USA TODAY International Edition
When it comes to Delaware State team on bus stop, believe them over officers
There are two words you need to focus on when examining the disgraceful, ugly and possibly racially motivated stopping of a bus containing the mostly Black Delaware State lacrosse team as they traveled through Liberty County, Georgia.
Those two words are: Believe them. Believe the players, believe the coaches, believe what they say.
Believe Patrick Campanelli, a civil rights lawyer and the father of one of the players, Emily Campanelli. She phoned her father, who lives in suburban Chicago, after the bus was stopped on April 20 by deputies who were shadowed by drug sniffing dogs.
“I’ve been a criminal defense lawyer for a real long time and I knew exactly what the officer was doing,” Campanelli told the Delaware News Journal. “He was trying to force statements out of people.”
“Would they do this if this was a Notre Dame bus?” Campanelli said. “Would a state trooper ever think of going on and trying to accuse people without an inkling of evidentiary support?” The answer is no.
Believe the players when they say their luggage was searched, and the police say it wasn’t, despite bodycam footage showing it was. Believe them when they say they were stopped because they’re a mostly Black team, because racial profiling is notoriously relentless, and Black people are always told these things are a figment of our imagination, despite it being a large part of our lives.
Believe it when the players, and many other people of color, across the nation, say they are stopped for false pretenses, like an air freshener hanging on the rearview mirror, or the ol’ busted taillight, when we know we’re being stopped solely because of the color of our skin.
Believe the facts that say Black drivers are stopped more than white ones.
“Simply stopping a bus filled with African Americans and subjecting them to that ( search) raises grave civil rights concerns,” said Gerald
Griggs, president of Georgia’s state NAACP chapter and a prominent Atlanta- area attorney and activist, to the Delaware News Journal.
“We’ve had many of these incidents in which passengers and vehicles have been stopped under the pretext of some type of traffic violation and then subjected to prolonged searches on the side of the road,” Griggs said.
Believe the players when they say police overreacted. Believe Black people when we say that happens all the time ... because it does.
Believe the data that shows Black people are killed more than any other race during traffic stops. A Washington Post database of police shootings from 2015 showed that more than 100 people were shot and killed that year by police following a traffic stop. About one- third were Black. That made “the roadside interaction one of the most common precursors to a fatal police shooting of a Black person in 2015.”
Believe me, facts like this were on the minds of many on that bus.
And believe everything the coach of the lacrosse team, Pamella Jenkins, says here:
“The infuriating thing was the assumption of guilt on their ( deputies’) behalf,” Jenkins said. “That was what made me so upset because I trust my girls.”
“One of my student- athletes asked them, ‘ How did we go from a routine traffic stop to narcotics- sniffing dogs going through our belongings?’ ” Jenkins added. “The police officer said that on this stretch of highway there are a lot of buses that are smuggling people and narcotics and they have to be diligent.”
Believe it when I say sometimes law enforcement is more “diligent” with some people than others.
Anyone cynical about the motives of police in this instance, and others, have a right to that cynicism because so many times, across so many states, across so many generations, that cynicism is proved to be warranted.
Like the time two years ago when police described the detaining of a man who appeared to be “suffering medical distress.”
“Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.” That man was George Floyd.
So, when it comes to what those players and coaches on that bus are saying, remember: