Same spot, different year.
For many, the Kentucky Derby is a day for mint juleps, placing a couple bucks on a horse or maybe reading Hunter S. Thompson, and taking in his view of the decadent, depraved debauchery with an heroic dose of adrenochrome.
For Antwynette Houston, long ignored by the lowly denizens of a media not fit to call itself a free press, Derby Day is the day she gets to show Kentucky its shameful secret. With dignity and a quiet determination, in spite of great pain and injury. She’s there, showing the world her brave face as a survivor of police brutality.
Often, she exercises her First Amendment rights from a seated position because an off-duty policeman, Scott Sturgeon stole her dancing days the night she drive home from a friends funeral.
He stole her dancing days away and left her needing surgery to live a normal life again.
She did nothing worse than park crooked, while she got some doughnuts for herself and her 9 year old son, who was asleep in the back seat. To hear her talk about what came next is harrowing to listen to. You put yourself in her shoes. You put yourself in the back seat watching your mother get hurt by a bad man. She is screaming. The bad man wants her to go with him.
Antwynette’s terror was not enough to sway her common-sense and she locked herself in her car to dial 911 and request other (on-duty) officers be called to the scene.
“I am the fucking police!”
~ Officer Scott Sturgeon
“The Officer followed me to my car. He stood outside my car (hands on his hips as if to demonstrate a position of authority or control) demanding that I give him my license or go to jail. I explained that I had dialed 911 and was on line with the police, but he kept demanding that I give him my license. The third time he asked for my license, I let my window down a little just in case he didn’t hear that I was on the line with the police. At this point, He reached inside my car window and opened my door from the inside and then proceeded to snatch me out of my car, at which point my son was awakened and started screaming.”
“The Officer lifted me from a sitting to standing position by my arm. I was terrified, screaming and crying. I told him immediately that I had surgery on my shoulder a year ago and he couldn’t do my arm that way. At that moment, he pushed me against my car and deliberately yanked my arm to the other side of my body, which is when I felt something pop in my shoulder. He handcuffed me and started pulling me towards his privately owned vehicle. I began screaming for help and begging him to let me go. He then started trying to force me into the front passenger seat of his car, which I thought was weird if he was in fact police. That scared me even more. I wondered to myself that if he was the police, and I didn’t have a reason to fear him, why couldn’t he just calm down and wait for the police to arrive?”
“The Officer was so enraged that he didn’t even realize that I still had my cell phone in my hand when he handcuffed me and that I was still on the line with 911. During this time he was stating things like “your son is going to the home of the innocence and you’re going to jail.” The Officer did not get on his radio until he heard sirens coming, at which point his entire demeanor changed and he called for police backup. Between my call to 911 and his call for backup, 12 officers arrived.”
Outside of social media and a handful new sites aimed fair and square at people of colour, there has been hardly a word whispered about the injustice of an officer like Sturgeon being allowed to enjoy his retirement with nary a blemish on his record. There has been no recognition of his wrongdoing by Law Enforcement. There has been no recompense for Ms. Houston to ease the suffering this officer caused.
As always, the systemic reaction has been to close ranks and protect “their own.” Unlike other, better known cases, there has been no need to smear Antwynette’s impeccable character in public because the wider public do not know who she is. Her tenacity and determination are apparently not newsworthy. Her small successes remain small. She does not exist in the pages of a history book so there are no comparisons drawn between her struggle and Harriet Tubman’s. Antwynette has the misfortune of surviving today. When only violent protesters draw the media spotlight and reams are written in response to publicity-hungry hacks, spouting forth their asinine opinions like fountains of bile into the public discourse.
Piers Morgan gets to talk about Beyonce but nobody asked Antwynette.
This year, the press pack has no excuse. They have been informed, ahead of time that this strong black woman is attending the Kentucky Derby with the intention of making her voice heard. Whether they will pay lip service, ignore her or give her a megaphone remains to be seen. What is certain is that no one will be holding their breath.