An incident with the "police state"

Look below to find more information and links. The following account was written on Thursday, 8 March 2001 and updated on 16 March 2001. I would appreciate any assistance, advice, encouragement, and/or support that you can give me. Thanks. Take care. My e–mail is at the bottom. It is kind of long too…

Hello everyone, how are yall doing? This is Irucka Ajani Embry and I am a student at the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville. I can be reached at info (at) questionuniverse (dot) com. I'm doing alright myself right now, kind of uneasy and a little shaken up and scared, but that's it. I would like for you to send this e–mail out to anyone that you wish to, for the purposes of protection, as well as education and someone may have went through a similar experience as myself as well. This is not the first experience that I have had dealing with police officers, but I guess want to write about this one for now. I am sorry if anyone receives this e–mail message twice. Let me go ahead and start.

Some background information: Here at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, there were two sets of armed robberies in Morrill Hall, the hall that I am referring to below. There are two alleged suspects that are in police custody, or were, from a local college in Knoxville, Knoxville College. I read in The Daily Beacon, the UT newspaper, that the UT Police Chief Yovella wanted to pin both of the armed robberies on the two alleged suspects that they had/have in custody. Both of the suspects are male, and Black. Since the second or first armed robbery in that dorm, Morrill Hall, there have been surveillance camera pictures printed out with a description of the alleged suspects with what they were wearing that night in the surveillance video. These pictures were placed up all over campus, especially within the dorms. And at that hall, Morrill Hall, UT police officers and possibly some Knoxville police officers have been sitting “guard” in the hall in the lobby as well, and they are rearranging the Hall and it slightly resembles more of a “prison” than it did before. In The Daily Beacon, UT Police Chief Yovella stated that the officers are in Morrill Hall at night. But, I eat there in the cafeteria and I know that the officers are in the Hall during the Day and at Night. Now, the officers have begun to stand and sit “guard” in the lobby of the dorm that I live in as well, Hess Hall. I had become used to the officer presence in my dorm, officers driving by and checking in from time to time and leaving, but not just sitting around in the dorm with their presence.

[On a different note, I was told that in the Knoxville News Sentinel a couple of weeks ago that 5 people have been killed this year alone in Knoxville. If the police are here to “protect and serve”, who are they “protecting and serving”? Who is to protect us from them? We can't touch them in their personal space, but they can do so to us. Why the contradiction? We live in a police state, and we have allowed that to happen. What do we do about it? We change the reality that exists now. The police force has been constantly militarized over the years with weapons and tactics and that increased with the former President Bill Clinton just within the last couple of years. Who determines who looks “suspicious” and who doesn't look “suspicious”? What rights do we have when an officer stops us? What questions do we have to answer, if any? I would appreciate any answers to these questions. Thanks.]

The aforementioned is background information as well as the first following links. I have included links from the UT Police Department as well as the American Civil Liberties Union concerning police encounters, with such things as what are our rights. I have read some of, but not all of the links. Regardless they should be useful to myself and others. Please feel free to share with others.

NOW TO THE INCIDENT ITSELF:

Check out The Daily Beacon, University of Tennessee in Knoxville student newspaper, Crime Log at http://dailybeacon.utk.edu/crimelog.php/113 to see the above mentioned incident. Below is the description in the Beacon on Friday, 9 March 2001.

Crime Log description:

7:46 p.m. Officer was out with a suspicious person at Humes Hall. Person checked out OK.

I entered the residence hall, Morrill Hall, and probably took the untied the shirt from around my face and laid it out over my shoulders and probably took off my gloves as well. I don't remember the police officer that was on duty when I arrived at the dorm. That was probably around 6:30/7 PM when I arrived there at the dorm, so that I could go to the cafeteria in the dorm to eat dinner. My face could be seen when I entered the hall and the cafeteria. Around 8 PM, I was on my way out of the cafeteria to a meeting some distance from Morrill Hall, where I had just finished eating dinner. I do not remember the temperature, yet I do remember that it was windy outside and thus my hands, ears, and lower face were covered. I had a shirt around my mouth and nose, because I don't have a scarf. A ski mask, because that is the only toboggan type hat that I have, on my head and over my ears. A lightweight jacket on and also gloves, a pair of thick gloves, the only kind that I have, thick ones. All of this will make sense as you read on in the e–mail. I left out of the cafeteria and had to walk down the stairs into the lobby of Morrill Hall and then out the door. I tied the shirt around my mouth again, placed my gloves on my hands, and also placed the ski mask back on my head. The ski mask was over my ears, and it stopped above my eyes. Without looking closely at the hat, at night, it probably would be difficult to see that it was a ski mask. And I proceeded to walk outside of Morrill Hall, as I had done several nights over the last few weeks because it has been cool or cold at night. That night I decided not to look for the police officer(s) that was stationed in the Hall, sometimes I would, and just think about the “prison” that we are creating for ourselves on this campus and in this country out of fear mainly. I walked out of the Hall and just continued walking and make it not too far from the Hall, when I heard someone saying for me to “Stop and Wait”, it was a male, Caucasian, police officer who said so. I don't remember his exact words though. He then proceeded to ask me if I was a UT student, I politely and calmly as I could told him that I was one.

