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Archive for April, 2008
Commentary by Rev. Jerome C. Chambers
If ever the phrase “Them and Us” has been contextual, it is readily seen in the course of a court case that took a year of incubation. One must have sharp eyes, infinite hearing and a clear head to determine if the verdict rendered against Brian Chesley is fair. “I didn’t do anything,” he said in his testimony. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Now the public must consider what truth is or which side of the badge and uniform makes the most sense. The platform for another call of racism will not escape the judgment of those who care about the meaning of “with liberty and justice for all.” The testimonies of the children that were subpoenaed “to tell the truth, the whole truth” were properly disregarded, as other testimony and evidence appeared to be, and sanitized for the good of the “State.”
Sometimes justice is blind in one eye. Although she is depicted as wearing a blindfold, she really cannot see. That is why there are laws, statutes, edicts, and regulations one must be well versed in to understand what one can or cannot do. In this case, two young teen-agers were just walking “Jay-Jay”, an eight-year-old home from a basketball game in the gym at Douglass Park on Champaign’s north side. What could be wrong with that?
If the definition of justice is impartiality and fairness, why does the public have to choose sides? The verdict of the all-White, mostly senior citizen jury, from the out-lying areas of Champaign County, was: “Guilty on both counts,” the foreperson announced. Count number one was resisting a policeman. Count number two was obstructing a policeman. It really means a police officer asked or demanded that a young Black seventeen year old (now eighteen) male to “Stop!” He continued walking. Is that resisting? If he was to be arrested, what did he do, but fail to stop? Walking away from a policeman is not a criminal offense; perhaps, it was not the best judgment, but to be guilty of going home is a travesty of justice.
Secondly, he (Chesley) allegedly refused to give his one free wrist to the empty handcuff, although three officers were on top of him after he was allegedly thrown to the ground. Another officer (per his testimony) left his cruiser, proceeded toward the action, and wrenched the youths’ arm from under him and the deed was done. Now, what could be wrong with that? Was this obstruction? Did it take four officers to subdue a slightly built youth of seventeen (now eighteen)? Is there a message here? If so, what is it?
This is America, “land of the free and home of the brave.” Watching the basketball tournaments for the past, few weeks can make one wonder: Have any of these young men and women had similar experiences, “walking while Black?” How many times were any of them “profiled,” perhaps entered into a database just in case? What do we tell the young children that were also in the park; that testified to what they saw? Is ‘guilty’ the verdict for just us?
Since ‘hizzonor,’ the judge ruled that a goodly amount of testimony and evidence would later become inadmissible; it is clear as mud, that the defense had no real chance of making its case. Likewise, young Chesley, who probably should have taken the adult diversion alternative, contrary to popular belief, could have had this over and done with last year. However, we are all victims of our choices. One of Chesley’s supporters exclaimed, “You got a raw deal!” Deal or no deal, what will this misdemeanor mean for yet another Black youth.
Emotionless, Brian walked out of the courtroom with his attorneys and the rest of us, who had waited, “with bated breath,” relieved that that portion of humiliation had ended. The young prosecutors who scrambled into the courtroom to hear the verdict appeared to be as stunned; yet, relief prevailed, not justice. Justice delayed, in truth, is justice denied. The all-Black jury rests its case too.
Rev. Jerome C. Chambers
President of the Champaign County
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People