Three black star Edison Tech High School student athletes in Rochester, N.Y., who refused an officer's command to "disperse" as they waited for their school bus to take them to a basketball game last Wednesday are set to go on trial next week for disorderly conduct charges.
Supporters of the students, including witnesses of the incident as well as a member of the Rochester City School Board and the school's basketball coach, maintain that the students did nothing wrong. Police, however, tell a different story.
"I think the charges should be immediately dropped and I think the district attorney's office should be stepping in and looking at these kinds of matters," Rochester City School Board Member Mary Adams noted in a WHEC Rochester report at the students' arraignment last week.
"I'm very concerned about a pattern of young people being abused by police authority. …To me, this seems like a really clear case, part of a pattern," added Adams.
Edison's basketball coach, Jacob Scott, told WROC that he was the one who arranged for the school bus to pick up the students to take them to a game of scrimmage last Wednesday. School was not in session.
As they waited, however, the students say they were approached by a police officer who asked them to disperse but they refused and tried explaining why there were waiting.
"We tried to tell them that we were waiting for the bus," said one of the students, Wan'Tauhjs Weathers in the WHEC report. "We weren't catching a city bus, we were catching a yellow bus. He didn't care. He arrested us anyways."
According to WROC the arrested students were with about a dozen of their basketball teammates when the incident happened.
Coach Scott, who is also a guidance counselor with the school district, said he arrived on the scene to find his students in handcuffs and he pleaded with the officers to release them but his pleas were ignored.
The arresting officer told him: "'If you don't disperse, you're going to get booked as well,'" said Scott. "I said, 'Sir, I'm the adult. I'm their varsity basketball coach. How can you book me? What am I doing wrong? Matter of fact, what are these guys doing wrong?'"
Scott also claims that when additional officers arrived on the scene one of them lamented the fact they didn't have a vehicle big enough to arrest his entire team.
"One of the police officers actually told me, if he had a big enough caravan, he would take all of us downtown," said Scott.
The students return to court on Dec. 11.