Manchester residents concerned about 'police militarization' rally outside city hall
MANCHESTER - Concerned residents gathered outside Manchester City Hall on Tuesday evening to protest what they describe as police militarization.
The term, according to a description for the event, describes the police’s use of military tactics and military-grade equipment when responding to crime scenes across the city, including shootings.
The protest was organized on Facebook through an event created by Carla Gericke, who was compelled to bring Manchester residents like herself together to get answers from police, specifically regarding the police manhunt in May that put the entire west side of the city in a “shelter in place” situation.
Gericke recalled that day, not being able to leave her home, having police vehicles blocking her street, and watching armed police officers telling residents like herself to stay inside as they searched for their suspect.
Residents like Gericke say the response was extreme.
“I just think that was a little over the top and hopefully we’ll draw some light to it, and maybe things will be handled a little bit differently in the future,” said William Kostric.
Protestors didn’t only question police actions. They also offered other ways officials could respond to crime scenes, especially in the form of community policing.
“When people are in the community and they’re committed to the safety of their fellow friends and family and themselves, I think that’s when we have a much more robust policing going on,” West Side resident Randy Clemens said at the protest.
Manchester police Chief Nick Willard said in a statement he stands by the department's actions.
"I respect the views of others, to include those that have a political ideology contrary to the value of law enforcement in our society," he said in a statement released on Twitter. "I stand by the actions of the Manchester Police Department and applaud the courageous and professional manner in which Manchester officers conduct themselves."
Gericke spoke at the protest and encouraged the attendees to attend the Manchester City Council meeting later and testify about their concerns and start a conversation with police about what’s expected and what to expect in the future.
“Let’s actually talk about these issues,” Gericke said. “This is the future of New Hampshire, and if something can happen where we have a five-hour lockdown and no one talks about it, that doesn’t say much for the future of New Hampshire and freedoms that we have here.”