cell phone pic of youths inside police van
Did Wilmington Police Set Up a “Dogcatcher” Curfew Sting For African-American Children?
Details are still unfolding about a disturbing and surreal incident in Wilmington,DE that is reminiscent of a civil rights scene from the ’60s; a scene that reportedly ended with dozens of black children, male and female, as young as 10 years of age, detained in police vans, on foot, in police cars and a holding center inside the Walnut St. YMCA. Parents and other eyewitnesses described the scene as “horrific” as they arrived to pick up their children from a back to school party at the Wilmington Jaycee’s Building at 1309 N. Scott St at around 12 am on August 26th.. Chaos and confusion ensued as parents demanded answers and were not immediately given them. Eventually, one police officer mentioned that the children were being arrested for breaking the 12am curfew according to several reports. However, the back to school party was an organized event targeted to minors and apparently secured by Wilmington Police. It was scheduled to end at 12am. Chandra Pitts, Executive Director of One Village Alliance, a non profit organization that implements mentoring programs for youth, was on the scene to pick up her 15 year old son. Pitts stated that she felt safe leaving her son at the party in the first place because of the presence of Wilmington Police Officers.
According to Pitts’ eyewitness account, upon her return, more squad cars and a police van were present and children were being detained and intimidated, some banging from the inside of the police van screaming for air and to be released. Another mother stated that one child described being told by police that they would release dogs to chase them down. Numerous witnesses described an incident where a young boy, approximately 10 years old, pointed at an officer in his patrol car and stated “That’s the man that bullied me! That’s the man that harassed me,” at which time the officer allegedly bounded from his vehicle and aggressively approached the child stating “Do you want me to lock you up for insubordination?” When challenged about his aggressive demeanor by Pitts and other adults surrounding the child, the witnesses stated that the officer replied “He stuck his tongue out at me!” This demeanor and manner of conduct by the officers was their general consensus, according to witnesses.
Pitts was not allowed to retrieve her son from the police van and filed out with the other parents and family members to follow the police convoy to The Walnut St YMCA, which was being used as a holding facility, where, Pitts explained, dozens of distraught children could be seen through the windows. Pitts said, parents were not allowed back to see their children as they were interrogated for what she feels was an orchestrated and forced curfew violation. She pointed out that numerous police vehicles, including the van, that were not originally present, were waiting just across the street from the party and that no grace period was given considering the let out time of the party. “They were released into a trap! By 12:15 the streets were clear.” Pitts explained, referring to how quickly the operation of detaining the youths took place.
Because the officers present were mainly Caucasian and the children involved were African-American and Hispanic and because the incident occurred in a predominantly white neighborhood, a racial component was immediately inferred by the Pitts and families present. To further their suspicions, a conflicting reason for the arrests emerged when a different officer was asked what the purpose was and reportedly, the second officer mentioned that someone had gotten robbed in the area but did not make it clear when. Pitts is one of several present who feel the children were possibly lured to the party and that it was a racially motivated and calculated sting.
Teens were tagged in a party flyer that went around Facebook with the tagline “West Side, The Best Side.” It clearly stated that the party ended at 12am. It was not clear, at that time, who the party promoters were. But for Pitts and many the question is; why were Wilmington Police Officers working a party for youth that ended at midnight if it broke curfew and they had not condoned or approved it. Why not notify the promoters and attendees in advance? Or was it, in fact, allowed to create the opportunity for a dogcatcher scenario to corner and trap African-American Youths as they exited the event? This is the viewpoint of the parents who are outraged that some of their honor roll and Stanford school caliber students were treated unjustly and may suffer a lingering stigma.
According to parent’s reports no violence at the actual party was being investigated or even alleged. Parents who questioned the officers’ explanation about the robbery as probable cause pointed out that their were numerous bars in the Trolley Square area full of adults, including Caucasians, who were not being harassed and who might be better suited to help them in their investigation moreso than a group of adolescents.
An exclusive video clip was obtained containing approximately 20 seconds of footage inside the police van as well as an exclusive audio interview with Chandra Pitts. No one from the Wilmington Police Department was available to make a statement at the time of press.
Exclusive video inside van
Exclusive audio interview with Chandra Pitts
By L. Burner
For more info L Burner can be reached at Lburner1@gmail.com