Police actions shameful

By Patrick Brown

It’s about time The Daily Illini started addressing this issue (“Police deny allegations of racism,” Monday, March 10). It’s well known in this town that the Champaign-Urbana police are the kind of reactionary, hot-headed, abusive cops that would react to an overcrowded event with their batons drawn and offensive language spewed.

We’ve all heard firsthand and secondhand stories of people getting pulled over for DWBs – Driving While Black – and those of us who pay attention see it firsthand anytime there is an event with a large black attendance. Those of you who weren’t in town for the summer missed the June shooting of a Champaign police officer near West Side Park. That same week, Clybourne had something going on that drew a majority-black crowd and the police decided to raid it.

Like the recent events in the hotel, the decision to raid Clybourne was not in itself racist, though a raid during the summer is a little atypical. What was odd – and beyond that, unjustified and racist – was that, at my count, there were 23 Champaign, Urbana and campus police cars there, with more arriving. What justified this many cruisers? I ran into a (black) friend who had been in Clybourne and asked if there had been a fight or some other incident. He said, “No, just a lot of black people in the club.”

Several of the police just stood outside the club with their hands on their hips, watching the exiting Clybourne patrons like they were inmates rather than citizens, and the police their wardens, rather than their protectors.

The absurd amount of police cruisers that showed up at Sixth and Green that night was surely a symptom of a jittery police force reacting to the shooting of earlier that week. But is this professional? And in what way were that night’s young club-goers related to the 46-year-old schizophrenic homeless man who committed the shooting? They weren’t. They just happened to be black and at a club when the cops were testy.

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    This isn’t an isolated example. My freshman year (and maybe still), The Canopy Club used to have a weeknight event that drew large black crowds. As I have a friend who lived in Busey-Evans at the time and a tendency to stay up too late on weekdays, I often observed the police showing up like clockwork to intimidate the patrons as the bar closed. This incident and the others like it are despicable; the C-U police routinely make me ashamed to be from this area.

    Patrick Brown

    Junior in LAS