Young, Gifted and Black Coalition leader Brandi Grayson claims Madison police are targeting her and her driver’s license with a series of citations related to her involvement in protests.
Grayson has been an outspoken critic of police and the criminal justice system for about a year now, organizing the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition with other young leaders to protest disparities in the Dane County jail and later the officer-involved shooting of 19-year-old Tony Robinson.
In the past two months, she has received five citations and claims police are harassing her and following her.
“They’re definitely targeting me,” Grayson said. “The reason that I know they’re targeting me is I’m the only person receiving tickets.”
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval wrote in an email response to a request for comment that he does not believe any such targeting has taken place and said he “cannot sit idly by and permit inflammatory rhetoric to go unchecked as though it was ‘fact.’”
“The notions of selective enforcement, profiling, or harassment is abhorrent to all of us committed to delivering professional services,” Koval wrote. “If behavior tantamount to these vile practices are allowed to take place, then respect for the police must necessarily diminish. But I do not believe that anything remotely akin to this took place.”
Grayson’s complaints center on five citations stemming from two separate occurrences, as well as officers showing up at her house and another officer issuing her a warning for a broken headlight Monday evening.
In July, Grayson said she received a citation in the mail for participation in a funeral procession protest for Tony Robinson, which took place on July 6.
She said police were present during the demonstration, interacting with the protesters who followed directions from police.
More than a week later, she said, she got a ticket in the mail for $86.20 and four points off her driver’s license for an illegal funeral procession.
“I was the only person out of 30 cars that got a ticket,” she said.
Koval confirmed this citation was issued for “her participation in facilitating a ‘mock’ (unlawful) funeral procession” and was mailed to her with a court date of Aug. 25.
On July 21, the group held a “free the 350” action at the City County Building. Grayson said she didn’t show up until 4:30 because she was at work. When she did, she said she asked an officer if she could park next to him, he said no, so she turned around and went to find another parking spot. She parked in another space and starting walking toward an officer, who asked what her name was. She said she gave her name and the officer said “I know who you are,” and she walked off.
She said she was never served with tickets for that occurrence but instead found out she had received four citations when she went to the City County Building to pay a parking ticket. The citations were for failure to obey a traffic officer, operating a motor cycle without a valid license, operating with an expired registration and driving against traffic on a one-way street. The court date was set for Aug. 26.
“I never got served with the tickets, meaning they never told me I got tickets,” Grayson said.
Koval wrote in his email that service was not effected at the time of the event “due to the volatility of the crowd that was protesting.”
He said the officer attempted to serve her via mail and then went on vacation and returned to find the citations returned "unclaimed." He then attempted to make service Tuesday night, Koval wrote, without having been informed by anyone that the court had already effected service on Aug. 25.
"This very likely contributed to the misunderstanding when this same officer attempted to serve the citations," Koval wrote. "I apologize for this miscommunication which led to an officer going to Grayson’s home on 9/1.”
On Tuesday, Grayson said she got a call from her daughter that a police officer came to her house around 5 p.m. wanting to speak with her. Grayson left the house around 8 p.m. and received a call again that the same police officers had returned and she told her daughter to get a card from them.
That night, as she exited the Beltline, she was pulled over by a different police officer who issued her a warning for a broken headlight.
She said getting pulled over right after hearing about officers coming to her house “was very scary and intimidating.”
Koval wrote that “by pure coincidence,” the officer who had been trying to serve Grayson with the unclaimed tickets had been at her residence earlier in the night.
“Again, it must be emphasized, neither officer (the one who issued a warning for no functioning headlight and the officer attempting to serve Grayson with citations), knew of one another’s actions,” Koval wrote.
“When it comes to acts of civil disobedience, protests, and marches, we try to work with organizers with the hope of keeping them and other members of the community safe. As is her prerogative, Grayson has chosen to not work with the MPD,” Koval wrote. “Whatever her thoughts may be of MPD, the officers of this Department have consistently treated her with dignity and respect and will continue to do so. However, Grayson is not above the law and flagrant ordinance violations will often result in citations, as would be the case for any citizen.”
Yet Grayson and other Young, Gifted and Black leaders believe police are going after her license.
“We know for a fact that when it comes to licenses, this is how folks get trapped in the system,” Grayson said. “This is a strategy that they’ve used forever.”
She said she needs a license for getting around the city, for transporting her family and for her job.
“There’s a domino effect of having a police officer or police come after someone’s license,” Grayson said.
The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition is rallying on Friday at 4 p.m. outside Villager Mall on Park Street to “demand that MPD keep its hands off Brandi.”
“This is an example of what scholars call ‘legalistic repression,’” Young, Gifted and Black leader M. Adams said in a press release. “When a movement gets too much community or political support, law enforcement officials will use whatever legal means at their disposal in order to squelch a movement. We recognize what MPD is doing to Brandi is a textbook case of this phenomenon.”