"New" UCI Black Student Union Demand to Spike Police Comes Amid Scary Incident

UC Irvine hosted the January 2015 Afrikan Black Coalition Conference.
UC Irvine hosted the January 2015 Afrikan Black Coalition Conference.
Natassija Jordan

It's totally coincidental, but as the Black Student Union at UC Irvine puts forth a "new demand" that Chancellor Howard Gillman abolish the campus police department, the school's student newspaper reports a black student had guns drawn on him by UCI officers who mistook him for a burglar—at his own home in a university housing community.

The 20-year-old male, who asked New University newspaper to withhold his name for his own safety, attends Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and resides in University Hills with his parents, Martha Feldman, a UCI sociology professor, and Hobart Taylor, a member of the University Hills Homeowner Representative Board.

Feldman and Taylor were on a trip to China on Sept. 1 when university police officers, who'd received recent reports of mail thefts in the neighborhood, were alerted by a resident who thought the whole family had left four days earlier but noticed a car parked in the driveway and the front and garage doors open.

The young man who lives there was inside with two friends and they had been smoking marijuana when a phone call came from police.

Figuring it was the smell of pot that drew the attention from cops—this is Safest City in America Irvine, after all—the young resident looked out his window, saw an officer with his gun drawn but did not panic because, again, he figured this was all much ado about cannabis.

But grass is not what brought out the fuzz. Noticing the resident inside, an officer outside shouted for the man to come outside with his hands up while four other cops surrounded the home. The young man did not emerge until police ordered him out a second time.

A police account states the officers drew their guns after their first demand was ignored, but a neighbor who claims to have witnessed the entire response told the New U that all five officers had their guns drawn before any demands were loudly made.

While his two friends hid in the attic, the young man came outside, identified himself and was patted down, ordered to sit on a step and repeatedly told to prove he was who he said he was, but all he had on him was a debit card with no photo identification. Meanwhile, two officers slipped inside to check the home because they reportedly feared this may have be a hostage situation. 

The officers finally stood down and put their guns away after the neighbor approached and told them the young man did indeed live there, the neighbor told the paper. But the young man also informed reporter Brendan Yu that he feared he might be shot or jumped by police before the neighbor intervened. Upon their return from their China trip, his parents are demanding answers from campus police.

University police officials say their response is still being investigated.

As the story hit the campus paper, the UCI Black Student Union re-iterated its demand that the police department be disbanded because of its treatment of African-American students. But this "new demand" did not come as a result of the University Hills incident but rather in advance of Friday's scheduled meeting between University of California system President Janet Napolitano and Black Student Union leadership from all UC campuses.

"This meeting was called to downplay the severity of anti-Blackness on UC campuses and to silence Black leaders on campus," reads an email to the Weekly from the BSU at UCI. "Janet and her staff has designed this meeting to crowd out any substantive discussion about anti-Blackness and how the University of California engages in a wide range of policies and practices that are unethical and anti-Black."

The UCI BSU says it will hold a press conference to further discuss its demands at 9 a.m. Friday in front of the UC Office of the President building in downtown Oakland. 

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