I started to get a little worried and scared as he caught up to me, fearful of being arrested or detained or being abused. It sort of reminded me of the beginning of “Light It Up”, it's a good movie that makes a lot of sense and is powerful. I didn't think that I had forgot anything on the stairs or anything like that, so I knew that he was coming up to me because of that. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my wallet and gave him my ID. I kept my left hand out of the glove and on my right hand, which still had a glove over it, trying to keep the left hand warm. I kept the wallet and glove in my left hand; scared to make any sudden movements or anything like that. I am glad that I now Tai Chi and was able to keep from truly showing my anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, fear, and overall uneasiness. I breathed as slowly as possible, trying to get rid of my “butterflies” and also to keep from hyperventilating. I just breathed and tried to stay calm and rational. I wanted to keep my voice at its normal volume and make it slower and continue to be polite. I didn't want to give them a reason to do anything, being that I was alone and there were no people around.

He then proceeded to tell me that he stopped me because he couldn't see my face and thus I looked “suspicious”. He never asked me to remove my ski mask or the shirt; he called it a scarf, from my face so that he could see my full face and match that to my UT identification with a picture and the Social Security Number (tracking number) on it. All that he could see were my eyes, yet it was dark outside. If he wanted to make sure that I was the person in the picture and all he could see were my eyes, shouldn't he have asked to see my whole face? Also, he told me that I was suspicious because he couldn't see my face at all, outside of my eyes. He called dispatch on his walkie–talkie and gave them the code for my name. From my recollection, the names that he used for the letters of my names are military introduced into the police force and in other aspects as well. Doing so, backup was dispatched and got there within a few moments. Either backup was waiting to be called in on this matter, which I think was possible and will explain more of below, or they were making their rounds around campus. I believe that before the back up arrived, I may be mistaken. He asked dispatch to look for my Social Security Number to see if I was a UT student. At first, it sounded like, on the radio, that they couldn't find my name as being a registered student. That got me even more worried. Then, I did hear the person speaking to the officer say that I lived in Hess Hall and proceeded as well to tell the officer my room number as well. I think that Dispatch found out I lived at Hess Hall and then Hess Hall's Main Desk was contacted and implored about the room I live in. I am not for sure about that. Why did he need to know my room number? Did he need to know that I lived on campus and in what dorm? Wasn't his only purpose to know if I was a UT student? Yes, that was his purpose, but he got a whole lot more out of that conversation than that. Why? I don't know. I was trying not to respond to his smart comments and stupid, trying to be funny jokes.

When he spoke to dispatch, he told them what I was wearing. He told them that I was wearing thick gloves, a ski mask, a heavy coat, and a scarf. The coat he referred to is a lightweight jacket that I have. He also told dispatch that I must be cold–blooded or something to be out there in a chilly, windy condition and be dressed warmly. Either he said that to me trying to be funny or to dispatch, I don't remember exactly which one. The two male, Caucasian, officers who were his back up got out of their car and the officer that stopped me asked both of them if they were cold. OK, this is when I believe that he said that I must be cold–blooded or something. One of them asked me if I was sick, I said that I had a cold, which I have had for about two weeks now. I noticed that the officer had to add in the aspects of my clothing when he called dispatch, as if he had to make up some good reasons for stopping me. First, he said a couple of items of clothing that I had on and then he had to look real quick back at me to say something else, in my opinion, so that his reason for stopping me for me looking “suspicious” wouldn't be so flimsy and weak. He never told me why it mattered if I looked “suspicious” or not or if I had been harassing or bothering anyone. I figure that the two police officers were in a car with heat most likely and for them coming out of the car and into the cold air, I don't think that they would be immediately cold, or if they would even feel the cold any other way. Each of us has different bodies, what works for me does not work for them. The cops mentioned that they had seen people coming out of Morrill Hall an running to the gyms across the street with shorts on in the cold weather. Why weren't they stopped for looking suspicious? They talked about how they didn't know how the students could go outside when it's cold in shorts and how they couldn't do it themselves.

