by: Marceline Donaldson
That African American family is mine. The harassment, demeaning, threats and more happened on Tuesday March 3, 2020 in my home. Your home is supposed to be sacred, but was violated on that Tuesday morning in the most horrific ways.
On Tuesday morning, the door bell rang about 10:30am. When I went to open the door there were some 8 policemen (all male, all white) and six or more EMT’s also all white and all male. They were standing on the porch and said they had a “warrant” – a Section 12 order to take my husband out of the home and bring him to Mount Auburn Hospital because he was not safe in his home and they went into so much more.
It was unbelievable. 2020 in the United States with a Constitution and other protections, piled into my home were all of these white males in uniforms which traditionally destroy, harass, kill, maim African Americans.
The last time I felt so terrified was in New Orleans walking on Canal Street on my way to school as a high school student when a man grabbed my hair – which at the time was close to my waistline – and using a cutting instrument he had in his hands he cut it off quite short, nearly breaking my neck in the process. A policeman was standing nearby and instead of responding to my cries, he turned his back and walked away – having seen clearly what happened to me. And now, here I was in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2020 experiencing something very similar only they were after my African American husband.
When I looked out the door there were police cars all over the street, an ambulance, policemen guarding the entry to the house, on the porch and in the house.
When I asked why he was being sent to Mount Auburn Hospital when he had been a patient at Mass General, no one had any answers.
What happened that they felt they had the right? My husband was discharged from Massachusetts General Hospital and sent to Sherrill House for rehab after surgery. When I went to visit him at Sherrill House on Sunday everything seemed fine and I was not unhappy that he was there because as an Episcopal Priest I thought Sherrill House would be a good place for his rehab. It was not my idea to send him to Sherrill House, it was one of the people at the hospital who made the suggestion. I was more interested in him going to Spaulding in Charlestown, but I was told the place which had a bed for him was Sherrill House. With his Episcopal background and my own, I was open to him going there. Once we arrived at Sherrill House I discovered why most of the hospitals I had seen and visited and the related medical places were all white with blacks providing the cleaning and other upkeep services. There is a black and a separate white apartheid system in the Cambridge/Boston area for those who need medical services. Sherrill House was mostly black – African Americans, Caribbeans, etc. The patients were also mostly minority. So that visit to Sherrill House cleared up what I did not understand. Separatism bordering on apartheid is what I was witnessing.
On Monday, when I returned to spend time with my husband I was not allowed to see him. Why? Sherrill House was being quarantined because there were three or four patients with the flu on the second floor where he was staying and that second floor was quarantined to keep the flu from moving further out into the society.
I was unhappy, upset, confused and didn’t understand any of what I was being told. My attention was on what would happen to my husband in a place with three or four people with the flu on the same floor with windows not open and lots of ways the flu could spread to those in the facility – the healthy and those there to become healthier. My husband was not there to come down with the flu, especially with all of the coronavirus possibilities going around. I asked what kind of flu – no one had an answer.
I spent time in the lobby talking to people and the receptionist about what this was about – discovered it was not a first for such to happen at Sherrill House, it had been under quarantine just months prior. My decision was, as my husband’s health proxy, to take him out of Sherrill House. I did not feel he should be exposed to the flu and have to deal with that as well as his recovery. People were going into Sherrill House if they were on the first floor or visiting someone on the first floor. They were going to visit family and/or friends on the third and fourth floors, but the second floor, where my husband was, it was quarantined – no one knew how long this would last nor the extent of what would happen to those on the second floor.
I checked my husband out of Sherrill House that Monday afternoon and we went home – away from an active flu spot exposing him 24 hours a day. I hope you would have done the same thing – if you loved and were concerned about your family. I had not read the reviews of Sherrill House on the internet before Robert went there. The Episcopal connection made me think it would be a great place for him to be. When I read those reviews I was appalled – most of the reviews were not only bad, but talked about the hurt that had unnecessarily happened to patients at Sherrill House, including a death under difficult and what was characterized as negligent circumstances.
Robert was very happy to be home. He was thriving. On Monday, we walked to the post office and enjoyed the rest of the day going places and doing things he enjoyed.
On Tuesday morning all hell broke loose. All of the white policemen and white EMT’s, some 12 to 14 people arrived to in affect, arrest him and take him to a place for people who were seriously alcoholic and had been sent against their will – sectioned because their alcoholism was a danger to them and the society; who had a drug habit on the same level; was a danger to themselves because they were ‘committed’ and sectioned’ because they were a suicide threat; and because they had other mental illnesses which caused them to be forcibly picked up and held in a large emergency room full of security people walking around to make sure the people in that room were ‘safe’. There were a couple ‘runners’ while we were there – people who were constrained and had somehow gotten loose and were chased and returned to an examining room in constraints. That is normaly what this sectioning “warrant” is used for – not the way it was used with Robert.
This ‘arrest’ of my husband was ordered by Cambridge/Somerville Elder Services by a woman who should not have been able to sign such a sectioning order and the Court should have been involved if this were really such a serious threat.. She is a psychologist and none of my husbands reasons for having been in the hospital had to do with psychiatric or psychological reasons. She filled out the forms necessary and noted that she had neither seen, nor examined the patient – she had not seen nor been in his home to see its condition to know whether or not it was ‘safe’ although she declared it unsafe. She was backed by two young women who lied to help her take out this section 12 order. They claimed prescriptions had been sent for Robert to CVS. She claimed that I had been notified by CVS but refused to pick up the prescriptions. When a friend of mine who accompanied us to the hospital and stayed most of the evening as a support checked with CVS all around Cambridge and/or reasonably close to where we live, there were no such prescriptions at CVS waiting for Robert.
We spent 14 hours under this sectioning order which were a strain on my husband and put him under unbelievable stress. No one with any real concern for him or his health would have done this. A call to me would have been in order to attempt to understand and clear up any concerns she may have had. That is what usually happens with people who use these Section 12’s, but she simply filled out the form and sent it to the police for their action. A cruel slam against an African American who racism says does not deserve such consideration.
I insisted that, if Robert had to go, it would be to Mass General instead of Mount Auburn Hospital because it was clear to me there could have been political friendships going on that could make this worse. I wanted to know why the police had been told to take him to Mount Auburn where he had no history and no prior visits.
After their examination, Mass General lifted the sectioning and discharged my husband.
It is time to change this ability of people clearly not qualified to do such to be able to use this sectioning to exercise their racism and other bigotry and possibly even personal vendettas. It was the meanest thing I have seen done to another human being in a very long time. What could have happened with all the white policemen and the circus environment created outside my house with neighbors and others stopping to see what was happening was clearly the possibility of physical harm, extreme emotional and mental stress and a display of racially based violence.
It is clear this would not have happened to a white family in the Harvard Square neighborhood and the police and all the others were able to do what they did because they were dealing with an African American family. In that Brattle Street neighborhood this does not happen. The whites who live there are given much more respect, privacy, and more.
I am talking to attorneys and encourage any attorneys who would like to be involved in this, please don’t hesitate to call and/or visit. This needs to be changed – there should be the necessity of a Court being involved when someone’s freedom is being taken away with what is characterized as a “warrant’; civil rights people need to be involved when this happens to an African American or any other minority family and so much more. Your feedback is requested.
Whether it has relevance or not I do not know, but we published a Bettina Network Blog on Tuesday morning at 5am entitled ‘Hospitals and Bigotry – Institutional Racism, alive and well!’. The police arrived at approximately 10:30am with their section 12
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