Police officers arrested three Black teens as they were standing outside a store in downtown Rochester, N.Y., on Nov. 27. Their “crime”? Waiting for a school bus.
The three youths — Raliek Redd, 16; Deaquon Carelock, 16; and Wan’Tauhjs Weathers, 17 — are star athletes at Edison Tech High School and were waiting for a yellow school bus to pick them up for to a basketball game when they were spotted by an officer.
Police officers arrested and charged the three with disorderly conduct and “obstruction,” even after they explained why they were waiting on the sidewalk.
“We tried to tell them that we were waiting for the bus,” Weathers said. “We weren’t catching a city bus, we were catching a yellow bus. He didn’t care. He arrested us anyways.” (WHEC TV, Nov. 29)
The school bus showed up, with their teammates and coach, just as the players were being placed in handcuffs. Coach Jacob Scott, who is African American, talked with the officers, but they still refused to release the youths.
Scott, who also serves as a district guidance counselor, says the police officers also threatened to arrest him if he didn’t leave the scene, and were even joking around about arresting the teens.
“[The police officer] goes on to say, ‘If you don’t disperse, you’re going to get booked as well,’” Scott said. “I said, ‘Sir, I’m the adult. I’m their varsity basketball coach. How can you book me? What am I doing wrong? Matter of fact, what are these guys doing wrong?’ One of the police officers actually told me, if he had a big enough caravan, he would take all of us downtown.
“It’s a catastrophe,” Scott continued. “These young men were doing nothing wrong, nothing wrong. They did exactly what they were supposed to do and still they get arrested. I’m speaking to the officers with dignity … and still and yet — they see me get treated like nothing.” (The New Civil Rights Movement, Dec. 2)
The three teens were forced to pay $200 in bail before they could be released.
Starting with social media, the case quickly aroused vociferous resistance locally, and spread to national coverage by such news outlets as MSNBC and USA Today.
“I think [the officers] see a group of young black men and kind of stereotyped them for loitering, looking for trouble,” Tynicia Weathers, a parent to one of the students, stated. (Rochester Homepage, Nov 29)
Mary Adams, a local activist who was recently elected to the Rochester city school board as an anti-establishment candidate, was blunt in her assessment of the case.
“I’m very concerned about a pattern of young people, especially people of color, being abused by police authority,” Adams told WHEC TV news. “To me, this seems like a really clear case, part of a pattern.” (Nov 29)
Indeed, the Rochester Police Department has a bad record when it comes to harassing people of color on the streets. Just last May, Benny Warr, a disabled Black man, was assaulted by police who tipped over his motorized wheelchair, beat him, maced him and placed him under arrest. In a case reminiscent to that of the student athletes, he was charged with refusing to move from the bus stop where he was waiting all alone for a city bus.
On Dec. 3, Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley dismissed all the charges against the three student athletes and issued a brief statement that said: “After reviewing the facts associated with these arrests, we have decided to dismiss the charges in the interest of justice.” (WXXI TV, Dec. 3)
Doorley failed to mention the fact that the charges were completely unfounded to begin with, nor did she mention the firestorm of resistance and publicity that led to her decision.
Most significantly, there was no acknowledgement of the twin scourges of racism and police brutality that oppress people in Rochester and around the country.