Urge D.A. to Drop Charges Against Prof. Akom!
Antwi Akom, 37, is an African American professor at San Francisco State University. On the evening of October 25, 2005, he went to his office to get some books he needed for teaching his class. A security guard contacted university police to report a suspicious person inside the campus classroom and office building. A police officer confronted Akom when he emerged from his office. Akom was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer.
Akom’s supporters say that Akom came to campus around 10 p.m. in the evening. When he arrived in the front of the building where his office is located, he was approached by a security guard. The guard asked him what he was doing there. Akom told the guard that he was a professor and he was going to his office. He then went inside. When he left his office, he was confronted by a police officer. The officer demanded that he put his hands behind his back. Akom asked why he was being arrested, but the officer reportedly would not answer.
Akom has told supporters that he had a faculty identification card and was willing to show it. He repeatedly told the officers he was a professor.
The police tell a different story in the incident report that has been released. According to police, the security guard who contacted police reported that Akom refused to identify himself upon entering the building. Police claim that when an officer made contact with Akom as he was leaving his office, Akom “aggressively approach” the officer, stated that he was a professor, threw his books down and then assaulted the officer. Police say Akom also resisted being put in handcuffs and being placed in the police car.
Akom’s supporters claim that the charges of resisting arrest were brought to cover up the officer’s mistake in racially profiling Akom. Defense attorney Lidia Stiglich said she will be replaced by John W. Keker, former special prosecutor against Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal. “I believe he was improperly charged. I believe that he was innocent,” said Keker in a phone interview. Another of Akom’s attorney’s, Matt Gonzalez, was quoted in the SF Chronicle as follows: “In our opinion, it’s obvious that this is a case involving racial profiling by the San Francisco State police.” “He has no criminal history,” said Gonzalez. “Obviously, once they found out he was a professor, they wanted to fix their problem.” Gonzalez also told KTVU that “”They made a terrible mistake, they had an opportunity to deescalate what was happening and instead they made matters worse.”
A San Francisco Superior Court Judge reduced the battery charge against Akom from a felony to a misdemeanor, casting doubt on the police officers’ story that Akom physically attacked officers.
What is not disputed is that Akom was doing nothing more than going to his workplace when he was confronted by police. He had committed no crime. Even if Akom was not cooperative when confronted by police, criminal charges against Akom under these circumstances are inappropriate.
The incident has sparked outrage on and off the SFSU campus. Supporters argue that Akom would not have been confronted by police had he been white. Professors and students say that this is not an isolated incident of racial profiling. Instead, they allege a pattern of racial profiling by campus security and police. Akom reports that he was the victim of a racial profiling incident by campus police previously in November 2004.
SFSU President Robert Corrigan has called for an external investigation of the matter. Former SF Mayor Willie Brown and SF Police Commission President Louise Rennie will serve on a panel that will investigate the details of this incident. In the meantime, supporters are demanding that the charges against Akom be dropped.
Akom was arraigned on November 1, 2005 in San Francisco Superior Court. The Judge reduced the charges from felonies to misdemeanors. The misdemeanor charges are still pending, with trial set to begin on December 5. If convicted, Akom could face up to one year in prison.
Please TAKE ACTION to demand that District Attorney Kamala Harris drop the charges against Akom. You can also send emails to Robert A. Corrigan, President of SFSU email@example.com, and Charles B. Reed, CSU Chancellor, at firstname.lastname@example.org, to tell them to take strong steps to prevent racial profiling on campus.
To get involved in this issue, contact Ashley Moore at email@example.com.