The list of things for which black people can get arrested continues to expand as a Harlem restaurant owner says police arrested him for trying to aid an unconscious white patron. However, if the New York Police Department thinks that will fly, his lawsuit says otherwise.
In June 2017, Dr. Clyde Pemberton, owner of MIST Harlem, was arrested alongside two of his employees. According to The New York Times, Pemberton says he was holding a business meeting in his restaurant when two white women came stumbling out of the restroom. The two women were dragging an unconscious woman when they reportedly knocked over a stanchion of a rope blocking a section of the restaurant to customers. Pemberton intervened, suggesting they sit the unconscious woman. His advice was met with hostility as one woman punched him in the chest and the other called him a racial slur, The Times reports.
The women continued their aggressive behavior, with one striking an employee in the head with her purse. Restaurant staff then called the police. Upon arrival, instead of speaking with the restaurant owner, the officers chose only to talk with one of the white women. The police supervisor then ordered Dr. Pemberton and two of his employees, Christian Baptiste and Thomas Debnam, be arrested and charged with unlawful imprisonment.
The charges were later dropped in November 2017 but not before the men accumulated $15,000 in legal fees. Sixty-eight-year-old Pemberton is a green card holder from Trinidad and Tobago and said the arrest has caused him to run into travel issues. Pemberton also says the police have increased random checks at MIST following the arrest.
The ramifications alone were enough for the men to file suit against the police department.
“You don’t just arrest everybody on the scene and sort it out later,” Elizabeth Saylor, a civil rights attorney representing the men, said.
One of the women was also arrested and charged with assault with intent to cause physical injury and other offenses. However, Saylor argues the fact remains that the men should never have been arrested.
“Everything we did was in the right way and approach, and it was overlooked, ignored and disrespected, our rights as human beings,” Debnam said. “There’s a flaw in our system.”
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