A video showing New Jersey police pinning and handcuffing a Black eight-grader while a White teen he had gotten into a fight with watched on as he was left unrestrained has sparked outrage with people alleging race played a factor in the officers’ handling of the incident.
According to NBC News, the physical altercation happened at a mall in Bridgewater Township on Saturday. The video of the incident went viral after it was shared online. It even prompted a response by Governor Phil Murphy who said he was “deeply disturbed” by what appeared to be a “racially disparate treatment in this video.”
The fight between the two teens happened at a seating area in the mall. In the video of the incident, the two boys are seen having a verbal altercation while other young people look on. Things later escalate and the boys get into a fistfight before two police officers arrive seconds later.
The officers, a male and female, ultimately separate the two boys and the White teen is pulled towards the direction of a couch. And though the White teen remains seated on the couch with the female officer, the male officer is seen pinning the Black teen to the ground with his knee as he tries to handcuff him. The Black teen remains calm.
The female officer shortly joins her colleague, and she is also seen placing her knee close to the back of the Black teen’s neck as she helps place him in the handcuffs. The White teen, who remains unattended to, later gets up from the couch and watches on. A bystander witnessing the arrest is heard saying, “Yo, it’s ’cause he’s Black. Racially motivated.”
In an interview with NBC New York, the 14-year-old Black teen, identified as Kye, said he was defending a friend the older White teen was bullying. “He was kind of saying, like, ‘You’re a little kid, you’re my little pet,’ and stuff like that,” Kye said.
Asked about his reaction as he was being restrained by the officers, Kye said: “I was, like, calm, because I knew not to be scared. Just stay calm and not move and do what they tell me to do.”
The Black teen’s mom, Eboné, also condemned the way her son was treated. “It doesn’t take two cops to hold a 14-year-old boy down who’s not resisting, while the other boy is just kind of going free and still going off on my son. It just doesn’t make sense,” she said.
“It’s not fair that we are constantly having to fear the cops. I’m just glad it happened where there were a whole bunch of eyes on the situation, ’cause I don’t know what would have happened.”
A review of the officers’ conduct has since been opened. “We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation,” the Bridgewater Police Department said in a statement posted on its Facebook page on Monday.
The police also said they have reached out to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office to independently review how the officers handled the situation.
The Bridgewater Mall Fight is the clearest example of how police actively use race as a shorthand for who they perceive as a threat.— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) February 16, 2022
See for yourself. pic.twitter.com/ThJPQFNEzO