Police in Memphis, Tennessee, arrested a Black teen and a former reporter for allegedly breaking a mall's anti-hoodie dress code, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
Former Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Kevin McKenzie took notice of several Black teens being harassed by police for wearing hoodies Saturday. According to the Commercial Appeal, the 59-year-old followed the white officer who was tailing the group of teens and began to film.
The video, posted to Facebook by McKenzie's wife, showed the officer calling for backup as the teens outpaced him. From there, a Shelby County Sheriff's deputy appeared on the scene and ordered the group to stop. They then escorted the teens out of the mall for reportedly violating a dress code policy.
McKenzie said he intervened on behalf of the young men and was arrested, too.
"I asked the deputy what the young men had done," McKenzie wrote on Facebook. "Their hoodies had violated a mall policy, he said. It was unclear to me whether the violation involved wearing the hoods up or not; I hadn’t noticed any hoods when I first saw the security guard following them. Hoodie profiling was news to me."
The teens left only to return moments later. One of them could be heard telling the authorities they "have rights." McKenzie said two deputies and two Memphis police officers intercepted them. One of the teens was then arrested for criminal trespassing, according to WREG.
The officers then turned their attention to McKenzie, who was still documenting the interaction.
“You’re being told to leave, sir," an off-duty officer told McKenzie in the cell phone video.
"Okay, okay. I’ll leave," McKenzie said. However, one law enforcement official placed the retired reporter in handcuffs.
"Put your hands behind your back," the officer commanded.
While speaking to WREG, McKenzie said this was a textbook example of racial profiling.
“I’m disturbed that even today and especially today probably because race is back on the front burner in America, young Black men have a very hard time. They’re perceived as threats, and they shouldn’t be.”
According to Yahoo News, the former reporter was let go after officers discovered he had an infection that prevented him from going to jail. McKenzie said officials weren't able to remove his restraints themselves and had to take him to a nearby fire station to have them removed.
“After they decided they’d give me a misdemeanor citation and let me go, he took me around to the fire station where I put my arm out, and the firefighters cut it off with bolt cutters," McKenzie said. "That was fun.”
The teens targeted by police may not have violated the "code of conduct," according to supporters. They claim a sign with the code posted in the mall does not mention a ban on hoodies.
The Wolfchase Galleria Mall defended the actions of officers in a statement:
“We require customers to not conceal their identity while on mall property as a matter of public safety," a spokesperson said. "It is important that our security cameras and security personnel be able to see the faces of everyone on the property. Mall security personnel respectfully ask all customers concealing their identity to conform to the policy. Police are only called if a customer refuses or becomes belligerent. In this instance, an MPD officer repeatedly requested the individual to remove his ‘hoodie.’ He did not comply with this directive and was removed from the mall. The incident on Saturday night was managed by the Memphis Police, and we refer all questions about the circumstances to MPD.”
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