Picking Up Trash While Black


Screenshot by Vanardo Merchant

At this woeful point, we should probably celebrate that nobody died after eight jittery armed cops in Boulder, Colorado confronted a black college student - menacingly wielding a trash grabber and plastic bucket - as he cleaned up the garbage in a patio area outside his own house. The encounter began when one officer asked the Naropa University student if he was allowed to be there; though he offered a school ID and explained he lived and worked in the house, the cop called for back-up, which swiftly arrived, sirens wailing. One of the newly arrived cops then drew a gun and started shrieking, "Put down your weapon!" at the increasingly rankled, still weapon-less guy. "You're on my property with a gun in your hand," he fumed, "threatening to shoot me because I'm picking up trash.” In video of the scene recorded by his equally incensed roommate, you can hear the helpless, mounting rage in both men's voices. "We fucking live here!" his friend bellowed. "We're family."


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Police finally left but the video quickly spread, prompting a packed Boulder City Council meeting where angry residents clacked trash grabbers and held "Black Lives Matter" signs. Naropa president Charles Lief testified the student has no desire to be a symbol of racial profiling, but “I do not want to underestimate the amount of trauma (he) experienced, and  students, staff and faculty of color at Naropa (have) all experienced various degrees of racism living in this community.” Police Chief Greg Testa Post said the initial officer has been put on paid administrative leave and an internal affairs investigation is ongoing, adding, "This is an extremely concerning issue." Damn straight, said a young black man who found "terrifying" this and all the rest - the failure to charge officers who killed Stephon Clark, the boy harassed for mowing a lawn, the man stalked for building a garden, all the sordid fault-lines of our racist national landscape. Just try watching the video - here's a short and full version - without your stomach churning and blood boiling.


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