Thursday, November 15, 2012

Grassroots group continues defense of Matthew Stewart

Posted By on November 15, 2012, 6:15 PM

Jesse Fruhwirth was a reporter at City Weekly until he took to the streets, first as an organizer for Occupy Salt Lake and now as a member of Keep the Peace, a community group linked to the family of shooting suspect Matthew Stewart.---

The Stewart case has become something of a focal point for those concerned about the militarization of police departments and the increasing use of home-invasion-style tactics in the "war on drugs." According to Fruhwirth, Keep the Peace is very much attuned to that debate as part of a larger agenda.

Fruhwirth notes that while the community group is spearheaded by the Stewart family, it also draws on a small but dedicated supporter base and thousands more online. The focus of the group, rather than arguing for Stewart's innocence, is, he says, "to look at the context that created this problem, rather than extenuating circumstances."

The ex-reporter argues, "I don't think it entirely matters who shot first. Let's not forget Matthew is a victim ... but for [law enforcement's] actions, he would not be facing capital punishment."

Keep the Peace has pursued social media and public meetings to reach out to the public with its concerns. In May, the group defined an agenda that included working to disband the Weber-Morgan narcotic strike force, the agency that confronted Stewart and his 9mm.

Part of its plan is to go to the Ogden City Council to explore getting the Ogden Police Department to pull out of an agreement to supply officers to the task force.

Fruhwirth raises familiar issues in regard to the shooting. Why didn't officers sit on his house to gather intelligence on his strange hours—he worked at Walmart—so they knew when he would be home? Did they do a sufficient background check to identify that Stewart was a veteran? If, as has been argued, Stewart was ambushing the officers, why was he in only a bathrobe?

Ultimately, Fruhwirth wants to know, why aren't there more reasonable alternatives to pursuing "the war on drugs" than officers kicking down doors, arms drawn, and the tragic results for officers and suspects that can ensue?


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