Editor's Note (Dec. 10): Parts of this letter were later refuted by Charlottesville's Chief of Police Dr. RaShall Brackney in a press conference Thursday afternoon, during which 911 audio and body camera footage were shown and do not support the claims made by the Unitarian Universalist Church.
To the Editor:
According to a recent news release from the Unitarian Universalist Church on Rugby Road, a University student called the police on a Black church member who was walking through the neighborhood on his way to help clean up the church playground. The police responded in force, demanding to see identification while five police cars surrounded him. We should not have to remind the University community that calling the police on a Black person is a call to enact violence. It was only five years ago that the University community came out to protest in support of Martese Johnson, a Black College student who was brutalized by Alcoholic Beverage Control officers on St. Patrick’s Day 2015. It’s fortunate that the incident near the UU church did not escalate into police violence.
University students carry a profound privilege with them that residents of Charlottesville aren’t afforded. Students enjoy the luxuries of Charlottesville that are a direct result of the exploitation of the community and its residents, without having to fully engage with the people of Charlottesville. This very privilege is what allowed for a student to call the police on a Black man who was simply walking to church in the city he calls home. This is unacceptable and this privilege cannot go unchecked.
Calling the police on Black and Brown individuals too often results in trauma, incarceration, violence and murder. White supremacy and anti-Black racism are perpetuated in our community in many ways, including when we participate in a racist system of policing our neighborhoods. In this instance, all it took was one 911 call to unleash a system of white supremacy in which the police surrounded a man for the “crime” of walking on the sidewalk and, even after acknowledging that he was not suspected of any crime, demanded his ID and suggested he find a different route to his church. “Who do you protect?” indeed.
This is a clear instance of racial profiling. Defund Cville PD and other community organizations are calling for the immediate firing of the officers involved in this incident, and we call on the community to stop calling the police. The request for the firing of the officers may appear to be harsh, but for those community members who are continually harassed by the police for simply living their lives while Black, removing the officers is the bare minimum. There is no excuse for this type of harassment and endangerment. These officers must be held accountable for their actions, and we as a community must be accountable for the danger we enact when we call the police.
Defund Cville PD
The Black Student Alliance at the University of Virginia
YDSA at UVA
Political Latinxs United for Movement & Action in Society at UVA
Anarchist People of Color Collective
Virginia Student Power Network
National Lawyers Guild at UVA
Operation Social Equality
United Campus Workers VA at UVA
Hate-Free Schools Coalition-Albemarle County
Showing Up for Racial Justice - SURJ Cville
Asians Revolutionizing Together at UVA