PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION IN MEMORY OF SAMUEL SEE
AGAINST THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIS DEATH IN POLICE CUSTODY
New Haven City Hall at Amistad Memorial, 165 Church Street
12:00pm, Tuesday December 10
On November 25, Samuel See, an Assistant Professor of English at Yale University, was arrested by police in his home. His sister had called the police to intervene in a domestic dispute with his estranged husband, who had come to Sam’s residence two hours earlier. Protective orders had been previously imposed against both parties in order to separate them on the basis of previous disputes. Sam was arrested in his home for violating the protective order, treated for a cut above his eye at the hospital, and then taken to lock-up. He was found dead in the jail cell the following morning.
News of Sam’s death was not released by the police for three days—a highly uncommon delay they now characterize as an “oversight.” The police have also claimed that Sam suffered the cut above his eye when he and the police “fell down” as he was being arrested—at best a dubious characterization that casts serious doubt upon the credibility of the information the police have and will continue to release.
The cause of Sam’s death has not been officially determined, and his death is “under investigation” by the police. Doubtless the causes of his death are complex and socially contextual. There are and will continue to be many unanswered questions about the circumstances he found himself in over the hours before he died. But an internal investigation into his death, when much of what needs investigation is the role of police misconduct and negligence, is a woefully inadequate means of addressing the tragedy, and the politics, of his death in police custody.
A death in jail is a political death. This is especially the case when it is the death of a gay man, given the structural and historical homophobia of policing, incarceration, and the legal system in the United States. It is also especially the case when we know that Sam was dealing with mental health issues bearing upon the volatility of his relationship and the emotional instability he reportedly exhibited at the time of his arrest. There are thus serious and urgent grounds for publicly demonstrating against both the handling of Sam’s arrest and incarceration, and against the parameters of the current investigation concerning his death.
The police arrived at Sam’s house on the basis of a call to help him. If we agree that it is absolutely necessary for there be other means of responding to such calls than by throwing someone struggling with mental and physical health problems into jail, then we need to publicly and collectively insist upon the urgency of making those other means available, and we need to insist upon the egregious wrong of what the police did in this case. Whatever physical causes Sam died of, the carelessness and the structural (or direct) violence of the police response certainly exacerbated those causes and contributed to his death.
For these reasons, there will be a public demonstration against the circumstances of Sam’s death and the handling of its investigation on Tuesday December 10, at 12:00pm, in New Haven. The demonstration will gather at City Hall at 165 Church Street, at the Amistad Memorial. It will march from there through the Yale Campus, through downtown, to Police Headquarters.We call upon everyone concerned about the circumstances of Samuel See’s death to join the demonstration. We understand that the sources of such concern are multiple, complex, and perhaps ambiguous. We are open to these complexities and ambiguities, and we view this demonstration as an important means to make them manifest. We hope you will agree that we must give public voice, collectively, to our concern and indignation at the circumstances surrounding the death of our friend, colleague, and member of our community.
For further information about this demonstration, contact Nathan Brown (a former colleague of Sam’s at UCLA) at firstname.lastname@example.org