The disturbing story below was reported by Kimberly Chun at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and brought to me by Rock and Rap Confidential. Meanwhile, in Miami Beach, there are ongoing calls of racial profiling during Memorial Day.
THE COUP’S BOOTS RILEY SAN FRANCISCO PD PROFILING VICTIM
GUILTY OF “DRIVING WHILE BLACK” REPORTS SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN
The Coup’s Boots Riley – a long-standing outspoken political
“raptivist” – was on the receiving end of racial profiling by the San
Francisco’s Police Department this past Memorial Day. In the
early-morning hours of a day where Americans celebrate their freedom,
Coup mastermind Boots (né Raymond) Riley found himself looking down
the wrong end of the SFPD’s gun barrel while innocently attending a
get-together at a friend’s warehouse in SF’s Dogpatch-Waterfront zone.
According to a report in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the
thought-provoking rapper was guilty of simply “driving while black”.
“Riley had just parked his car near the warehouse when he was blinded
by flashlights, and he realized that he was surrounded by cops,”
Guardian reporter Kimberly Chun reports.
“They were saying, ‘Don’t fucking move, don’t fucking move,’ and came
straight at me,” Riley told Chun this past Sunday (June 3rd) as he fed
his kids breakfast in his Oakland home. “They put my hands above my
head, searched me, and searched my car, even though they were looking
for someone who was stealing tires. You know, if they had a
description of a light-skinned black man with a big Afro and
sideburns, maybe they should have taken me in. But they were yelling,
‘Are you on probation? Do you have a warrant?’ And every time I said
no, they said, ‘Don’t lie to us. Don’t fucking lie to us.'”
According to Chun, area resident Hoss Ward had been walking his dog by
the warehouse when he spied officers with flashlights lurking between
parked cars amid the trash on the street. “I thought that was weird.
They didn’t question me, but I’m a white man,” he said later,
verifying that Boots parked, got thrown against his car, and had guns
pulled on him. “It’s not unusual for someone to pull up in a beater
car,” Ward said. Yet this incident smelled like racial profiling:
“That’s what the vibe felt like.”
“I walked over there and said, ‘What the hell is going on?'” recounted
Riley’s friend Marci Bravo to The Guardian. Bravo, who lives at the
warehouse, witnessed Riley’s release but added, “It was really messed
up. We fire off fireworks, burn things in the street, and there’s been
no problems with cops. They’ve actually come and hung out before. It’s
just a nasty case of police profiling.”
In the end, Riley said, the officers didn’t even check his ID. Police
representatives have yet to respond to inquiries about the incident,
however Riley is planning on filing a grievance with the city watchdog
agency the Office of Citizens Complaints, a process that the longtime
activist is, unfortunately, familiar with.
After a 1995 Riverside performance with Method Man, Riley and kindred
local hip-hoppers Raz Caz, E-Roc, and Saafir were pulled over and
pepper-sprayed in their car seats following a yelling argument at a
club. A more recent incident during the Coup’s 2006 tour in support of
the ironically titled Epitaph album Pick a Bigger Weapon was equally
disconcerting. Shortly after the group’s tour manager urinated next to
a semi at a Vermont rest stop, the tour vehicles were stopped by
plainclothes officers who claimed to be surveilling a cocaine deal in
the truck. “Half the band woke up with guns in their faces,” the Coup
leader told The SF Bay Guardian.
“There are stories all the time,” Riley told the SFBG. “Everyone knows
you used to get fucked with in San Francisco and Berkeley. Usually
it’s not anything with me specifically being a rapper,” he continued.
“I might have even more protection because of that. Like at this
get-together, somebody came up and said, ‘Don’t you know who this is?
This is Boots Riley.’ They might not have known who I am, but they
realize this isn’t the regular case where they can do whatever they
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