CHAMPAIGN – Recently in the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area, a group of habitually drunk students has taken to protesting discriminatory behavior of the local police department. According to the group, police officers are unfairly targeting blacked-out people.
The students claim that police officers will act more harshly toward blacked-out students, stopping them for minor incidents that sober students are not stopped for. “I was pulled over by a cop for jay-walking when there were no cars around,” claimed Greg Young, profound alcoholic. “One night I was stumbling out of the bars and crossed the street between Lion and Wingin’ Out. There were other people besides me, but because I was blacked-out, the cop targeted me. And I’m 35.”
Other incidents of police profiling blacked-out people include junior student Helen Lockwood, who was stopped and frisked, a now-common policy by police when dealing with blacked-out people. “I was carrying unopened alcohol in my jacket,” said Lockwood who was, at the time of the interview, puking into a bucket. “I was only stopped because I was blacked-out. I dropped the bottle and the glass broke everywhere so I got a ticket for littering.” Lockwood was celebrating her 21st birthday at the time.
Blacked-out students are not the only people being profiled, according to activist groups. Students who are in a state of “browning-out” are also experiencing high levels of police interaction. “Browning-out isn’t even the same thing,” said Frank Quincy, a regular at Illini Inn. “It’s offensive that the two groups are so often lumped into the same category.”
The common theme with all the stories is that all the blacked-out students who were stopped were guilty of everyday crimes that no sober person is ever arrested for. Some students tell others to “act less blacked-out” in order to avoid the police. “I wear short-sleeved white dress shirts and black dress pants when I go out to make people think I don’t drink,” said junior Ben Smith. Yet others say they can’t change who they are. “I am blacked-out every weekend,” said Young. “My parents got blacked-out every weekend, my grandparents got blacked-out every weekend, and their parents before them. I didn’t ask to be blacked-out all the time.” Young later admitted to having an extremely low tolerance and a shot liver.
Students are joining together in order to protest the unfairness. T-shirts with the phrase “Blacked-out People Are People Too” are circulating around campus, although the correlation may be with either the protests or Unofficial—it’s not clear. A march through Green Street was organized with thousands of students appearing in support, all feigning stumbling, puking, and mistakenly calling exes. Picket signs with the words “I can’t see…or hear or taste or smell” were plentiful in the crowd, the quote attributed Darren Freiberg who was describing his state of being blacked-out after 20 shots of vodka.
The effect on Unofficial is yet to be determined. With the typically minority number of blacked-out people turning into a majority, the behavior of the police force will be under scrutiny. “The plan is to minimize the amount of profiling that happens in the department as much as possible,” said police chief Geoffrey Christianson. “We are going to arrest everyone equally. Of every crime. Jay-walkers and litterers will find no safe haven in Champaign-Urbana.”