Today is March 1 – Disability Day of Mourning. In 2018 and 2019, I worked on the Resolutions declaring March 1 Disability Day of Mourning in Philadelphia. The Resolutions passed unanimously in city council every time they went to vote. Many Thanks go to the City Councilmembers whom sponsored and voted.
Disability Day of Mourning was started in 2012, when Zoe Gross, of the Autism Self Advocacy Network, read about George Hodgins. George was a 22-year-old California man who had autism and whose mother shot and killed him. The murder itself alarmed Gross, but so did the media coverage. In the seven years since she began her work seems to have had an impact, but we still have a long way to go.
The tragic murders of John Crowell, at the hands of his mother, and Helen Miller, at the hands of her 14 year-old sister, have coverage that do not list the disabilities of the victims of the crimes as contributing factors to their deaths. On the other hand, in the UK the murder of Dylan Freedman, at the hands of his mother, has revealed the stigma Disability Day of Mourning is looking to correct is still unfortunately alive and well.
The Crown Prosecution Service official speaking on the case, Kristen Katsouris, said, “Olga Freeman had loved and cared for Dylan for many years, but the strain and pressures of her son’s severe and complex special needs had built up and that, combined with her impaired mental health, led to heart-breaking consequences.”
The ‘strain and pressure of her son’s sever and complex special needs’ should not be considered some kind of mitigating circumstance. Especially for the CPS, whose job it is to prosecute crime. Unfortunately, they seem to think it perfectly reasonable to suggest that caring for someone with a disability will drive someone to murder. So much for their commitment to equity and inclusion.
This year I will be taking a moment to listen to Mozart’s Requiem and thinking of all of those taken from us. The Autism Advocacy Network houses an online memorial here. As I read the names and pray for those gone and those that care for them who remain, I will remember the words from the Requiem Mass: “Grant them eternal rest, Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them.”
Some photos from Disability Day of Mourning 2019 at Philadelphia City Hall.
Many Thanks to the Disability Day of Mourning Resolution Sponsors over the years:
2018 Sponsors: Councilmember Taubenberger, Councilmember Squilla, Councilmember Parker, Councilmember Green, Councilmember Bass, Councilmember Greenlee, Councilmember Domb, Council President Clarke, Councilmember Jones, Councilmember Blackwell, Councilmember Oh, Councilmember Henon, Councilmember Johnson, Councilmember Reynolds Brown, Councilmember O’Neill, Councilmember Quiñones Sánchez
2019 Sponsors: Councilmember Taubenberger, Councilmember Green, Councilmember Parker, Councilmember Domb, Councilmember Greenlee, Councilmember Jones, Councilmember Reynolds Brown, Councilmember Squilla, Councilmember Quiñones Sánchez, Councilmember Henon, Councilmember O’Neill