“How many reports there have been in the last two to three years of police brutality in Jackson? None. Our kids have been brainwashed.”

This honor was bestowed upon the meddling “kids of Jackson” (aka progressives under 40) by conservative mega-donor Foster Friess.

The comment came at Aug. 17th’s pro-police rally outside Town Hall. Fueled by rumors from recently retired Jackson Police Chief Todd Smith and Jeff Brown of the Teton County Sheriff’s Auxiliary, the turnout was due to an ominous robocall that incorrectly claimed that the Town Council was going to defund police that day and that support was needed to stop this. The robocall was from Turning Point Action, a pro-Trump action group funded by Mr. Friess.

But there was nothing on that day’s Town Council agenda related to police, and the energy of the group had nowhere to go. Besides maligning the brainwashed kids, of course.

As a member of Act Now JH, I will accept Friess’ descriptor and would like to express my thanks to him. We do want to defund our police, but more on that later. As much as we may want to dig into the merits of someone like Friess, who is in the infamous Koch brothers’ million-dollar donor club, supports Islamaphobic organizations and makes comments such as “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees ...” we see discussions about individual actors as less important than the analysis of systems as a whole.

Where does our brainwashing come from? Systemic analysis, I suppose: The land of the free incarcerates 22% of the world’s prisoners, despite accounting for only 4% of the world’s population (No. 1 in the world in absolute and relative incarceration rates). Not to be outdone, the Equality State of Wyoming has a higher incarceration rate than the country as a whole. U.S. police also kill at a higher rate than any other wealthy country (Prison Policy Initiative).

Systemic racism reveals itself through the overrepresentation of minorities in prison. It is found in the brutality and killing of Black people by police, as well as the white supremacist vigilantes who get a pass from police.

Is the U.S. just more criminal than the rest of the world? Are our people just so dangerous that it warrants state violence at higher rates than any other wealthy country?

Simply, no. There are many underlying forces, but in simplistic terms it’s about the inevitable poverty that must exist under capitalism and criminalizing those at the bottom. Most often this involves using punitive justice to solve public health crises with substance abuse, mental health and lack of affordable housing, instead of looking at their root causes.

Teton County is the richest county in the richest country in the history of the world. However, we are not an anomaly, for our economic inequality is indicative of the nation at large. Our violence travels disguised as poverty, hunger and housing insecurity. Its harm is spread disproportionately on minoritized populations: 60% of our Hispanic population lacks health insurance.

Some say the killing of people at the hands of the police has nothing to do with Jackson.

We say violence takes many forms, and all injustices are interconnected through social, economic and political institutions.

As a group, Act Now JH wants local government to reinvest away from policing and into community services that materially better the human condition. This summer we stood before town and county officials numerous times, presented to the Rotary Breakfast Club, met with eight of 10 elected officials, did ride-alongs with police and published two reports about the need to redress injustice in Jackson.

Many people of good will see our logic but recommend toning down our “defund” messaging so as to not be so confrontational.

We lean on history, understanding that those who had the courage to clearly denounce slavery and segregation were seen as radicals inconsiderate of privileged folks’ fear of a world without these forces.

We remember that Dr. Martin Luther King’s critiques of racism, militarism and capitalism were seen as extreme ideas that made the majority of the country uncomfortable.

We are proud to do this work, standing on the shoulders of liberationists (mostly Black women) who faced dangers far beyond insults in the local paper. If the cognitive dissonance to challenge American exceptionalism is an indication of brainwashed children, then we will proudly carry that praise. At this controversial moment in history, we seek solace in our position and invite our community to join us in this tension:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Dr. King

Ivan Jimenez is a Jackson resident and member of Act Now JH. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

(5) comments

Peter Regan

Growing up just outside Newark, New Jersey in the late 1960s, my perspective is perhaps a little different than some. The violence we are seeing today in a very small number of cities is nothing like the horrendous violence we saw in every major city in 1968 after the killing of MLK and Bobby Kennedy. Any violence and rioting is unacceptable, but there is no reason to overstate what is happening today for political purposes. The issues that young people are protesting, especially undue police killing of and violence against black people, are the same as they were back then. It is so sad that more than 50 years later, America is still facing the racism of the late 60s and before. Young people today, protesting against police violence, are simply saying to all of us, including we in Jackson Hole who have had a different experience, that police must treat everyone equally no matter the color of their skin. It is inconceivable to me that anyone would disagree.

Pete Regan

Skyler Smith

Of course he's a member of "Act Now." The nerve to want to "defund" the police. What like of asinine idea is that??? Jackson Hole Police Department has never shot or killed anyone. But yes, let's defund them, let's follow in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA's shoes; it's working out great for them! I have a better idea! Why don't YOU move to a liberal city, that way it's a win-win for everyone. #defendpolice

Steve Ashurst

This excessive Liberal movement that's occurring around the nation has lost all the common sense values we've enjoyed for decades....the radical movement which has encouraged the violence in cities like Portland is a sad representation of the Democratic foundation of our country....there's no cause to criticize the the men and women that protect this county... they've done an excellent job and should be respected, not vilified by a very Liberal group that can't get their facts correct...I'm an independent and have respected both sides of our political isles...but actions taken by the left over the past 3+ years have lost my interest in supporting what used to be some good ideas on both sides....I sure hope this country comes to it's senses and again becomes something we can respect....

Richard Jones

Talk about brainwashing. This is a trip through the entire laundromat. Big claims, no facts. Give me just one documented incident in Jackson to support your contentions.

Don Frank

I would suggest that most every peace officer intents to keep the peace, protect and serve. AND yes some actors are aberrant or cruel requiring education or dismissal BUT our Town and County officers display great allegiance to peace keeping and few ( not no) lapses in judgement. To clarify the “ trigger” event for supporting our dedicated officers the town council did, in fact, verbally discuss reviewing a Police funding under Matters for Mayor and Council ( see meeting videos) but did not publish the item ahead of said meeting. Innocent (maybe) Disconcerting ( maybe). Yes our society has wealth and health and justice inequities nationwide AND Teton County is very wealthy. In the last twenty years we have had ZERO murders, ZERO police shooting events and ZERO serious cases of excessive force ( unless subduing violent drunks is suddenly anathema). I voted to equip and increase funding of emergency responders including Fire, EMS and advocate for FULL FUNDING of social services. These are not mutually exclusive but rather that are synchronous. ACTJH can legitimately inquire and learn what the unique demands are on our brave law officers who face danger, humans strife, violence and irrational behavior while we sleep peacefully. Can we train better, sensitize, illuminate and improve? Yes everyone can grow, expand skill sets and evolve. Should we “assume” that our first responders are intrinsically flawed. NO. That would uninformed, demeaning and prejudicial. To keep and equip our peace officers to safeguard a population that grows from 30 thousand in the off season to 65 thousand in summer and house them in a region where NO officers can afford Teton County homes takes funding. ACTJH may mean we’ll but demeaning this force, their leadership and ignoring their meritorious service over time is either uninformed, antagonistic or at best naive. Let’s improve our emergency services and believe in their best intentions.

Restructure societal woes at the ballot box. Meanwhile Please say a sincere Thank You to the men and women in all tiers is of public safety for keeping all of us safe.

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