Racial and legal issues were among the concerns addressed at a meeting held in relation to a party earlier this semester.
The events that took place surrounding an Aug. 26 student-led party left some students and community members with unanswered questions. Several people voiced their questions and opinions at a Monday night Human Relations Commission meeting.
Police responded to the party and later reported about 400 people were present at the time. Cops sprayed Mace onto individuals, and the incident led to one woman’s arrest and the citation of two other attendees.
Lt. Mark Goddard of the Carbondale Police Department said the officers who responded to the scene acted appropriately in the situation.
Many meeting attendees said they were concerned because there were different stories concerning the party’s happenings. Some of the concerns included whether Mace, pepper spray or tear gas was used; whether police responded as a result of a complaint or as a part of patrols and what caused the police to break up the party.
Goddard said police used CS Mace, which should not be confused with tear gas. He also said police responded as a part of patrols, although at least one citizen lodged a complaint. He said city violations, including loud music and illegal parking, were reasons why police responded, although one of the first reasons was because attendees were lined up outside the front door, where someone was taking money for admittance.
Goddard said police issued citations to underage students after they observed them leave the party with alcohol possession.
“The chief of police told us there were citizen complaints about this party, but the police report does not say that,” said Jerrold Hennrich, a commission member. “He also said there was no pepper spray allowed in the possession of police. However, last month at this very meeting he said that all officers carry pepper spray.”
Henrich said the police chief told a different story during the November meeting than the story Goddard told Monday.
Dora Weaver, another commission member, said she was concerned about whether police responded to parties based on racial prejudices.
Weaver said although she does not attend college parties, her daughter has observed a reoccurring pattern with predominantly black parties and police.
“I’m a parent of a 20-year-old, and for her this is an ongoing problem for officers to target black parties,” she said.
Nicholas Simpson, a senior from Homewood studying political science, said he was concerned about the fact that police sat in front of the party and observed it before they decided to take action.
“There were a number of other things going on at that time,” he said. “What made police choose to sit and observe that party in particular and wait on something to happen?”
Goddard said race has never been an issue whenever officers come across a large party. Officers who are assigned to party patrol for the night, he said, are required to patrol the community and observe parties. Police must take action with every violation they come across, and a log is kept of each citation distributed, he said.
Kiera Mallet, a senior from Brookfield studying social work, said she has attended parties in Carbondale of several different races, and she has only encountered the police at predominantly black parties.
“During Unofficial (Halloween) weekend, we watched the police drive right past several white parties and go straight to the Iota House,” she said. “The white parties were charging for entry as well and were distributing lots of beer, but no action was taken against them.”
Kwalee Kemp, a senior from Chicago studying workforce education and development and Black Affairs Council president, said she thinks the bigger issue with the SIU administration and the Carbondale community is that there is not a positive atmosphere set for black students.
“This issue is just one of many,” she said. “Upon attending parties of different races, I’ve observed that at predominantly black parties there could be three or more squad cars facing the party waiting for us to make a move. That doesn’t make me feel welcome in Carbondale or at SIU.”
Kemp said many students don’t know the city ordinances that surround the legal issues of community parties, and situations such as the August party would not have happened if students knew what was legal and illegal.
Many students said a large part of the problem is that black students do not have many options for social activities.
Lt. Harold Tucker, an officer with the SIU Department of Public Safety, said the university is working to host more events for African-American students because they hear and consider students’ suggestions and concerns.
“Personally, I don’t think that African-American students should let not having anything to do be used as a relief to do whatever it is they please,” Tucker said. “Not having anything to do is not a pass to let anything go.”