A video showing a man being arrested in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has sparked protests after one officer can be seen placing his knee on the man’s neck.
The video, taken on Saturday from a passing car, shows three police officers restraining the unidentified man outside of St. Luke’s Hospital-Sacred Heart, and a hospital employee can be seen standing by and watching, reports BuzzFeed News.
"Get off his neck," a woman in the car can be heard saying.
“He can’t breathe,” a second person in the car says.
The video initially shows the officer with his elbow in the man’s neck and then switching his positioning, placing his knee there instead. As other hospital employees arrived on the scene, one walks toward the car, blocking the view and urging them to continue driving.
BREAKING:@AllentownPolice were filmed Saturday evening applying the same force to a resident that the cops used to murder #GeorgeFloyd.
This happened here in #Allentown outside a hospital.
We demand answers. We demand change.
We're Done Dying.#DefundThePolice
— Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley (@BLMlehighvalley) July 12, 2020
The woman who took the video said the man was screaming “Mira, mira!” which means “Look, look" in Spanish.
“That means he knew what was going on and he was screaming for someone like me to see,” the woman told The Morning Call.
The woman said she was driving by when she saw the incident and then drove around the block once more to get a better look.
“We are actively investigating this incident,” Bill Lake, assistant chief of the Allentown Police Department, said.
Lake said as soon as he was informed of what took place, the department took action.
The incident, which occurred around 7 p.m., sparked a protest later that night in downtown Allentown.
Hasshan Batts, executive director of Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, posted a call to action on Facebook.
“Where are we going to make it loud and clear that this is not OK?” he said. “If this is not OK to you, meet me on Seventh and Hamilton, right now.”
"Really there's two things in there," he said. "The knee to the back of head that shouldn't have happened and also, too, there's an accountability portion in there where officers that are seeing excessive use of force are required to step in with this use of force policy and that did not take place.”
Protestors now knocking on the doors to the precinct, demanding answers. pic.twitter.com/D7WQtUS6ne
— Kayla Dwyer (@kayla_dwyer17) July 12, 2020
Mayor Ray O’Connell and Police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. attended the protest to answer questions.
O’Connell called the video disturbing and said all the facts and information must be gathered before police can move forward.
“As a human being, a knee on the neck, is that OK?” Maegan Llerena, director of Make the Road Pennsylvania, asked the officials.
“We’re going to take a look at it. We’re going to go through everything. And we’re going to give you an update as soon as we can,” Granitz said.
Protesters asked for the name of the officer who placed his knee on the victim’s neck, which has yet to be released.
When asked how long the investigation will take, Granitz said he didn’t have a “24-hour, 48-hour time table for [the residents].”
“I just got here, and I’m here to look at it,” he said. “I’ve seen a short clip.”
Granitz, however, assured protesters that he would “be on the right side of it.”
“I don’t have a 24-hour 48-hour time table for you,” Granitz said when a resident asked how long an investigation would take.
— Kayla Dwyer (@kayla_dwyer17) July 12, 2020
As the protest ended around 12:30 a.m., Batts asked for a peaceful dispersal and said two people will be following up with the police.
Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley issued six demands in the wake of the video, including the release of body camera footage of the arrest; the suspension of officers involved; a public statement from O’Connell, Granitz and Daryl Hendricks, the city council president; and release of the victim’s name, medical condition and information about any injuries he received during the incident. The organization also requested the implementation of a criminal justice review board and the defunding of the local police department.
APD issued a statement, posted by BLM to Lehigh Valley, saying the officers were there for an unrelated reason but saw a man “who was vomiting and staggering in the street, eventually stopping in the driveway of the Emergency Room.”
Police said because of his "erratic behavior," the officers approached the man, who then began yelling and spitting at the hospital staff and the officers.
“As the officers attempted to restrain the individual, all parties fell to the ground. The individual continued to be noncompliant which required officers to restrain the individual and the hospital applied a spit shield,” the statement said.
The man was taken into the hospital for treatment and later released.
According to the statement, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin has assigned two county detectives to the case and said his office will review information from APD and release a statement at the conclusion of the investigation.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney who represents Floyd’s family, shared the video on Twitter and said this “is exactly what led to #GeorgeFloyd’s death.”
GRAPHIC VIDEO: @AllentownPolice held down this man’s face to the pavement and then one of its officers placed their knee on his neck!! This happened yesterday and is exactly what led to #GeorgeFloyd’s death. We need this officer’s name and badge # NOW. #ICantBreathe
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) July 12, 2020
Pennsylvania Congresswoman Susan Wild said she was “appalled to see yet another instance of unwarranted force against a Black man, this time in our own community.”
“This video is sickening,” Wild wrote on Facebook. “We cannot continue to allow the lethal combination of systemic racism and excessive use of force to rot our system of justice. Our community needs to face this head on and commit to change.”
The APD released its use-of-force policy last week, which prohibits chokeholds, neck restraints and “similar techniques,” but Parker questioned the purpose of making the policy public information if officers aren’t going to follow it.
“It’s really concerning and it’s scary in fact because now that the policy was made public there’s still not a buy-in,” Parker said. “So what are we doing here? What was the point in releasing it if we’re not going to adhere to it?”