Hundreds Turn Out to Condemn Racial Profiling in California Capital

April 14, 2000 12:00 am

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SACRAMENTO – According to a story in today’s Sacramento Bee, if there ever were a question of whether “DWB” — driving while black or brown — is a problem for racial minorities, dozens of speakers at a town hall meeting Thursday evening made it clear that it is.

The session in St. Paul Baptist Church in Oak Park attracted approximately 300 people and was called by the Racial Justice Coalition to draw attention to an April 27 noon rally at the state Capitol in support of a law that would require law-enforcement agencies to collect data about stops and arrests.

The problem, session promoters charged, is that law-enforcement officers engage in racial profiling – stopping drivers based on race or ethnicity. They said minority motorists are stopped and searched out of all proportion to their numbers in society, often with tragic results.

The Bee reported that ACLU Racial Justice Project leader Michelle Alexander spoke passionately of the need for a law to require police agencies to keep racial records of traffic stops.

A bill, SB 1389 by Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, would require such records. (More information on the bill is available at: and .) Gov. Gray Davis vetoed a similar bill last year. (More information on the veto is available at: and .)

“Governor Davis vetoed the bill,” Alexander said, “because he didn’t think racial profiling is a problem. Well, we all know in our communities it’s a problem,” she said.

“You hear it time and time again, ‘It’s just our word against the officer’s,’ or, ‘This is just an isolated incident.’ Well, that’s because law enforcement agencies have refused to collect the data. Wherever it has been collected we learn these aren’t isolated.”

The ACLU’s Alexander told of a Maryland study where African Americans make up 17 percent of the drivers but are involved in 70 percent of the traffic stops resulting in searches.

Most of Thursday night’s session was occupied by dozens of speakers who stood in line for a turn at the microphone and a chance to tell their personal DWB stories.

One woman told of a granddaughter taken from the family and given up for adoption as a result of her daughter’s DWB arrest. Another told of a male friend subjected to racial slurs and physical threats in the course of being stopped apparently for being in the wrong part of town.

The newspaper reported that young men and women told of personal encounters with police that stemmed from the color of their skin.

Labeebah Abdullah told of the experience of one of her 15-year-old twin sons who was rousted by police as he approached City Hall with an application to be appointed as a youth member to a city advisory body.

Tarik Assagai, 18, told of being stopped 13 times.

“It’s such a routine I’m used to it, except a couple of times when I’ve gotten tickets and once when a friend of mine and I were arrested by cops in undercover cars who thought we were involved in some kind of computer crime.”

Alexander from the ACLU and activist Eric Vega concluded the session by lambasting Davis for what they said was an anti-minority veto record.

“We need to hold this governor accountable,” he said. “Power yields nothing without a demand, and that’s what this meeting is all about — to make a demand for justice.”

The Racial Justice Coalition is made up of the American Civil Liberties Union, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, League of United Latin American Citizens, the Asian Law Caucus, the Urban League, United Farm Workers and other organizations. (More information on the Coalition and the town hall meetings they are sponsoring throughout California is available at:,, , , and .)


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