Three teen boys waiting for a school bus in Rochester, N.Y., were arrested Wednesday, after police claimed they obstructed pedestrian traffic by standing on the sidewalk.
The 16 and 17-year-old boys were charged with disorderly conduct, a catch-all that is often used to criminalize conduct of the homeless, or to punish those who are perceived as simply uncooperative, including school children.
A police report obtained by WROC in Rochester said the students were obstructing “pedestrian traffic while standing on a public sidewalk…preventing free passage of citizens walking by and attempting to enter and exit a store…Your complainant gave several lawful clear and concise orders for the group to disperse and leave the area without compliance.”
The boys told police they were waiting for a school bus to take them to a scrimmage basketball game, and when their coach arrived he told police they were doing exactly what they were supposed to. But rather than let the boys go as coach Jacob Scott asked, police threatened to arrest Scott also.
“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?’,” said Scott, who is also a guidance counselor at the boys’ school.
All three boys and their coach were African American. Scott expressed distress that 17 other team members witnessed this police disrespect for both him and the arrested boys:
There were 17 other guys who had to witness three of their teammates get arrested for doing what? Waiting for the bus for their scrimmage. I mean they’re taking their time out. I mean it’s a holiday. … These guys don’t even have to participate in extracurricular sports in the cold, waiting for the bus, and they get arrested, and their teammates now see them, like, wow. […]
As a professional, I am speaking to the officers with dignity — ‘yes sir.’ And still and yet, they see me get treated like nothing. I mean I teach resiliency and you know, abiding by the rules. But it’s very tough, especially when someone is doing the right thing, and then for them to see their coach get treated the way I got treated, it’s just really tough.
In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, many prominent figures including President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have come forward to say that they, or their sons, could have been Trayvon because of rampant profiling of young black men. In New York City, police made more stops of young black men in 2011 than there are young black men in the city. In California, a Department of Justice investigation found in June that the nation’s largest sheriff’s department targets blacks and Latinos. And in a recent Gallup poll, one in four young black men reported unfair police treatment within the last 30 days.
This treatment has trickled down to schools, where increased criminalization of student discipline and greater placement of officers in schools have exacerbated what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline.
These boys’ parents paid $200 each so that their children would be home for Thanksgiving, according to WROC. The boys pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for trial December 11.