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Mitchell: Bloomington honors student says she unfairly beaten by cops

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Updated: August 19, 2013 4:01PM

I can’t understand why young black people can’t go out and have a good time without someone getting into a fight.

I don’t understand this anymore than I understand why, when faced with this volatile situation, some police officers think it is OK to start indiscriminately whupping heads.

That appears to be what happened one night last month in Bloomington, when 18-year-old Gabriella Calhoun allegedly got her teeth knocked out by a Bloomington police officer.

Calhoun is an honors student who started college a year early.

She and her friends had nothing to do with the fight and didn’t know the people involved. But when the combatants moved from the parking lot into the Denny’s restaurant, police were called and they allegedly ordered all the black youth out.

Maybe that wasn’t right, but I can see why it happened.

What I can’t see is a police officer hitting a petite, 130-pound teenager so hard that she woke up spitting out teeth.

Calhoun discussed her ordeal in detail in a YouTube interview with Dr. Boyce Watkins, the founder of the website “Your Black World” and a professor at Syracuse University.

Calhoun explained that as she was leaving the restaurant, walking beside a young man, she felt a grip on the back of her neck.

“It was so many people around me and a fight had just broke out. It was no telling who was behind me and what was going to happen to me, and out of reaction, I turned around and pushed whoever it was, and it was an officer,” Calhoun said.

She thinks the officer was in the wrong.

“Why grab me from behind and expect me to turn around and not react?” she said. “From that point on, I don’t remember anything that happened. I remember waking up on the ground and spitting out blood and my teeth.”

A female police officer marched her through the restaurant, handcuffed, with her left breast exposed.

“I will not forget that. She made me get up and humiliate myself,” Calhoun said.

“What they did to my daughter was unacceptable,” Montana Calhoun, the teen’s mother told me Wednesday. “I am sure they have been doing this all along and nobody has stood up for themselves. We are not only seeking justice for my daughter, but we don’t want this to happen to anyone else. The police department needs to answer for what they did.”

The Bloomington Police Department released a statement alleging that the teen pushed and then struck a police officer with a closed fist. The statement further accused the young woman of “swinging her right arm toward the officer” and states the “officer was unable to handcuff Calhoun,” and a “second officer had to come to the aid of the arresting officer as Calhoun continued to resist arrest.”

There is nothing about how Calhoun’s teeth got damaged.

The Pantagraph reported that Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said he watched a security camera video that shows Calhoun “jumping on an officer as she leaves the restaurant.”

That video has yet to be released to the public.

But it seems to me if a police officer has to inflict that kind of hurt on a petite female just to subdue her, he or she is poorly trained.

On July 10, a grand jury indicted the teen on charges of aggravated battery to a peace officer and resisting arrest — two felonies.

A conviction on those charges would effectively ruin the teen’s life, and for what — because ignorant people she didn’t even know got into a fight in the Denny’s?

Watkins has vowed to support Calhoun as she fights the charges.

“This case is bigger than Gabriella,” he wrote in a recent post. “It’s really about the idea that police felt that a large group of black people automatically poses a threat to the surrounding community. It’s all about the ‘Negroes in a Barrel’ theory, leading cops to believe that every black person is somehow related, and that proximity to a guilty party automatically implies that you should not have access to fundamental human and civil rights.”

“I wish things would have never happened,” Calhoun said. “I still have scars on my face. I wish things could have went down different, but I am still here.”

That’s a sad commentary about the relationship between law enforcement and black youth.

Unfortunately, the youth who are disrespecting the police and their neighborhoods are making it hard for other young people to enjoy the same privileges that other teens enjoy.

Still, police have to do a better job distinguishing between those troublemakers and teens like Calhoun.

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