Sydney Anderson–DSU Sophomore lacrosse player.
READERS SHOULD PLEASE NOTE THAT THE POLICE AGENCY INVOLVED IN THIS INCIDENT WAS INCORRECTLY IDENTIFIED IN THE PREVIOUS EDITION OF THE STORY.
Breathe, but not too heavy. Look, but do not appear guilty. Speak, but never answer back. These are the constant reminders of being Black In America. After playing three games in the hot southern heat, all the Delaware State women’s lacrosse team wanted to do was make it back to Delaware with ease. However, things went left when they got pulled over by Police in Georgia.
On April 20 at 10:31am, Tim Jones, black bus driver, was stopped by Police in Georgia. The officers claimed it was a traffic violation because buses are not permitted to drive in the left lane. The cops came on the bus to inform the students that they would be checking their luggage for any possible narcotics, such as marijuana, heroin, methane, and ketamine.
One of the officers said, “If there is anything in your luggage, we’re probably gonna find it….I’m not looking for a little marijuana, but I’m pretty sure you guys chaperones will probably be disappointed if we find it.” He then stated, “If there is something in there that is questionable, please tell me now because, guess what.. we’re not gonna be able to help. Trying to get the ladies to admit to ownership of the “imaginary” drugs, the officers told them they would go to prison, if they found something. The team told the officers they did not have any narcotics, but they were still skeptical and explained they still had to check their luggage.
The officers instructed Mr. Jones to open the bus trunk, as they proceeded to go through the ladies personal belongings. Everyone was confused as to why they were looking through the luggage, when there was no probable cause. The team members were in shock, as they witnessed the officers rambling through their bags. They brought the K-9 dog out to sniff their luggage. The cops began tossing underwear and other feminine products, in an attempt to locate narcotics.
Every time the students turned their heads, more officers appeared at the scene. The cops kept doubling, as they went from two to six officers. They checked bags for 20 minutes, then explained it was necessary, in case of child trafficking or drugs. The fact of the matter is the underlying racism the Delaware Women’s lacrosse team endured. The officers tried to get them to admit to having drugs, while there was none in their possession. The officers conducted an unlawful search because there was no probable cause. Majority of the team members had never experienced an encounter with the police, making this a traumatic incident for them.
Tim Jones, Pamella Jenkins, Saniya Craft, and Emily Campanelli all shared their opinions on the situation. Tim Jones states, “I felt that of course we were in Georgia, there’s some racial issues and there’s racial issues related. I really had a problem with them going through our stuff. There’s a bus full of females and it was invasive of them to go through personal items. It was more than what they said about being in the left lane because they brought dogs.”
Pamella Jenkins, head women’s lacrosse coach at DSU, ““When I saw the police come on the bus and then accuse us of having narcotics, I was reminded that living as black women in America, you are scrutinized when just trying to live. Unfortunately this is our reality daily and when they go low we must go high. I’m proud of how our team stayed calm and especially proud of Mica Lambert for asking the officer a thought-provoking question. It’s been a stressful few days, but our team handled that tense situation with the utmost class and respect.”
Saniya Craft, relative of Elijah McClain, asserts, “As a family member of Elijah McClain, I’ve realized what happens when police take advantage of their privilege and compromise their job. After seeing the police brutally murder my relative, I was petrified for what would happen to my teammates and I. As women of color, we are constantly facing adversity and this was an incident we had to overcome together.”
Emily Campanelli, senior lacrosse player, states, ““ I think the biggest surprise was seeing the dogs immediately pulled out regardless of what the citation was going to be. That shows the immediate effects of driving while black, especially through southern states and it makes you wonder how many people this happens to on a daily basis and how many people experience this worse than us. I truly believe that it was an illegal search and seizure because there was no probable cause to search the bags, there was no evidence or smell. He immediately saw a group of athletic girls teams and should have let us continue, but because the majority of the team are black women it was a different result. It is a sad day we had to encounter, but I’m glad everyone came outside.”
Despite the encounter the team members faced, they handled it with poise and remained strong. The Delaware Women’s Lacrosse Team truly embodies what it means to rise above racial disparity and keep composure in any given situation.