What followed was a call to police about a suspicious black male, outside the library, wearing a hoodie and possibly carrying a gun. The call came, authorities said, after some children at the elementary school across the street became frightened and told a crossing guard.
The deputy approached. He squeezed the front pocket area of Latson’s sweat shirt and lifted it to check for a gun. There was none. According to authorities, no gun was found, and the children, when questioned later, said they never saw one.
Calverley said he asked the teenager his name several times and, after the teen refused to give it, he grabbed Latson, told him that he was under arrest and bent him over the hood of a car. That’s when the two started wrestling and fell to the ground.
A young, Black, autistic man was sitting outside in a public place. He was reported to the police for the crime of being a young Black man wearing a sweatshirt. He was illegally searched and groped with no cause, no warrant, no due process. He was arrested for no crime. His civil rights were blatantly, indisputably violated. After the policeman had violated procedure and this man’s civil rights, a physical altercation occurred. Now he is considered a criminal. This is a tragic, but my no means rare, story of police overreaction and civil rights abuses on yet another young Black man.
And it’s blamed on his autism.
While it’s true that a non-autistic person may have been less likely to lash out physically at the intrusion and illegal abuse to which Mr. Latson was subjected, framing this case as an example of the menace to society posed by those violent, dangerous, unstable autistic people is unconscionably dishonest. Autistic persons are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the instigators of it, and their notorious “outbursts” are often in self-defense or in response to provocation. This case could be used to raise awareness about true social problems—police abuse, racism, due process, and the unequal justice received by a thrice-stigmatized (young, Black, and autistic) person. Instead, it is being used to feed and perpetuate that stigma. This is what propaganda looks like.