Members of Sigma Gamma Rho were cleaning up trash alongside Highway 83 in Harrisburg, PA when a state trooper pulled up behind them. The male officer then asked the group of young women if they were fighting, according to Shawna Naomi, who posted her account of the incident on Facebook. The post has since been deleted, but can be seen below via writer Britni Danielle’s Twitter.
“I’ve never seen anyone out here cleaning and I’m responding to a call,” the trooper said, according to the post. Shawna said that the officer would later admit he was not “responding to a call” but rather saw them on the highway and decided to “call it in” himself.
After the officer’s initial inquiry, Naomi and the sorority members explained who they were and that they’d just finished cleaning up “needles, bottles, diapers, etc.” on the highway. They also referenced a nearby “Adopt a Highway Sign” with their sorority name “Sigma Gamma Rho” on it. The trooper then asked what school they go to, and the group responded accordingly with “additional dialogue about (their) professions.”
Add "performing community service while Black" to the list of things that make you suspicious.
This happened to my #SGRho sorors in Harrisburg, PA this morning. Though they weren't harmed (Thank God!) the fact that the officer asked for their IDs is telling. #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/WsmMcA8O0N
— Britni Danielle (@BritniDWrites) May 12, 2018
After receiving clarification from the sorority as well as additional background information, the officer still decided it was necessary to run each members’ identification through the system. It was only after he handed their IDs back, that he commended them for their “great work.”
Naomi says she then asked the officer why he needed to see their IDs. He said they could have refused to hand them over, but she responded by claiming that action could have been deemed and written up as being uncooperative and confrontational.
She goes on to say that her sorority answered all of his questions and the evidence surrounding them clearly supports their statement that they weren’t fighting, but rather cleaning up trash.
With tears in her eyes, Naomi concluded by pointing out the negative attention the officer brought to the group who was simply trying to do a good deed. “We are on the side of the road with your car behind ours with your lights flashing drawing attention to us in a negative way”.
Naomi then says she was overcome with emotion and had to walk away. The officer “couldn’t and didn’t say anything” and returned to his vehicle and left.
Sigma Gamma Rho sorority posted a response to the incident on their Instagram, asking the State Police to apologize and renew their commitment to diversity training.