Socialists and anti-police activists spoke out against the use of armed police officers at the Central Library in San Antonio, Texas, in order to counteract a dramatic increase in attacks by homeless people.
San Antonio Public Library Director Ramiro Salazar told the
San Antonio Report in December that the library had been able to get by without a police presence but that increased attacks led to a new pilot program to provide extra security.
Salazar said there were 18 incidents of assault at the library, including one in which a patron kicked a staff member in the face at the downtown library.
“There is a trend up of assaults at the Central Library,” said assistant library director Kathy Donellan to the San Antonio Public Library Board of Trustees.
“By allowing police in these spaces, we’re adding … quite literal violence to these spaces.”
Officials instituted a pilot program where an armed police officer would walk around the San Antonio Central Library for about ten hours a day.
Socialists and other community members were outraged and expressed their fury at a board meeting in December.
“The library is one of the last truly public and free spaces where people have access to a plethora of resources,” Ruby Jimenez, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, told the board.
“By allowing police in these spaces, we’re adding a level of needless intimidation and quite literal violence to these spaces.”
Anti-police activists also said that the presence of an armed and uniformed police officer could cause people from marginalized communities to be intimated.
“You are going to continue to lose community partners and community members and library patrons if you continue to have armed officers here, which will affect the longevity and funding of the San Antonio Public Library system,” said police reform activist Ananda Tomas, the founder of ACT 4 SA.
Jimenez went on to tell the board that her group preferred a social worker trained in de-escalation tactics instead of a police officer.
“I could not live with my conscience if something more serious happened.”
Salazar told the San Antonio Report that he didn’t feel right leaving the library employees defenseless.
“We hesitated, but I felt I needed to do something more to protect our employees. I could not live with my conscience if something more serious happened.”
He also explained how library officials were to measure whether the program worked.
“You don’t make decisions by assumptions,” said Salazar. “You make decisions by looking at best practices and testing some ideas. And that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Here’s more about library violence:
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