Friday, January 11, 2008

Black Armband

Brent Martin.

Do you know the name?

I didn't. And that fact makes me mad. Really mad. Let me tell you what I now know about Brent Martin. He was a gentle man with an intellectual disability, not long past his 23rd birthday. He was out in the community, perhaps on his way home, perhaps on his way out, I don't know, all I know is that he was causing no one no harm. He was noticed ... no strike that ... his disability was noticed by three other young men, 21, 17 and 16. The 17 year old bet the 16 year old 5 pounds that he couldn't take Brent down with a single punch. Seems the boy gang had been taking boxing lessons, and suddenly there was a chance for target practice.

The autopsy showed that Brent didn't fight back, that he was brutally beaten and then left to die, half naked, on the side of the road. Struck 18 times in the head, there was little left for his body to do but shut down and die.

Two of the his attackers, 21 and 16, have admitted to the attack. One is fighting it in the courts, even as we speak, and is quoted as saying something like, "I'm not going down for a muppet."

Brent Martin is dead.

Because he had an intellectual disability.

And I didn't know. Never heard a report, never had it come up in conversation at work, never had any idea. I found out because I write for OUCH the Britsh disability site and they had a small notice where I was able to click to get the larger story. And there it was.

Do you remember when Matthew Shephard was killed by a couple of guys in Wyoming, beaten and left to die in the middle of the prairie? I do. I remember the protest from the gay community, I remember the protest of all right thinking people. I remember the anger about how someone so young could be killed in such a cruel manner, just because he was gay, he was different. That protest spoke loudly. It said, 'We value our own, we will face you down."

Was there a single protest of disabled people outside the courtroom where they discuss Brent Martin's murder? His beating death. His slaughter. I don't know, maybe there was. Well I am going to protest. I am going to talk to people about Brent Martin.

So next week, all week, I'm going to wear a black armband. I want a week of people asking me what I'm in mourning for. And I'm going to tell them.

I'm going to tell them about Brent Martin.

I'm going to tell them that I oppose violence against people with disabilities.

I'm going to tell them that the disability communty mourns its own.

I'm going to tell them that disphobia (prejuducie against disability) is as unacceptable as racism, sexism and homophobia.

It's only one week.

It's only one arm band.

But I feel I must do something.

If you want to join me for next week, let me know. If you have other ideas for how we can protest let me know.

No more silence.

No more letting them think that we don't care when one of our own is beaten to death and left to die on the side of the street.

We couldn't be with Brent Martin as he lay they dying, but we can be with him now.

Please join.


Brent Martin is dead.


Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Gay people were brutually murdered for YEARS, on the basis of their sexual orientation, before Matthew Shepard's case finally hit not just the gay newspapers but also the mainstream media. I remember bing surprised that people were actually paying attention this time, because what was done to Matthew Shepard was not really that different from the many cases like it that I was always reading about in the Washington Blade (a newspaper for the GLBT community of the Washington DC metropolitan area). And I was even more surprised that this time, hetreosexual people bothered to care enough to do candlelight vigils and so forth.

But it was the gay community that was paying attention to these kinds of crimes before straight people ever noticed that these kinds of hate crimes even existed. I think we're basically in a similar early stage here where the disability community has to start noticing first and making noise about it, at least among ourselves, before others will start to take notice.

Anonymous said...

This all happened last August!

I am so angry right now!

Angry at our media who deemed this brutal murder insignificant.

Angry at those boys who couldn't see the value of Brent's life.

Angry that I didn't know this earlier.

Thank you Dave.

I am with you. I will be wearing a black arm band.

I will put RIP Brent Martin in my "status" message on Facebook, MSN and AIM.

I will write about it on my blog.

I will stand up with you to make sure people know THIS IS NOT OK!

I will help atand up for one of our own.

Thank you.


Ashley's Mom said...

I too will blog about this and will join you in wearing a black armband.

Anonymous said...

Brent Martin. This poor boy. This story gave me chills and I had never even heard about him before, even though i pride myself on keeping up to date on the world news, i never once recall hearing this story. Brent Martin. Ignored. Beaten. Left to die. Unfortunalty there are others out there who go through the same every day. In the evenings I watch commercials on animals being abused. Where are the commercials for the children being abused, the women, the minorities, gay people, disabled people. And now another one is dead. Brent Martin. A name I never knew before, a person I probably would have never met, is now a name I will never forget. I will mourn next week, and now, with you.

Anonymous said...

I, too, would like to wear the black armband for Brent Martin. I will link to your post in my blog today.

The brutal slaying of Brent Martin is haunting, and I wonder why we didn't hear anything about this tragedy.

On a very personal level, this type of horrendous act scares me very much. It makes me want to protect my son even more -- to keep my arms tightly wound around him for eternity.

If we can bring awareness to this type of brutal violence, and the value of life being destroyed, perhaps there will be a day when all people will be safe.

Unknown said...

Some days ago on one of the Belgian channels on TV I saw a reconstruction of the theft of a handbag. A young woman was riding in her electric wheelchair along a quiet narrow road beside a field.
Some guy on a motorbike passed, and he simply snatched her handbag and drove off!!
With this reconstruction, the police hopes that anybody has seen something and could witness...
This kind of "easy crime" is indeed very scary for disabled people. They lack the physical strength to defend themselves, so they should always be protected by someone who accompanies them, especially when they want to walk in the open air.

Tammy and Parker said...

I don't have the way of speaking directly to someone's heart that you do. Most of the time I'm too tired to remember when to use a coma or if a semi-colon is required.

