Saturday, March 28, 2020

Illinois Coronaracist Police

It's depressing and ironic to me but perhaps heartening and morale boosting to others to know that at least some police won't let the COVID-19 pandemic interfere with what appears to be their prime directive of constantly harassing Black people, particularly men and boys. 

This is reality. Like the song says, it's just the way it is. Some things will never change. At grocery stores I see a good 40-50% of customers wearing some form of face covering. This is because they don't want to get sick or get others sick. People want to live. Even before this pandemic hit its stride I would often see some shoppers wearing surgical masks. I don't recall police ever singling them out for negative attention. But usually they weren't young Black men. 

A recent YouTube video showed two young African-American men with surgical masks being followed by a Wood River Police officer as they left Walmart in Wood River. Viewers were at odds whether the men were racially profiled or causing a disturbance — as well as if anyone should be asked to remove a surgical mask in light of COVID-19 concerns.

The video, which first aired March 18, has more than 30,000 views. Jermon Best, of Belleville, who made the video, said he shared it because he wanted to show the world racial profiling is happening and the situation could have been much worse.

“I don’t know this guy personally,” said Best, who posted the video under the name Halo Dale. “We just want to shine some light because this happens so often.”

Best and another man in the video, Diangelo Jackson of Wood River, described the situation as “terrifying” and said they felt like they were “prey” being stalked by the officer who approached them and said a Wood River city ordinance prohibits people from wearing masks in businesses.

“I don’t know if he was having a bad day,” said Best. “I’ve never said that the guy was racist. All I’m saying is that his actions were suspect.”

Wood River Police Chief Brad Wells said he had been reluctant to make a public statement about the incident because the video didn’t look good on the surface. 

Wells said the officer “was mistaken when it came to the store’s policy prohibiting masks” and it was “the one error” made in the incident. He said Best and Jackson immediately started saying they were being harassed when the officer approached them.

“They immediately went into the race issue,” said Wells. “He (the officer) didn’t kick them out of the store or refuse entry.” Best said they followed the officer’s order to take off the masks and left the store rather than show identification.

“Being a young African-American male, it’s kind of hard when you interact with the police because you don’t know what state of mind they’re in,” said Best.

Notice how the police officer was wrong. But the law is not the point. The law or store policy is never the point. The point is to make sure certain people know just who is in charge and is armed and just who is not in charge, unarmed, and unwelcome. 
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