Three African-American students almost ended up spending Thanksgiving in jail after being arrested last Wednesday because they were waiting for a school bus.
Daequon Carelock , Raliek Redd and Wan’Tauhjs Weathers all play basketball for Edison Tech in Rochester, New York. The day before Thanksgiving, they did not have school but were, at the instruction of their coach, Jacob Scott, waiting along with some other teammates for a bus to take them to a basketball scrimmage.
As WHEC reports, a police office told them to “disperse” because they were blocking the sidewalk and the entrance to a store. The teens responded that they were simply waiting for their bus.
Scott, who is also a high school guidance counselor, arrived just as the three were being put into handcuffs. He pleaded with the officer to let them go and said that he was supervising them. But, as Scott relates, the police officer then told him “‘If you don’t disperse, you’re going to get booked as well.’” Scott responded,
“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?’”
A sergeant next appeared. Another officer told Scott that “if he had a big enough caravan, he would take all of us downtown.”
The three teens’ families had to post bail of $200 each to ensure they could be home for Thanksgiving.
The day after the holiday, Carelock, Redd and Weathers had to appear in court. Rochester police have charged them with disorderly conduct and obstructing the sidewalk. While they were supposed to enter their plea on Friday, the judge has moved the date to December 11.
Family members and a member of the Rochester School Board showed up in court in support of the three students. Rochester City School Board Member Mary Adams stated that she was “very concerned about a pattern of young people being abused by police authority.” Crystal Chapman, the mother of one of the teens, emphasized that “they are not bad kids. They are awesome boys. They all have good grades in school. I don’t want them to be profiled at all.”
The students are just trying to figure out how waiting for a school bus could have turned into a huge legal brouhaha. “You’re just downtown minding your own business and the next thing you know, anything can happen,” Carelock comments. Weathers noted that they had made it clear to the police that they “weren’t catching a city bus, we were catching a yellow bus. [The police officer] didn’t care. He arrested us anyways.”
Saying that the students’ arrest is a “catastrophe,” Scott reiterated that “these young men were doing nothing wrong… They did what they were supposed to do and yet they still get arrested.”
That’s exactly what is so frustrating about this case. The students were just doing as they had been directed — waiting on Main Street for a school bus — and yet they were identified by a police officer as doing something illegal and then arrested.
Adams is calling for the district attorney to intercede and investigate “these kinds of matters” involving racial profiling; she is also requesting that the charges against Carelock, Redd and Weathers be dropped. Waiting for a school bus should not lead to anyone’s arrest.
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