Police Encounter

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I know a type of discrimination. I know how it feels
to be unwanted in a space; to be perceived as not normal.
I have felt stares of hate that have burned through
my exterior as well as had my physical safety threatened.
On May 3rd I was involved in an altercation while
demonstrating against the invasion of Iraq. How that
altercation was handled by Champaign Police and later
by the City of Champaign was not only inappropriate,
but biased.
Officer Wills ran 15 yards at me from out of my line
of sight. At no point did he identify himself as a police
officer or give a command to desist behavior. I hit the
ground without knowing who my attacker was and my
left arm was pinned under my body. I was yelled at to
give my left arm and I was repeatedly hit in my left side
with a fist or baton because I failed to produce my left
arm for him.My right arm was jerked up my back. I was
not fighting my attacker back and I repeated over and
over that my left arm was pinned under my body and I
was trying to get up to give him my left arm. I heard
people around me state things like “don’t hurt her!”
“don’t hurt, Lori” which was the only thing keeping me
calm at that moment. I saw and heard nothing that indicated
a police presence; I thought I had been attacked by
an extremely heavy, enraged individual who opposed
my right to demonstrate against US policy.
When I was finally allowed to lift my torso and surrender
my left arm to my attacker, I was cuffed and lifted
to my feet to be escorted to a police car. I completely
cooperated with the officers, though I was never told I
was being arrested. I was never asked for my side of the
story. I was told that I had violated a city ordinance:
Section 23-21 Resisting/ obstructing a peace officer. I
had two options: plead guilty and pay the $175 ordinance
violation fee or fight the ticket in court.
Before any physical act, which could escalate a situation,
an officer is supposed to identify him or herself as
such and give a command to desist. This gives all
involved a chance to comply and cease all action or
reflexive behavior. In a non-violent altercation, an officer
should be able to break up the situation with verbal
instructions without ever touching any of the individuals
I had nine witnesses to my attack. I hired a lawyer. I
had friends and community members who were willing
to donate various resources including siting down to
discuss the incident with a lieutenant at the station.
And these are the things that separated my situation
with many people of color who find themselves in the
wrong place at the wrong time, scared and acting
reflexively, or financially unable to fight the injustices
done to them.
I had a bench trial. The officers lied on the stand,
claiming that they had announced their presence, that I
pulled my arm away from Officer Wills and that I lost
my footing and fell.According to all three officers, I was
never tackled. Despite the testimony from four witnesses,
Judge Ford ruled against me, but admitted that if I
had been charged at the state level, the outcome would
have been different because more than a preponderance
of evidence would have been needed to prove I
resisted a peace officer.
My lawyer submitted a post-trial motion to reverse
Judge Ford’s decision on the grounds that I was not
proven to have “knowingly resisted.” That the City did
not prove that I knew that the individual addressing me
was a peace officer for the City of Champaign (nor was
it supported by the facts surrounding the situation)
and that the finding that the statement “Police,”
whether said once or more than once would not have
been sufficient in the situation that presented itself. The
court ignored the fact that all officers testified that no
other commands or directions were given to me and
without directing specific commands to cease and
desist, it cannot be said that I “resisted the breaking up
of the altercation” when I was never directed by the
police to do so. The conclusion reached by the Court
that the officer could not do more is not supported by
the evidence or reasonable inference drawn there from.
The decision was not reversed and I paid my $175
fine with additional court costs which came to a grand
total of $245. After losing a total of five days of work,
paying my fees and a lawyer, and experiencing much
resistance from clerks both at the Champaign City
building and at the Champaign Police Department in
my efforts to obtain a copy of the police report – (they
don’t readily offer a Freedom of Information Act form
for citizens and discourage information seekers, claiming
that only lawyers can obtain copies of police
records) it is no mystery to me why someone who is
wrongly charged or mistreated by police due to their
race, beliefs, or sexual orientation does not fight the
corrupt system that is in place.

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