Moving into a new apartment? Being quiet during a college campus tour? Waiting for a friend at Starbucks?
Just in the past few weeks, simple everyday activities like these have resulted in police encounters, either because bystanders saw the color of their skin and made snap judgments about their motives, or a police officer themselves saw what they were doing and misread the situation by assuming the worst.
Still think racial profiling isn’t an issue? Here are seven stories that may change your mind.
1. Moving into a new apartment.
Moving into a new place should be an exciting day for anyone, one filled with hope about new beginnings. When Darren Martin, a former White House staffer, moved into his new NYC apartment one Friday night last month, he ended up having to explain himself to a group of police officers after one of his new neighbors spied him moving in and called the police to report a robbery. Martin was allowed to leave after police conducted a 10 to 15 minute investigation. He shared his encounter with police on Instagram Live as it was happening, and encouraged other black people to do the same.
“Tell your story when this happens,” Martin told ABC News. “Let other people know that this is a daily occurrence for us.”
2. Leaving an Airbnb rental.
Donisha Prendergast, filmmaker and granddaughter of Bob Marley, checked out of an Airbnb rental with her friends, and ended up the center of a national controversy. While leaving the Rialto, California residence last month, Prendergast and two of her friends, who are also black women, found themselves surrounded by police, with even a helicopter tracking them overhead.
Apparently, a neighbor had spied the group leaving, and called the police to report “three black people stealing stuff,” the New York Daily News reports. Prendergast had to call the homeowner to verify their story before they were allowed to continue on their way. She and the other black women who were questioned intend to file a lawsuit against the Rialto Police Department, who have stood by their handling of the situation. The homeowner, Marie Rodriguez, recently came forward, claiming that the situation could have been avoided if Prendergast and her friends – whom she referred to as kids, even though Prendergast is 33 years old — had “simply smiled” back at her neighbor instead of being “rude” and “not polite.”
3. Being quiet on a college tour.
Native American teens Lloyd Gray, 17, and Thomas Gray, 19, were reportedly profiled on a college tour, putting a huge damper on their college hunt. The two brothers, New Mexico residents, drove seven hours to Fort Collins, Colorado on May 7 to tour Colorado State University. Their visit to the university was cut short, however, after the mother of another prospective student on the tour called the police on the two teens because they made her “nervous.” She complained that their clothing had “weird symbolism or wording on it,” and claimed that they “just really stand out.”
The boys were pulled from the tour and questioned by campus police, and by the time they were allowed to leave, the tour had already moved on. The university expressed regret over the situation, and said in a campus-wide email that the incident “runs counter to our principles of community,” the Denver Post reports. The boys’ mother, Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, called the experience heartbreaking, telling KOAT, “It breaks my heart, because they didn’t do anything to warrant that. They’re walking on their own ancestors’ land, so it breaks my heart.”
4. Going To Starbucks.
With free WiFi, addictive drinks full of caffeine and sugar, and baked goods, who hasn’t spent an afternoon passing the time at a Starbucks? Meeting up with friends at a Starbucks is even more common, but two black men who tried to do just that in a Philadelphia Starbucks last month ended up getting led away in handcuffs. The trouble reportedly occurred after the two men asked for the bathroom code. The employee denied them, on the grounds that they had not bought anything, and the employee asked them to leave, Oxygen reports. When the two men refused, the employee called the police. The friend the two men were waiting for arrived just as the men were being led away in handcuffs.
The arrest sparked nationwide outrage, that resulted in protests and the #BoycottStarbucks movement. The company’s CEO, Kevin Johnson, called the incident “reprehensible” and apologized publicly to the men involved. The coffee chain also announced that 8,000 stores would close on May 29 while all staff undergo racial bias training. After meeting with Johnson, the two men later settled for $1 each and a promise from officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs, USA Today reports.
5. Falling asleep in the dorm common area.
Falling asleep in public places is basically a rite of passage for college students, but when Lolade Siyonbola, a black graduate student at Yale University, fell asleep in her dorm’s common area, a white student took it upon herself to tell Siyonbola that she was not allowed to sleep there, and then called the police, CNN reports.
Siyonbola recorded both her encounter with the belligerent student and the responding officers. The student who called the police, later identified as Sarah Braasch, a doctorate student in philosophy, told Siyonbola that she had “every right” to call the police. The police verified Siyonbola’s identity and eventually told her she was free to go. According to Kimberly Goff-Crews, Yale's vice president for Student Life, police told Braasch that Siyonbola had every right to be where she was, and that the incident was not a police matter, CNN reports.
6. Buying mints.
When Jose Arreola, a Latino man, put the $1.19 pack of mints he purchased at a gas station into his pocket, he probably never expected someone to draw a gun on him moments later. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. An unidentified off-duty police officer walked into the Buena Park, California gas station just as Arreola put his gum into his pocket. The officer assumed Arreola was stealing, and commanded that he put it back, pulling out his gun a moment later. In surveillance footage of the incident, Arreola can heard trying to explain that he had already paid for the mints. It was only after the officer asked the cashier not once, but twice, if Arreola really had paid for the mints, that he apologized.
The police are currently investigating the situation, but could not discuss the incident in detail due to pending litigation. Areolla and his wife hope to settle out of court. As he explained to CBS, it was the officer’s demeanor that disturbed him most.
“The hardest thing for me was, believe it or not, it wasn’t really the gun,” he said. “It was his arrogance, his way of talking to me. […] He treated me like a piece of trash.”
7. Getting into verbal disputes at Waffle House.
Chikesia Clemons was arrested on April 23 after arguing with a waitress at an Alabama Waffle House over a charge for plastic utensils. Responding officers took Clemons to the ground and made statements about breaking her arm, exposing her breasts in the process — this was captured on video by a friend, according to AL.com. Waffle House officials and the local police later stood by their handling of the situation, with witnesses claiming that Clemons made threatening statements to restaurant employees, the Huffington Post reports.
A young black man was recently choked by a police officer after he got into an argument with the staff at a North Carolina Waffle House. Anthony Wall, 22, had taken his 16-year-old sister to prom on the night of May 5, and was still wearing his dance attire when the group went for dinner at a local Waffle House. There, Wall got into a disagreement with employees, though it’s unclear what the disagreement was about. Staff called police to remove Wall, and what happened next was captured on video and shared on social media. Outside the restaurant, an unidentified police officer choked Wall and pressed him against the front window of the diner, before bringing Wall to the ground and then, with the help of another officer, leading him away in handcuffs. Police are currently investigating the situation.
(Stock Photo. Posed By Model. Photo by Granger Wootz via Getty Images)