Arizona, Keep The Focus
On Ersula Ore
AUDIO/VIDEO: ASU Professor Dr. Ersula Ore Thrown to the Ground by Police
Despite The Rancor Surrounding The Incident Based Upon Racial Profiling Concerns, The Case Is More Accurately About How ASU Police And Other Peace Officers Interact With Residents
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
July 8, 2014 — By now, nearly everyone should be back from their July 4 holiday weekends, and are settling back into normal routines.
Most of us are law-abiding citizens. We go to work, then head home for some relaxation before getting back to start the whole routine once again.
But what if you happened to jaywalk across a street — that was closed to through traffic because of construction, mind you — on your way home from work and police officer treated you like you had just committed a felony?
Would you want to know why?
Was it your hair? Was it your skin color? Or was it something even sillier, like he just HATED your shoes?
Then, what if that same officer started demanding you show him identification. And, what if that officer was adamant that he could arrest you for not providing him with identification even though a pedestrian is not required to have identification or provide it.
Would you want to ask why?
How would you feel if you were thrown to the ground and arrested?
No matter your answer, don’t try that in Arizona and especially, it seems, around Arizona State University. If you do, you might just find yourself thrown to the ground, arrested and facing a slew of actual felony charges like resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
Just ask Ersula Ore.
The ASU professor had a very similar experience a month ago. Many are supporting her in what has become an epic battle with the state’s criminal justice system. More than 50 people showed up for her arraignment July 3 to answer a litany charges filed by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
I was in the courtroom Thursday and my take on Ore was that she was genuinely horrified that this happened to her and that she had to go through it. She said nothing and only smiled when at least a dozen of her co-workers separately embraced and shared words of encouragement.
She seems to be a reluctant fighter in a battle for justice.
“He (officer Stuart Ferrin) took an oath to protect and serve. He didn’t do that that day (May 20),” said Ore’s attorney, Alane Roby. “Instead of protecting and serving, he was going to accost her and force her to submit. She is stronger than that.”
The fact that those dozens of friends who showed up to support her — many of them ASU employees — did not want to go on the record in fear of how they may be treated is in itself troubling: fear of police is tangible and pervasive in every corner of society.
But her co-workers and supporters did state that they thought ASU Police acted wrongly.
“The ASU police need to engage in a different style of policing,” one of Ore’s co-workers at ASU said.
Ore’s attorney said Ore has received threats: All because she stood up for her rights as a resident of this state. Further, it seems like she just can’t believe a simple act of jaywalking can result in felony charges.
Most people understand there is a need for peace officers. But what most people don’t support is when officers literally break the peace as many think is what happened in this case.
But those in “law enforcement,” and especially those in County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s office, are intent to throw the book at Ore: she’s facing charges of resisting arrest, obstructing a road, refusing to give her name to a police officer and aggravated assault.
All of this because she walked across a “closed” road — like hundreds of others do every day — and dared to not be intimidated by a police officer who wanted someone to bully.
That her arraignment was July 3 may be nothing more than a coincidence, but how convenient it is for Montgomery and others. By time everyone else gets back into the swing of things — like watching the news — Ore and her case might be forgotten.
Surely this case will not go away. The FBI is reviewing whether ASU police were justified in ANY way and if Ore was racially profiled. An ASU investigation has already said the actions of officer Stewart Ferrin were justified. And, Ore will be back in court at least twice over the next several weeks, including a July 29 hearing where witnesses will be heard.
But the holiday served to rob at least some of the momentum behind Ore’s public support.
It is a shame, too, because no matter what anyone says, this is a case that’s much bigger than whether Ore was racially profiled. It’s about how peace officers can continue to accost and harass people when there is very little cause to do so.
This sort of thing happens all of the time. But this time, its a female professor who is “strong,” in the words of her attorney as well as well-enough connected to gain national media attention.
A similar case involving Faith Maxson, then an 18-year-old student, shows that others have also faced the same harsh hand of justice from aggressive “peace” officers.
Stay focused, Arizona residents. You could be next.
John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.
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