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Coalition of Berkshire leftists join calls for justice after March’s police killing of Miguel Estrella

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Josh Landes
/
WAMC

Protests over the March 25th police killing of a Pittsfield, Massachusetts man are now focusing on the incident’s chief investigator.

On Tuesday, a small group of demonstrators gathered on North Street in downtown Pittsfield to affix signs onto the fence outside the office of Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington. The DA is tasked with investigating the death of Miguel Estrella, a 22-year-old man who died after a Pittsfield police response to a mental health crisis ended in gunfire. Harrington says the investigation could take up to six months.

The signs’ messages ranged from “$11 million dollars for killer cops and scraps for our community” to “Fire the murderer now, invest in Pittsfield, end police brutality.”

“It’s a demonstration by a group of leftwing organizers and activists around Berkshire County. We’re very frustrated to see that police brutality is occurring here, but it's not really a surprise. It has a precedent. We don’t really expect this to change anything, we just want to get people mobilized and feel like they should get outside and say something and network with people to potentially actually change things," said Wes Blackwell. “The two main points of this this event is to further the demands, one put forth by invest in Pittsfield to reallocate $705,000 towards community projects as opposed to police. And we demand that the cop who killed Miguel be fired. Cops should not be receiving paid vacation while normal people get fired for back talking to their boss or more minor infractions, nowhere near equivalent of murdering someone.”

Pittsfield Police say the two officers who responded to the incident are on administrative leave.

The event followed the “Justice For Miguel” march on Sunday where Estrella’s family and around 200 demonstrators called for answers and justice. The protest outside of Harrington’s office Tuesday resonated with some longtime Pittsfield community members.

“This could have been my neighbor that shot Miguel. I have no idea. We have no idea. You know, there's two unknown murderers that are being paid by our city council, by our tax money, and we have the right to know as citizens of Pittsfield," said Patrick Doyle. “This is just more reason to radicalize people to disarm the police, defund the police. We don't need military police or armed police on our streets. I'm 40 years old. I've seen Pittsfield go down the tubes, and the police get more money every year. They don't change anything. They don't stop crime. They solve about 20% of the crime, I think, is the national statistic. So 80% of the time, they're getting paid for nothing. And they murder people. And then we don't know who they are, and they get paid leave. That’s not right.”

Doyle says he’s lived in Pittsfield his entire life and thinks the city’s priorities are misguided.

“They pooh-pooh methadone clinics, they pooh-pooh free college, anything that could uplift or, you know, free housing. I would prefer free housing [than] to see $11 million go to the police when they don't solve any other problems and they try to solve it with violence," Doyle told WAMC. "And anytime I've been in a situation and the police show up, they show up and they're immediately belligerent. They never show up and ask, how can I help? They always show up with violence.”

Doyle says he’d rather see city police officers walking the streets.

“Then they'd have a rapport with people, you know, and it's like, they purposely do not form rapport," he said. "We haven't even seen their excuse for why they murdered this man. They showed up twice, and they shot him within minutes. There was a white man that I went to high school with who had an armed standoff with the police in Cheshire and it lasted six hours, and he lived. So there's definitely two sets of policing. And a lot of it has to do with how angry the cops are when they show up and how quickly they just resort to violence.”

Later Tuesday, Harrington’s office issued a press release maintaining its commitment to carrying out a thorough and transparent investigation. Cautioning that such an investigation would typically take four to six months, the DA stressed that she is attempting to expedite the process.