COMMENTARY: Walking While Black- Is It A Crime?

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The officer warns her to put her hands behind her back, or “I’m going to slam you” on the police car. “You really want to do that?” Ore asks. “Do you see what I’m wearing?” Ferrin responds, “I don’t care what you’re wearing.” After a brief tussle as she’s being handcuffed, when her skirt rides up, Ore kicks Ferrin in the leg. Then Ferrin throws Ore to the ground. Her lawyer, Alane M. Roby, says Ferrin’s action caused Ore’s dress to ride up, “exposing her anatomy to all onlookers.”

Ore faces charges of assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, failing to provide ID and obstructing a public thoroughfare. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday. The university said it found “no evidence of inappropriate actions by the ASUPD officers involved.” Given the “underlying criminal charges,” the university declined to provide any more details. It’s troubling that ASU, which is well-aware of racial profiling in Arizona, is apparently throwing Ore under the bus.

On New Day, Ore said the incident started when the officer stopped his car next to her and asked whether she knew the difference between a road and a sidewalk. She said she asked him, “Do you always accost women in the middle of the road and speak to them with such disrespect and so rudely as you did to me?” She said that at no point did he ask her name or tell her why she was being questioned. “He throws the car door open actually, is what happens, and he’s towering over me,” she said. “He’s intimidating. I don’t know why he’s so aggressive.”

Roby said they’ll fight the charges and accused the officer of escalating the situation in violation of his training. “Professor Ore’s one crime that evening was to demand respect that she deserves as a productive, educated and tax-paying member of society,” Roby said in a statement to CNN, adding that they maintain any actions Ore took were in self-defense.

“She can clearly be heard on the dash can video instructing the officer not to grab toward her genital area prior to him reaching for her in attempt to pull her skirt down over her exposed private area,” Roby wrote. At least one person called 911 to report a police officer was getting “way too aggressive” with Ore. I hope more witnesses come forward to corroborate Ore’s version of the events.

Unfortunately, it appears she may need that testimony to prove that she was a victim of excessive force simply because she was walking while Black.

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