While waiting to have my ID back, my left hand became cold, because it was windy outside and already cool; the wind made it worse. He said that I looked suspicious because I was the only one dressed warmly and everyone else did not have on thick gloves, a heavy coat, or scarf on. However, I have seen people that night and at other times with their hands in the pockets or in the jackets or coats because their hands were cold, and thus they also had jackets or heavy coats on as well. They may not have covered up their ears or throat/mouth/nose, but I did though. I know from experience that walking around campus my whole face has been cold as well as my ears and hands, thus I have tried to minimize that and as well protect my lungs from the cold air, which from experience, has made my coughing and breathing worse when I'm already sick. I think that one of them asked me my major, I don't remember, but I said something about me being in my fourth year in engineering. They asked me my year in school as well, one of them did. Some people walked by, they just quickly glanced and walked on by. The one that stopped me said that I had come out of the stairway and thought that I looked “suspicious” so he stopped me. One of the two asked if I had come out the fire/emergency exit door, that door has a yellow tape – caution sign – police use across it so people will not walk out that way. Then, the officer that stopped me said that I had walked out the door and down the stairs from the cafeteria. If I was just eating at the cafeteria, then I must not have been a threat and was possibly a UT student or someone paying. Also, did he or any other police officer question everyone in the dorm if they were UT students or not? I remember seeing an elderly couple, Caucasian, and thinking to myself later on, did he question them about being students there? Regardless of whether I am a UT student or not, if I was committing a crime, then I could do so just as easily being a UT student or not being a UT student. However, I did not commit any crime. Eventually, they found out my room number and hall name and all that and my ID was given back to me. I placed it back in my wallet and then into my pocket. Then, he apologized for the inconvenience and holding me up and all that. But, he said that I looked “suspicious”, but never “suspicious” of what. So eventually I put my glove back on my left hand and it was cold by then and I walked on towards the University Center for the meeting. That's it.

I felt that one day I would be stopped by the police and so I was finally on this past Wednesday. I say that because whenever I am walking around campus, I feel that they are watching me in their cars as they drive by or as they drive by on their bicycles. And they probably are or aren't watching me. As well, as a student involved in activism, I realize that the FBI might and probably does have me and others on this campus and in this city/area of the state of Tennessee under surveillance. And I know that the FBI's job is much easier when they have local access, in my case, the University of Tennessee Police Department, and the Knoxville Police Department. Now that they have my name, Social Security Number, what I look like, Hall and Room number, I wonder what will or does come next. I don't feel that it was an isolated event in the sense that I felt that they were waiting for this day to catch me on some small, minor, thing, something legal (or illegal) that they could stop me for.

I do not know though, thus I am sending this e–mail out for protection. I am glad that I was not arrested though. I was still shook up and upset afterwards and a little scared. Even today, I am still nervous and anxious when I see a cop car roll by or walk into the dorms or on the streets and know that they are in there watching and waiting. I decided that I am not going to mess up and allow them that route to me. I don't feel that he was justified in his stopping me because it was cool outside and windy, it was not hot and sunny, and what I had on was appropriate for the time and the conditions outside. If you have any suggestions, assistance, encouragement, comments, questions, or whatever please e–mail me back. Thank–you all. Until then. Peace be unto you. Take care.

Irucka Ajani Embry

info (at) questionuniverse (dot) com




What is the reality that we see?

Some may say that we live in a police state/world and some may say that we do not. Do we live in a police state/world? What is a police state/ world? How did we get there? Where are we going from there/here? How? Why? Where do we get our information or misinformation about the existence of or lack of a police state/world? How is community policing different from the current practices that we have now? Why should any one care? Why should you care? Why are we violent towards each other and other forms of life?

Another interesting quote: Think about it, who makes the history, the winners or the losers? Why do we have winners and losers? Why not all winners?

“The invaders also anticipated, correctly, that other Europeans would question the morality of their enterprise. They therefore [prepared] . . . quantities of propaganda to overpower their own countrymen's scruples. The propaganda gradually took standard form as an ideology with conventional assumptions and semantics. We live with it still.”

–Francis Jennings




Some links concerning the “police state/world” and alternatives to the system of vengeance justice and alternatives to the “police state/world” as well




Personalized Expressional Linksters


top of page