On a Thursday night in May of 2017, the police converged on Cherith Brook looking for a “spotted suspect” near our house. It included about six officers with weapons drawn and circling the house. It was very dramatic and alarming. Although the officers did not find the person they were looking for, they arrested a shower friend of ours who receives his mail here and coincidentally, had prior warrants.
A similar situation played out on Thursday night, September 21, 2017. After our regular community meal in the café, Eric and Jodi were at the house playing cards and celebrating Ana’s birthday. At around 9pm, the police beat on the door. Eric stepped out the front door to where he was surrounded by three police officers on the porch and several police officers walking around the yard.
The police officers said they were looking for one of our shower friends, who they said was needed as a witness. Eric cooperated and answered all questions regarding this person. He cooperated by calmly stating that yes, we knew this person and that no, he did not live at this address.
As this was happening, Henri came home from high school robotics practice in his truck. As Henri pulled into the driveway, a cop emerged from behind the back fence. The cop approached the vehicle, pointing a flashlight and gun at Henri.
After watching from the window, Jodi came out on the porch. Things got loud and confusing. After demanding to know why the officer was detaining Henri and why they were including him in their investigation, Eric and Jodi tried to get a closer view.
Both were arrested without explanation. In the process, Jodi was slammed to the ground by an officer. The officers would not give them a clear reason for why they were being detained and arrested. They spent the next 24 hours in jail. Both were charged with two counts of resisting arrest.
We had some form of law enforcement here four times in six months in 2017. This includes officers coming into Jodi and Eric’s home through an unlocked back door without permission and searching their upstairs apartment. Not all the incidences are related, but half of them were negative. The cumulative experience has left an impression.
We are letting you know about this for a couple reasons. Besides the obvious need for support and care, this draws attention to the pattern of extreme police presence and aggressive response in our community. We know new officers are trained in the Northeast, making these situations more common and often more emotionally and physically charged than might be otherwise. We understand that this is not new to those in poor communities and communities of color.
We have lived here over 10 years and the intensity of it is new for us. It has caused us to worry more about our safety as well as the treatment of our friends and guests. As a community we have met with lawyers to advise us about our rights in these situations and to help us establish a script. We have also created new protocol for responding to different scenarios and in both public and personal spaces.
Eric and Jodi were not willing plead out and will be going to trial on Friday, March 2 at 1:30pm. Many of you have asked how you can help and/or offer support. We welcome anyone who could be present at court for support and witness that day.
Eric and Jodi also met with Internal Affairs to file a formal complaint on two of the incidents with the Police Department. It was a long morning of interviews that included the entire family.
We ask for special prayers for Jodi, as she has been alone in several of the recent experiences. She is still working through the experience of being slammed to the ground. Continue to pray for any in our neighborhood who have experienced this situation without the support, social collateral, and financial means to do something about it.
We have been thinking much lately of the words of French pastor, Andre Trocme, who wrote, “The duty of Christians is to resist the violence directed at our consciences with the weapons of the Spirit. We appeal to all our brothers and sisters in Christ to refuse to cooperate with violence … To love, to forgive, to show kindness to our enemies, that is our duty. But we must do our duty without conceding defeat, without servility, without cowardice."
Now that we are past the initial shock, our prayer is to move forward with this kind of conviction as we stand with resolve in God's work of hospitality.
Please continue to pray for us.
Cherith Brook Community