It is still heartbreaking that Phyllis Harmon is no longer with us. Enough Is Enough stopped meeting in person when the pandemic started. The agenda from our last meeting is still on the whiteboard at the Flying Squirrel. Phyllis’ name is on it. At the time we were probably talking about visiting Phyllis in the hospital where she was being treated for lung cancer. After following Phyllis’ case for years, sitting with her in court, and having her as a part of our organization and lives, her absence is hard to accept.
It is impossible to separate Phyllis’ premature death in March 2020 from the police brutality she experienced in 2013 and the chronic pain and stress that followed her for 7 long years as she fought for justice for herself and others. Justice for Phyllis was consistently denied by City Council, the Mayor, RPD, and the Federal Court. Our city willfully failed our community and Phyllis when they did nothing after two RPD officers, Brian Marone and Joseph Reidy, beat Phyllis in her own home so bad that she required metal screws in her neck. City Council member Willie Lightfoot refused to continue to meet with Phyllis and failed to launch an independent investigation in her case; instead, he cruelly left her case to be investigated by the absurdly unjust RPD internal review system, by officers in the same force as Phyllis’ two abusers. But Phyllis never relented.
The justice denied her only made her a stronger defender of others. Phyllis and her fiancé Curtis attended in solidarity every court appearance that Benny Warr had during his civil case against RPD. Her voice was the rallying cry during the struggle for the PAB. She spoke about her experience at press conferences. Her speeches to City Council members were powerful occasions, full of laughs, tears, and sharp words against those in power. Her empathy and passion sustained and emboldened those around her. Phyllis’ voice would have been just as moving if she survived to speak at the protests that started in May after the death of George Floyd. It is beyond sad she did not get to join us in the streets again.
It is our duty to keep alive Phyllis’ strength, resilience, generosity, and love as we continue her fight and the collective fight against our racist police system. She would have never stopped. We can’t either.
Rest in power, Phyllis Harmon.