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Princeton Professor Says Parking Ticket Leads to Her Arrest

Imani Perry says she's rededicating herself to liberation work after an arrest during a traffic stop on Saturday by the Princeton Township police.
Imani Perry is a professor of African American studies at Princeton.
Imani Perry is a professor of African American studies at Princeton. @imaniperry

Princeton professor Imani Perry said she was not expecting any special treatment when she was pulled over Saturday morning by the Princeton Township police and subsequently arrested.

She just expected to be treated fairly, she wrote in a Facebook post about the incident Monday morning

Perry, Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton and an expert cited frequently by media outlets including NBC News and MSNBC, shared news of her experience via social media on Sunday morning. By Monday, she had written extensively about the incident including her critique of the state of police protocol in society.

While on her way to a symposium at the university organized by one of her students, she was pulled over by officers and arrested for a parking ticket from 2013, she wrote in a Facebook post. She said she was denied a request to contact someone from the university during the incident.

In writing about the incident on Facebook, Perry posted that the mug shot of Sandra Bland — the woman who died in police custody in Prairie View, Texas and would have been 29 years old Sunday — ran through her mind.

“Although there was both a male and a female officer on the scene, the male officer did a body search of me,” she said. “I told him I was uncomfortable with being taken into custody and having no one know where I was going. He asked me if I had any weapons, and put handcuffs on me. Then, when I arrived at the station, they handcuffed me to a table.”

According to Princeton Police, however, Perry's arrest was protocol and is mandated and required by state law. In a statement released to NBCBLK, Lieutenant Jonathan Bucchere stated that Perry was stopped on Mercer Street Saturday at approximately 9:30 am for speeding. After checking, police learned that her driver’s license were suspended for a 2013 violation of the Parking Adjudication Act and there was a $130 fine.

“Perry had an active warrant that had been issued for her arrest by the Princeton Municipal Court,” Bucchere wrote. “Perry was taken into custody pursuant to the warrant and was released after posting the required bail.”

No reference is made to the search or her being handcuffed to a table.

Perry, who is waiting to see how the university and police department will respond, gave NBCBLK permission to report on the incident but declined to provide further comment.

The university has been in touch with Perry and has offered their help, according to Min Pullan, media relations specialist for Princeton University. The school did not elaborate on what help they have offered.

Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton described the incident as ridiculous.

“I understand the law, but the failure to use discretion in this instance is mind-numbing,” he told NBCBLK via email. “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?”

Perry stated in her Monday morning post that she wants to place what she experienced in context.

“It was humiliating and frightening, but I am not Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, or Tanisha Anderson. I was not murdered. I was not screamed at, roughed up, or held over the weekend, or for weeks, or years. I was not forced into a plea deal that will take me away from my children, or prevent me from working or maintaining my home. I am here. My life has not been ruined or destroyed,” she stated.

However, she does feel some shame for the level of attention her story will receive when there are so many others whose experiences will not get the same amount of attention.

“But I hope against hope that the attention my story has received, and the fact that many people will give me the benefit of the doubt because of my profession, my small build, my attachment to elite universities, and because prominent people will vouch for my integrity and responsibility, can be converted into something more important," she wrote. "I hope that this circle of attention will be part of a deeper reckoning with how and why police officers behave the way they do, especially towards those of us whose flesh is dark.”