Editorial: Knowing your rights is a courageous act

Genesis Hansen arrest

The Baro Staff

The police have the right to pull citizens over. Genesis Hansen had the right to full understanding of the circumstances of her stop and her arrest. She should have been able to ask for the law requiring her to present identificationwhich she did in fact doand she should have been met with cooperation, even approval. She should not have been arrested. 

It takes courage to advocate for oneself in the face of perceived injustice, and while speaking to a figure carrying an inherent amount of authority and power. Exercising our rights should be applauded, collecting facts about a situation should be the norm and passive compliance should not be demanded in situations such as this. 

Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson said he does not necessarily see anything in the body cam footage which could be charged criminally. 

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What happened here was a display of dominance, not justice. It was not appropriate in response to passive resistance by an individual who was clearly uncomfortable, clearly thinking of cases where excessive force is used against an African-American individual by a police officer. 

We have questions, as do many. The choice to pull over a student for a violation that is prominent in other areas of town and on campus raises an immediate concern of why her, why here and why now. As OSP is contracted with the university, we assume one of their priorities is violations and issues related to campus safety. However, choosing to pull over a femme student of color raises concerns over the intentions of OSP in that particular place at that particular time. 

We can’t know for certain if the impetus for pulling Hansen over was racial profiling. But the fact that Officer Kelly Katsikis did not address this fear of Hansen’s indicates an opportunity for reflection and identification of any implicit biases which may be present. 

Hansen was not comfortable. The atmosphere was tense all around. It is fine if Katsikis felt uncomfortable, or stressed. But this is a feeling to address, not an excuse for action. 

Compliance would absolutely have defused the situation, brought about a quick resolution. But ultimately, that shouldn’t be required.

A request for justification should not be met with force. We should all stand up for our rights with such resoluteness.