Racist police action draws celebrity protesters to Bridgewater

Nationally known civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump will hold a news conference demanding justice for the teenager brutally restrained by police who allowed another youth involved in a fistfight at the Bridgewater Commons mall to sit on a couch, even though video suggests the light-skinned boy was the aggressor.

Z’Kye Hussain, a Black 8th grader, was violently handcuffed by Bridgewater Township Police following a mall fight while the other youth involved in the skirmish was neither manhandled nor arrested after the brawl.

Video shows police quickly breaking up a fight between two teenagers at the central New Jersey mall, with two officers arresting the 14-year-old Black youth while the other teenager involved, who appeared to be White, was not handcuffed or arrested.

The other boy, who was identified as Joseph, 15, is Colombian and Pakistani and says he’s “not white” although he has light-colored skin.

The high school sophomore said once he saw cops put the other teen into handcuffs, he offered himself up to be detained, too.

“I don’t understand why they arrested him and not me,” Joseph told NJ Advance Media. “I say that was just plain old racist. I don’t condone that at all. Like I said, I even offered to get arrested.”

An investigation by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office was initiated after complaints of how Bridgewater Police handled the situation surfaced in response to a video of the incident that went viral.

The press conference will be held outside of the Bridgewater Police Department on Wednesday at noon with Sharpton, Crump, and Rev. Steffie Bartley, Sr. , the Northeast Regional director of the National Action Network, a not-for-profit, civil rights organization founded by Sharpton in 1991.

“I have seen the videos regarding the excessive force incident at the Bridgewater Mall. The video that I have seen is quite disturbing and suggests implicit bias as it relates to the police officers’ response,” said Bartley. “Why was the young Black man on the ground with handcuffs while the young white man was sitting on the couch as if he were overseeing?”

Crump is a nationally known civil rights attorney who has handled cases involving George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, and Breonna Taylor.

According to Joseph, he went looking to warn another youth about rumors that a group of teens planned to attack the boy that night at the mall, but that kid never even showed up.

Instead, when Joseph confronted the seventh grader who he believed intended to instigate the fight, his friend, Kye, an eighth grader, interceded and that’s when the two of them gpot physical.

Video shows that Joseph pointed at the Kye, who swatted his hand away, before Joseph pushed Kye with both hands. From there, the two teens traded blows, scuffled and fell over mall furniture.

Two police officers appeared and pulled the combatting boys apart, but both officers knelt on the Black teen’s back as he was pinned to the ground and cuffed.

The teen named Joseph was guided to a couch and left uncuffed even after he offered his wrists to the officer.

“When Bridgewater police found two youths fighting, the immediate reaction was to aggressively throw the black child to the ground, knee placed around the neck area and cuffed behind the back,” said the NAACP-NJ State Conference in a statement. “At the same time, the white youth, at least equally at fault for the fight as his black counterpart, was carefully eased onto a couch and treated like a victim.”

The civil rights group has called on the department to remove the two officers involved in the incident pending the investigation.

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