Steve Locke is a professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He was walking to buy lunch from a local burrito shop, before work, when he was stopped by police because, “We had someone matching your description just try to break into a woman’s house.”
He wrote about the terrifying and infuriating incident on his personal blog. The encounter was like a well choreographed dance for which one missed step could cost the performer his life.
He unsnapped the holster of his gun.
I took my hands out of my pockets.
The police said his knit cap and Ralph Lauren blazer looked like the knit cap and “puffy coat” of a suspect described by the victim. Locke says of his knit cap:
Barbara Sullivan made a knit cap for me. She knitted it in pinks and browns and blues and oranges and lime green. No one has a hat like this. It doesn’t fit any description that anyone would have. I looked at the second cop. I clasped my hands in front of me to stop them from shaking.
During the 35 minute detention Locke provided the officers credible evidence that he was who he said he was. Each piece met with suspicion and scrutiny. Each interaction carrying with it the weight of a life or death situation. The officers said they wanted the victim to look at Locke to see if he was “the person.”
It was at this moment that I knew that I was probably going to die. I am not being dramatic when I say this. I was not going to get into a police car. I was not going to present myself to some victim. I was not going let someone tell the cops that I was not guilty when I already told them that I had nothing to do with any robbery. I was not going to let them take me anywhere because if they did, the chance I was going to be accused of something I did not do rose exponentially. I knew this in my heart. I was not going anywhere with these cops and I was not going to let some white woman decide whether or not I was a criminal, especially after I told them that I was not a criminal. This meant that I was going to resist arrest. This meant that I was not going to let the police put their hands on me.
Something weird happens when you are on the street being detained by the police. People look at you like you are a criminal. The police are detaining you so clearly you must have done something, otherwise they wouldn’t have you. No one made eye contact with me. I was hoping that someone I knew would walk down the street or come out of one of the shops or get off the 39 bus or come out of JP Licks and say to these cops, ‘That’s Steve Locke. What the FUCK are you detaining him for?’
And, there you have it. Time and time again people use the justification of police violence and brutality, “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” But, anyone who has had an encounter like this knows that isn’t the case. “Innocent until proven guilty” are just words when it comes to being suspected of a crime and being detained when you’re a person with more melanin in your skin.
If this woman had said she thought there was any chance at all Steve Locke was the suspect, he would have been wrongly arrested. He may have fought that arrest because HE DID NOTHING WRONG and consequently, he would have then had charges brought up against him for getting pissed off for being wrongly arrested while walking to get some lunch – or worse – he could have been killed for it. At the very least, he would have then had an arrest record – all for quite literally “walking while black.”
That is the sad reality in the United States.
Featured image via Twitter