Updated as of 11/1/2022 at 9:00 a.m. ET
A South Carolina sheriff shut down any accusations of racial profiling in the stop and search involving a bus full of Shaw University students, per The Associated Press. University President Dr. Paulette Dillard likened the event to the racial targeting of the Civil Rights Era. However, the sheriff denied the officers did anything wrong.
Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said the police stopped an unmarked, “Greyhound-like bus” because it was swerving, per AP News. Though, the side of the bus had the printed words “CHAUFFERED TRANSPORTATION” per the body camera footage. Wright confirmed the search was a part of the anti-drug campaign “Operation Rolling Thunder.” He confirmed nothing illegal was found in the students’ bus.
Local reports say this “operation” was a week-long procedure resulting in the confiscation of 41 pounds of marijuana and 5.87 pounds of cocaine. The number of stops were especially high regarding traffic violations like speeding and improper lane changing.
Yet the question remains, why was this group of Black students targeted for a drug search? The sheriff denied the seemingly evident racial bias.
More from AP News:
“I wish racism would die the ugly, cruel death it deserves,” Wright said. “If anything we’re ever doing is racist, I want to know it, I want to fix it and I want to never let it happen again. But this case right here has absolutely nothing to do with racism.”
Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said the officers “didn’t do anything wrong” and could not have known the races of the people inside the bus when they pulled it over. Mueller added that the leading cause of death in buses and commercial vehicles is driver fatigue. Interestate 85, the highway where officers stopped the bus, is a “deadly corridor,” according to Mueller.
“If my guys see a bus weaving in their lane, and they fail to stop it to check that driver to make sure they’re not too sleepy, then we could have a busload of Shaw students that was involved in a tragic traffic fatality,” Mueller said.”
A total of 18 students and two advisers were traveling from Raleigh, NC to Atlanta for the Center for Financial Advancement Conference. They were stopped while driving through Spartanburg, South Carolina for a “minor traffic violation.” However, that “minor” traffic issue resulted in a group of officers boarding the bus to search the students with drug sniffing K-9’s.
Democratic members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation have asked the Justice Department to investigate further, per AP’s report.
“In a word, I am ‘outraged.’ This behavior of targeting Black students is unacceptable and will not be ignored nor tolerated. Had the students been White, I doubt this detention and search would have occurred,” university president Dillard said in a statement.
The students were left in shock after the incident, feeling as though they were profile by the police. Here’s what they said to ABC 11 about what happened:
“Why would you think they’re about to do something they’re not supposed to? Why do you just think it was drugs or something?” said student Tionna Mayo.
“I feel like that could be a little traumatizing. Just know everything that’s happened to Black people with police officers,” Nikaya Matier said.
“It’s 2022. I don’t understand why students are being harassed in this form or fashion,” Brendan Truynor said.
Some things that happen today really feel as if we’ve taken a time warp back to segregation. Yet, people still think we’re crazy for calling Jim Crow racism alive and well.