Guest Editorial: WILMINGTON BACK-TO-SCHOOL CELEBRATION MARRED: Was Police Arrest of Youth Excessive?
By Chandra Pitts
(WILMINGTON - August 28, 2012) - While Wilmington slept this past Saturday night, more than 30 innocent children as young as 10 and 12 years old were the victims of the most horrific and disgusting display of bigotry and entrapment in a night that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Parents stood by in outrage but helpless against a force of more than 20 police officers during what was, by the children's account, a well-orchestrated, premeditated attack as the plan was carried out by the Wilmington Police Department, the fully-staffed Walnut Street YMCA, and the Wilmington Jaycees.
How could this seemingly respected community collaborative be a part of such an elaborate plan that resulted in the illegal entrapment, interrogation and psychological trauma of our children? Their crime? Curfew!
Yesterday's highly anticipated youth event promised to be a fun back to school celebration complete with music, dancing and school supplies giveaways for the students. Even parents who don't let their children go to parties were put at ease by the event host venue: the trusted Wilmington Jaycees. We dropped our children off in broad daylight on a beautiful Saturday evening at 7 and planned to return at the events published end - 12:00 midnight. But by 12:05, my son - a star student at Sanford school - would be using his cell phone to call me from inside of the back of a police van.
I arrived to pick him up while still on the phone and was horrified by what I saw, multiple police vehicles, about 12 police officers and muffled voices of children calling for their parents and banging against metal for air locked inside of a WPD van! As I approached the officer in the driver's seat got out but was approached by another officer and ordered to get back in the van and "drive". I told him that I was a mother and asked if they had my son but was rudely brushed off with no information on the whereabouts of my son. All of the other parents who arrived to pick up their children were also denied information on their child's whereabouts.
Our young girls and boys were transported to a makeshift police station complete with interrogation stations where officers sat questioning groups of children as they were filed in from the back of police vehicles into the Walnut Street YMCA. YMCA staff in identifying t-shirts were a part of the operation.
Children were locked in the back of the police van with no windows and little air for nearly an hour while other children were "processed" and seated on the floor of the YMCA as parents tried to communicate with them through the glass. As they were finally released one by one, some well after 3:00 a.m., the children told us that the police worked the event from the very beginning but when the party ended were lying in wait threatening to "sick the dogs on us" (said on 12 year old), grabbed them and placed them in the back of the multiple police vehicles that were already waiting!
What were you thinking Walnut Street YMCA, Wilmington Jaycees and Wilmington Police Department when you sat down and decided this would be a good idea and productive use of resources? These are our children!