But I did link to your site from Parker's blog today and shared a bit of my heart with those that read his blog.

Sometimes it feels as though we are so close, and then things like this happen to remind us how far we have to go.

Adams Family! said...

This story makes me sick on at least two different levels:

a. these kids thought that it was somehow okay to do this to someone who could not fight back


b. for the "eyewitnesses" who must have seen this happen for them to be named as such and did nothing to stop it

As a mother of a child with a disability, I will fight tooth and nail against the prejudices that still blatently exist in our society today. As hard as stories like this are to read, they need to be distributed wide and far as a "wake up" call to continute to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities. I thank you Dave for alerting me to this travesty and to Brent Martin and his family, my prayers are with you.

I truly hope that people read about this young man and feel angry enough to be spurred to some type of action because the current status of disability rights is a long way from where it needs to be...

Dave, I look forward to hearing you speak at the ARC of Maryland Conference coming up in April!

Anonymous said...

I don't have a black arm band or anything that I could use but I will light a candle - each day for the next week. In memory of Brent Martin.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

A sad web site about the murder of autistic children and adults; usually parents who murder autistic children get off more lightly than parents who murder non-autistic children:

All 4 My Gals said...

I can not even speak my heart right now. :(

theknapper said...

I will make an armband to wear in solidarity and light a candle.

Christina said...

That just makes me sick to my stomach! I am linking your blog and I am helping make sure people know I believe that IT'S NOT OK!!!!

Leslie said...

Thank you for this posting and your action. As the co-chair of the NCIL (National Council on Independent Living)Task Force on Violence and Abuse of People with Disabilities, I am going to pass this post on to the members and ask that they wear black armbands in solidarity. I will also ask that they pass this message on to everyone they know. Equal justice for all....

Anonymous said...

I didn't have black ribbon.
I found a bit of red ribbon and painted the edges black with a perminant marker and put the name Brent on it.
People have been asking and I have been telling.
Everyone is apalled and a few more have joined us in solidarity.
I was sharing the story with one of the wonderful independent men I support who has a developmental disability and when I asked him why he said "maybe they didn't like him"
I said "they didn't know him at all"
and he added
"some people are stupid, he must have been different and some people can't handle it"


Anonymous said...

It's not O.K.
It's not O.K
It's not O.K
Thanks Dave. You personally, have to constantly reinforce this in so many situations. Me too. I teach.Sometimes I have to go against what's taught at home. Often in fact. I've done it for 25 years. So has my partner.We have vowed that we'll go on and on doing it, educating, re-educating.I am with you on the black armband. It is definitely not O.K. It is appalling.

Naomi J. said...

I can't believe that the British media deemed this so insignificant. I had never heard about it until now. There's some campaigning going on here relating to disability hate crime - but I don't know how aware the British disabled community is of this story. It's good that you and others are trying to make people aware. I'll try and do something to help.

Karen Putz said...

Today, my heart is heavier just reading about Brent and what happened to him.

I will join you with a virtual black band and will be talking about this on Disaboom and linking here.

Shan said...

Dave, what I felt I could do,I did.

Tokah said...

I'm a day late, but better late then never. I wore, I told. Thank you for initiating this... this STAND. It needed to be done, and I appreciate your leadership by example.

Anonymous said...

I am also going to join. I feel that what happened to Brent Martin is the most disgusting, horrid, and unacceptable act I have ever heard of. The fact that he didn't fight back saddens me because I work with people that have various disabilities and all I could think was what if this happened to someone I support, would they fight back? To be honest, most of them I don't think would and that lead me to my next concern, who would wear a black armband for them? All I know for sure is that we need to stand up as a community and say "ENOUGH" just like you wanted to scream out. Maybe if enough of us yell that then someone will hear us and one day this kind of malicious abuse and hatred will STOP!!

S.L. said...

I've placed a black armband on my blog, along with a link to your site. Thank you for letting us all know about Brent Martin. Take care.

Eliza said...

Today, the killers were sentenced for Brent Martin's murder, They must serve 22, 18 and 15 years - see link below, which also reports that during the attack, done for a £5 bet, Brent apologised to his attackers. I'm upset, angry and don't know what to do to try to stop Brent's torture happening to someone else.;

Anonymous said...

I was bullied for a long time as a result of having severe ezcema as a child and I always considered myself some what of a victim. However after reading about Brett Martin, I consider myself so very fortunate. I hope his attackers rot in Hell and I am delighted that they are going to prison. Let 'Big Dave' and his gang show them what happens to people like that. I know violence does not solve things but let's not pretend that we wouldn't get some gratification knowing that they were getting 10 bells knocked out of them.

Anonymous said...

I like the black ones

Anonymous said...

Sadly, Matthew Shepard was murdered as a result of a drug deal gone terribly bad. The PR surrounding the murder left many details out and sadly, PC lies were put in their place.

Steve_0 said...

Odd. I was under the impression that "straight people" have been opposed to, and prosecuting murder for thousands of years.

Viagra Pharmacy said...

Violent against other human being its wrong, even if the person committed some awful crime, we cant judge a person just because.

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Anonymous said...

Hello Dave,
I just wanted to tell you this. There are people like you, like me, like us. We are Everywhere, trying to put down this absurd, raging fire of prejudice. Never give into it. Ever. We all can change this, in our own ways. Tomorrow I'm doing something similar. A black and purple band around my arm. Questions will be asked and dutifully answered. Knowledge and spoken wisdom can accomplish so much in our world. Spread Sophia, spread wisdom, like a trickle, then a river, then a tide of waves to put out the fire.

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