Imani Perry, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at the University, was arrested in the borough of Princeton for an outstanding parking ticket from three years ago on Saturday, according to Perry’s Twitter account.
Perry wrote that the police allegedly refused to allow her to make a call before her arrest, conducted a body search on her and handcuffed her to a table at the station. She noted that although she was shaken by the incident, but that it has renewed her commitment to the struggle against racism and carcerality.
Perry did not respond to requests for comment.
The Princeton Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.
Section 39:4-139.10 of title 39 of the 2013 New Jersey Revised Statutes state the penalties for failure to pay parking judgements include suspension of the driver’s license or the registration of the vehicle.
Section 39:4-139.10a of the same statute states that if the court fails to issue a warrant for the arrest of an individual for parking violations or order a suspension of the individual’s driving privileges, the matter shall be dismissed and not reopened.
Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., chair of the Department of African American Studies, deferred comment to a press statement.
“I understand the law, but the failure to use discretion in this instance is mind numbing,” he wrote.
Glaude added that he was thankful that Perry was okay, but found the entire incident to be ridiculous.
“Asking her if she had any weapons on her person, patting her down, handcuffing her, and then handcuffing her to a table…all for a parking ticket? This is the kind of unnecessary escalation that is bound up with the unseemly work of generating revenue through parking tickets,” he wrote.
Kelly Roache ’12 GS ’15, a student activist and participant in the Center of African American Studies during her time at Princeton, said that the incident brings together issues of feminism, racial justice and the need for criminal justice reform. As an undergraduate student, she attended many of Perry’s lectures and respected her work in addressing issues of race and gender, Roache added.
“Every encounter with the police, every experience of racism, is unique, but at the same time, I think it’s important to connect it to a larger pattern nationally so that we don’t just write it off as though it’s this one isolated incident,” Roache said.
Roache added that academic and institutional privileges prove insufficient forces to counteract racism, as shown in the case of African American professor at Harvard Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
In June 2009, Gates was arrested after a neighbor called the police on him for a suspected break-in, when he was in fact entering his own home, according to the Washington Post.
This incident and others of its kind demonstrate the importance of reflecting on and continuing to carry forward a discussion of the black experience at Princeton, Roache said.