Black Artist Who Lives In His Gallery Handcuffed, Detained In His Home
Bodycam footage showed that the artist remained handcuffed for about six minutes.
May 22, 2021 at 7:28 pm
“Before I can explain anything, they got me in handcuffs,” Sims told the Free Times.
Bodycam footage showed that the artist remained handcuffed for about six minutes inside the 701 Center for Contemporary Art, where Sims stays as the artist in residence.
“(An) officer noted that the door is usually secured especially after business hours,” Columbia Police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said in an email exchange. “Making sure that there was not a crime in progress or anyone in distress, the officer notified central dispatch of his intention to search the building.”
As additional officers arrived and began searching the art center near the Olympia Mills student apartment complex, they heard footsteps on the second floor. The officers seen on the footage yelled for anyone inside to come out with their hands up.
“Why? What's going on?” Sims yelled as police arrived in the living room below his lofted bedroom.
While the artist asked to see identification, officers ignored his request and continued to climb the stairs. Police then ordered Sims to face the wall and put him in handcuffs while telling him to stop resisting.
“Officers identified themselves as CPD officers and made other commands for the person to come out. There was no reply,” Timmons said. “Officers found a man on the second floor. For safety reasons and while confirming his reason for being inside the building officers placed the man in investigative detention.”
Sims, who has focused his art on recoloring and recontextualizing symbolism of white supremacy, first suspected that his home was being targeted by Neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan.
"I saw lights in the window. I’m thinking-they’re coming from outside," he told WLTX. "I’m thinking they’re protesters, confederate, neo-Nazi’s, white supremacists coming in the space, responding to my work, coming to my show."
Now, he's planning to write an open letter to the Columbia Police Department about the incident. He also plans to depict the incident in art form.
“I think this is a very important, teachable moment,” said the artist, who has been in residence since May 4. “For the department to evaluate their policies and procedures about entering spaces, and how to engage folks, issues around assumption of guilt, perpetration from the onset, and how that can create a certain level of anxiety and miscommunication and misrepresentation.”