Thursday, December 6, 2012

Were is the outrage over what's written on Stephanie Nickerson's face?

Nia Wilson has been fighting for justice for a long time.  Wilson is the Executive Director of SpiritHouse, a nonprofit organization that uses art and media to transform communities broken by poverty, racism, gender description and the school-to-prison pipeline.

The organization received attention for Collective Sun-reshape the mo(u)rning, a stage production that explores the impact prison and policing has on the bodies, the families and communities constantly attacked by the presence of police.

Wilson and the members of SpiritHouse know the pain of police brutality, racial profiling and the prison industrial complex.  It’s why they have been fighting to bring attention to the case of Stephanie Nickerson, a Chapel Hill resident who claims she was beaten by Cpl. Brian Schnee when police responded to a noise complaint on Oct. 28.

Pictures of Nickerson’s battered face have been spread on the internet along with a petition asking Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez to fire Schnee.  SpiritHouse has showed up at police headquarters on the past two Tuesday’s to protest the lack of attention to the incident.

Lopez claims an investigation is underway, and the group is interfering with progress.  Meanwhile, Nickerson faces charges of resisting an officer and assaulting a government official. She’s set to appear in court on Jan. 24.

The confrontation began after police arrived at Nickerson’s friend’s house after a call about a disturbance.  When police asked to search the house, Nickerson told her friend she didn’t have to let the police in because they didn’t have a warrant.  That’s when police are alleged to have become aggressive.

The police officer was caught on a cell phone video. Although dark and blurry, a voice can be heard demanding, “Don’t hit her man, don’t hit her. Come on bro, that’s a female.”

Schnee is on paid leave pending an internal investigation. People continue to sign the online petition calling for the immediate termination of Schnee and his being charged with assault and battery.  Wilson and the members of SpiritHouse continue to wait for a response from Chief Lopez. 

Lost in Nickerson’s fight for justice is the work of SpiritHouse.  The local press has noted the presence of Victoria Peterson at the protest.  Yes, Peterson has been there, but its Wilson and the members of SpiritHouse who are pressing the protest.

It doesn’t matter who shows up.  What matters is that someone shows up.  More people should show up.

An interesting dynamic in battles to seek justice is how public perception is impacted by those who show up. Has Nickerson’s fight been impeded by the presence of people like Peterson?

One has to wonder if Peterson’s name is used to discredit Nickerson’s claim.  People are less prone to listen when those connected to the protest are considered habitual trouble makers with no credibility. Those reading the paper should refrain from dismissing Nickerson’s complaint because of Peterson. Yes, Peterson backed Michael Peterson and Crystal Mangum, but this is a different case altogether.

The local press has failed to mention the work of Wilson and the other members of SpiritHouse.  Doing just that will help others understand the relationship between what has happened to Nickerson, and the line with others with stories that have much in common.

Does the community have reason to believe police brutality happens a lot in Durham, NC?  I’m not sure.  The members of SpiritHouse believe it happens far too often.  They have a stage production based on the stories of those who claim it happens.  Maybe we should stop and listen. After listening, more should show up.

Chief Lopez has a bunch of questions to answer.  It’s written all over Nickerson’s face.



  1. The key words here are the incident "is still under investigation," meaning the facts are being obtained while protecting the rights of those on both sides of the altercation.

    Surely you don't want officer Schnee fired before those facts are obtained? Many witness at the scene describe Ms. Wilson screaming, fighting, kicking, and hurling profane epithets at the officers. Should they not protect themselves?

    I'm sure that any officer responding to a domestic disturbance complaint would want to inspect the premises in order to determine if anyone needed help and not just turn away because the person answering the door told them to. That would be a dereliction of their duty. Why was Ms. Wilson not cooperating in that simple matter?

    Ms. Wilson clearly has been the object of some trauma. How much was justified remains to be seen. I'd wait until all the facts are known, then pass judgement.

    Lastly, you mention that the press should have mentioned the good work Ms. Wilson has done in the community. Should that have absolved her of any violence that she herself perpetrated? You have been loudly critical of the press for mentioning a person's past bad history when discussing a current event. We can't have it both ways.

    1. You might want to read the article again because you are confused about the people involved. Ms. Wilson was not the person involved in the altercation. The young woman involved in the altercation and severely beaten is STEPHANIE NICKERSON of Chapel Hill. Ms. Nia Wilson is the Executive Director of Spirithouse and she has been helping Stephanie Nickerson by ensuring the public knows about the case. Ms. Wilson has done a significant amount of magnificent work in the community and has many times fought for people that do not have a voice or lack the ability to have their voices heard by important members of the community. So yes, the press should acknowledge the work Ms. Wilson has done in the community because her contributions to bettering the community started well before this case and will continue into the future.

    2. Anonymous:In the first place, her name is Ms. Nickerson. It is obvious that you work for the police dept. I guess you didn't think that someone would recognize that some of the statements that you made could only come from someone that have seen part of the evidence. However, you failed to mention a lot of key points that clearly shows the wrong doing by the crooked cop. It's your duty as a crooked cop to defend other crooked cops. Cops are suppose to protect and care about the citizens and not abuse their power as Schnee obviously did and have done this before. He should use his wrestling skills for his students at Orange High School.
      Another key point, the police Dept should be honest with the public when stating that the involved parties are not cooperating....liars do get caught! I suggest you stop trying to be a friend to Schnee and not post any more comments because you aren't making a lot of sense

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    THE FACT that you don't even know the name of the person assaulted by officer Schnee is the whole point of this article. While you say both sides need to be heard it is clear that you have already passed judgement and are hiding behind the "Lets wait for the facts."
    THE FACTS are already out there. This photo of a woman badly beaten by a police officer has not been photoshopped. You however have decided that she somehow deserved a beating like that.
    THE FACTS ARE that it is our CONSTITUTIONAL right to refuse a search with out a warrant. THE FACTS ARE that it is our CONSTITUTIONAL right to refuse, an unlawful arrest with out a warrant. STEPHANIE NICKERSON was within her rights to say NO. She has every right to expect the Durham police Dept to follow the constitution and protect her rights.

  3. as one trained in journalism, it irks me when folks practice yellow journalism and confuse the victim with the advocate. while I have friends in local law enforcement and a cousin in the Georgia Bureau of investigations, none of them would violate knowingly someon's lawful rights. unfortunately many of us do not know our rights and this type of education is crucial to the mission of Spirithouse....and I am very proud of the work of MD. Wilson and her staff and supportets

  4. Well it seems that Ms. Nickerson knew her rights, but many of us don't. Too many times on these blogs or public forums,we get the perspective from a layman or victim, and not a professional. Theres rearly anyone with experience in the legal field or law enforcement that post information that will enlighten citizens of our "rights". The saying is "ignorance of the law is no excuse" with that said can someone "educate" us. Here's something that someone may not know:

    1. The "police ASKED to search the house"- He asked a question which requires a yes or no response, which means she does not have to allow them to search. Many people don't know this and assume they have to submit to the authority,however police get angry when they come across those individuals that know this and challenge them. Had it been a situation where he saw a crime in progress and given her a directive and she resisted or obstructed his way, oh well thats her bad.

    2.She asked if she was being arrested. Reading the story it appears at the time of the initial incident she wasn't,so she hadn't done anything.

    It seems the police don't expect citizens to know their rights and they along with the courts have what seems to be an unfair advantage when we don't know them. I encourage anyone to educate yourselves, take some Criminal Justice, learn the local and federal laws.. Please study..You'll be glad you did