Smile Politely

Another senseless arrest of African-American youth

This article first appeared on July 13 on, and we reprint it here with permission.

A twenty-three year-old African-American man came to a CUCPJ meeting July 13 to tell us the horrors of his encounter with the Champaign Police.

The tale began on March 31, 2013 when he was trying to purchase a bus ticket at the Champaign bus terminal. He wanted to go to Chicago to attend his grandfather’s funeral. He had a disagreement with the woman who was selling him a ticket. Unable to complete the purchase, he turned back to the bus where he had left his bags hoping the driver would load them. At that point things got worse rather quickly. His bags had apparently been stolen. Then he went back to the clerk to inform her of what had happened and ask for assistance. This didn’t go well.

In the course of the next few minutes, instead of boarding the bus, he found himself under arrest by the Champaign police, covered with pepper spray and carted off to the county jail. Ryan was charged with resisting arrest and damage to property. To make matters worse, he was already on probation for driving with a suspended license, the result of being pulled over while driving his brother’s car a few months earlier. The crime: the car did not have an insurance card on board.

Now, Ryan will be going to jail for 27 days beginning July 16. He had just completed a construction work course at Parkland but instead of working and contributing to the community, he will be incarcerated. He is one of many people who end up in jail as a result of traffic offenses and bad judgment by the police. Is this a good way to handle these issues? Are cases like Ryan’s a good reason to build more jail cells in Champaign County? Listen to his whole story and decide.

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