SPECIAL SERIES : Campus Controversy: Black Studies Professor Arrested
Black Studies Professor Arrested
Arrest allegedly linked to racial profiling
October 26, 2005 5:23 PM
San Francisco State professor Antwi Akom was arrested Tuesday night and placed in county jail after going into his campus office. He was released earlier this evening.
Many people are alleging the incident to be based on racial profiling.
"I think that [the officers] are racist pigs," said Matthew Shenoda a lecturer in the Ethnic Studies department, who has been talking to Akom. "It's a really clear cut case of racial profiling."
Campus police refused to comment on the incident.
While in jail, he spoke with numerous friends and colleagues in the Ethnic Studies Department to tell them what happened. Among them was Shenoda, his teaching assistant Ashley Moore, and Dean of Ethnic Studies Kenneth Monteiro.
According to their account, Akom came to campus around 10 p.m.Tuesday evening to pick up a book he needed for teaching his class.
When he arrived in the front of the Ethnic Studies building (which is where his office is located), he was approached by a security guard who asked him what he was doing here. Akom reportedly told the security guard he was a professor and he was going into his office. He then proceeded to go inside.
"When he came out, there was a white cop to meet him and told him to put his hands behind his back," said Shenoda.
Akom said the unidentified campus police officer was called by the security guard while he was inside of his office getting the book. He said he asked the officer why he was getting arrested, but the officer had no answer.
"The officer didn't tell him anything. It wasn't until he was arrested that they told him he had assaulted a police officer," said Moore, an SF State student.
The two began to argue and the officer then called two more police officers for backup. Moore said the three officers threw Akom to the ground and handcuffed him. During that process, one of them hit their face against his knee.
Akom is being charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, which are both felonies.
While Akom was getting the book out of his office, and later placed under arrest, his two small children were sleeping in the back of his car that was parked behind the Ethnic Studies Building.
Shenoda said Akom called him to come and pick up the children while he was being taken to the police station.
"Nobody had checked on the kids. When I got there to pick them up they were crying," Shenoda said.
The Black Studies department held a gathering today to discuss what happened to the professor.
"Last night there was an altercation between one of our family members and a police officer on this campus," said Kenneth Monteiro, the acting Dean of Ethnic Studies.
He said the University wrote a letter urging the San Francisco Police Department to release Akom as soon as possible. The letter was signed by SF State Chief of Police Kimberly Wible.
"We're all in support of Antwi getting out of prison," said Dorthy Tsuruta, the chair of the Africana department, before he was released. "That's my main concern right now. And then we've got to start doing some education on all the implication of the situation."
The University President, Provost and Public Affairs office were not available for questioning.
The last time there was an incident of police brutality with racial allegations was when a 15-year-old African American boy was slammed to the ground by San Francisco State police officers in 2004. The June Jordan High School for Equity student was on SF State's campus having lunch with his fellow classmates when the campus police assaulted him because they thought he had been involved in a previous conflict.
The officers slammed the student's head into the pavement several times and then put him on his back to arrest him. The student was later found innocent and no charges were filed against him. The incident sparked a protest and walk out by the high school students and SF students against police brutality.
Akom is a tall, dark-skinned, African American male with long locks.
"What's interesting is that he is living proof of what we teach in ethnic studies," said Shenoda. "At the end of the day you can have all the credentials in the world and it doesn't matter."
Moore thinks this is a blatant case of racism that is apparent in all aspects of our society.
"It's obvious what happened," she said. "He was a black man in a place he wasn't supposed to be."
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