Enterline is the desire to ensure that authority is not questioned. That cops can continue to brutalize and murder Americans without cause and with impunity.
This fight isn’t over. Enterline will have a preliminary hearing and, based on its results, perhaps a trial as well. The system will attempt to make its usual mockery of justice that has come to be expected by now.
And all of us, those who know or who have been inspired by her, or even those who are simply prepared to demand justice where it is not freely given, will be there.
Kyle Gombosi is a senior Music: Elective Studies major with a minor in journalism. KG806059@wcupa.edu