Trayvon Martin’s death 10 years ago catapulted Benjamin Crump into becoming the most recognizable civil rights attorney in America and he is making his way to New Jersey, where Bridgewater Township police engaged in overtly racist treatment of two teenagers involved in a fight at a shopping mall.
A viral video of police responding to a fight between two teenagers at the Bridgewater Commons Mall in New Jersey has drawn outrage and prompted an internal investigation over the officer’s apparent treatment of the Black teenager.
The two teens were arguing in the video, which was taken by a bystander, shortly before they began to throw punches at one another.
Two Bridgewater Township police officers who broke up the altercation handcuffed only the Black teenager, who was identified as an eighth-grader named Z’Kye Husain.
In the video, a woman can be heard saying, “It is because he’s Black, racially motivated.”
Husain, the teenager who was roughly thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested while the aggressor sat unrestrained on a couch, spoke to CNN about his treatment by police.
The other youth, a 15-year-old of Colombian and Pakistani descent named Joseph told NJ.com, “I don’t understand why they arrested him and not me. I say that was just plain old racist. I don’t condone that at all. Like I said, I even offered to get arrested.”
The fight was captured on video, in which Bridgewater police pulled the teen who appeared to be White out of the fray and sat him down on a couch before violently detaining the Black teenager.
A female officer put her knee on the Black teen’s back, despite no sign that he was resisting the male officer who was restraining him.
After the Black teenager was secured, the other youth apparently offered his wrists for cuffing but the police ignored him. Joseph said the officers never did.
The incident is being investigated by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office and politicians expressed dismay over the incident but as Benjamin Dixon said, “The Bridgewater Mall Fight is the clearest example of how police actively use race as a shorthand for who they perceive as a threat.”
“[Police Chief Paul Payne] has requested that the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office conduct an independent review of the incident, with the unqualified support of the BPD,” said Bridgewater Township Mayor Matthew Moench. “It is not appropriate for me or any other Township official to comment any further on the details of this incident while an investigation is ongoing, except to say that I am completely confident that the Prosecutor’s review will be impartial, objective and thorough.”
“The officers were able to respond quickly to this incident and stop it from escalating because of a tip we received from the community,” said a statement issued by the Bridgewater Township Police Department. “We have requested that the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office assist us in this matter and are requesting patience as we strictly adhere to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Internal Affairs Directive.”
“The behavior of two police officers at the mall in regards to one white teen male and one black teen male is literally what Colin Kaepernick was addressing with his peaceful kneeling protest,” said Patricia Mae Shelton, who was one of dozens from across the nation to offer comments on the incident. “Sadly, what was seen in Bridgewater Township NJ is not an isolated case but the reality throughout the nation regarding police involvement with African Americans and with Whites.”
“You should be ashamed of yourselves for treating that boy the way you did,” said John Andrea, a White father of three in Weston, Massachusetts, who posted on the police department’s Facebook page. “Absolutely unacceptable. Those officers should be disciplined and publicly apologize to the family for their narrow minded, intolerant, biased behavior.”