Over Thanksgiving break, three basketball players from Edison Tech High School in Rochester, N.Y., were arrested for disorderly conduct. But the teens and their basketball coach are saying they did nothing wrong.
According to WROC-TV, the teenagers were waiting downtown with about 16 other teammates for a school bus to take them to a scrimmage against another school. There was no school that day, so their coach had arranged for a bus to pick them up. A Rochester police officer showed up and told them they were loitering. The news station said that the police told the boys to move because they were blocking the entrance to a business and sidewalk traffic.
"The cop just came over there. He told us to move. Then we was walking away and he turned, we turned around and he arrested all of us," Raliek Redd, 16, told WROC.
Raliek; Deaquon Carelock, also 16; and senior Wan’Tauhjs Weathers, 17, were arrested and booked.
“I feel it’s unfair … we weren’t doing nothing. We’re just regular kids trying to get to our game … we’re not harassing nobody. We’re not causing no trouble, no nothing,” said Wan’Tauhjs.
The teens’ families had to post $200 bail in order to get them home in time for Thanksgiving. “I’m really upset and I don’t plan to let it go. At all. Because these boys wasn’t doing anything,” Raliek’s mom said.
“I think he seen a group of young black men and kind of stereotyped them for loitering, looking for trouble. He didn’t take the time to speak to nobody of authority to see if they were actually telling the truth or … what was going on,” Wan’Tauhjs’ mom said, according to WROC.
The boys have pleaded not guilty to the charges; the official report does not say they were using abusive or obscene language at the time, WROC noted in another report.
Their basketball coach, Jacob Scott, defended them. He reportedly arrived at the scene just as the teens were being handcuffed. Scott asked the officer to release the teens, explaining the situation, but his pleas were ignored.
“He goes on to say, ‘If you don’t disperse, you’re going to get booked as well,’” Scott said of the officer. “I said, ‘Sir, I’m the adult. I’m their varsity basketball coach. How can you book me? What am I doing wrong? Matter of fact, what are these guys doing wrong?’”
A sergeant who arrived on the scene reportedly backed his officer. One of the officers allegedly told Scott that if he had had a big-enough caravan, he would have transported the entire group downtown.
“It’s a catastrophe. These young men were doing nothing wrong, nothing wrong. They did exactly what they were supposed to do and still they get arrested," Scott said, who is also African American. “I’m speaking to the officers with dignity … and still and yet—they see me get treated like nothing.”
At the arraignment, Mary Adams, a Rochester school board member, spoke out against the arrests.
“I think the charges should be immediately dropped, and I think the district attorney’s office should be stepping in and looking at these kinds of matters,” she said, according to the news station.
The trial date is Dec. 11.