Zellnor Myrie, a senator from New York State, went out to protests near the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday and ended up detained and sprayed in the face with pepper aerosol. Myrie, a son of Limonenses, said he wanted to monitor and peacefully participate in protests against police brutality over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American. Floyd’s death after a police officer put his knee to his neck for more than 8 minutes has sparked protests in several cities across the United States.
Myrie said he wore a neon green shirt that identified him as a senator just to prevent a situation from escalating. “I was listening to the orders, trying to talk to the protesters, and the New York police became aggressive. They started hitting me on the back with a bicycle, they pushed me to back off and while I followed that order they sprayed me with pepper spray and handcuffed me.”
“I hadn’t done anything unlawful, I did everything the right way,” Myrie said. “I identified with the police when I arrived precisely not to get to something like what we saw, and even that was not enough,” he added. Myrie noted that the outrage over Floyd’s death has led to intense protests in many American cities despite concerns about people contracting COVID-19 in these mass gatherings.
The event that sparked these days of protests occurred when a man with a description that matched Floyd’s, allegedly attempted to make a payment with a fake $ 20 bill, prompting the intervention of the Minneapolis Police Department, a city in the State of Minnesota. Despite being a misdemeanor, Floyd was placed on the ground while policeman Derek Chauvin put his knee against his neck while Floyd repeated “I can’t breathe.”
For his handling of the situation, police officer Chavin was fired the next day together with other agents who participated in the incident. It was not until Friday that Chauvin was arrested on the charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter.
In some places, police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at protesters, who have thrown some projectiles at them, including water bottles and stones. Several videos have gone viral showing excessive use of force such as the case of a New York police car that rammed several people.
“It is important that we have a serious discussion about police responsibility. It is one thing for us to have abstract conversations about what happens to our communities and quite another for a member of the legislature to be subject to police brutality when he was there to promote peace,” Myrie said.
A proposed change in the Law would be to revoke a section known as 50-A, stating that reports of police conduct are not public information. Myrie also proposes that the incidents be reviewed by a neutral arbitrator and not a judge on the Public Force payroll. “Who knows, the officer who pepper-sprayed me could have 25 incidents of excessive use of force and probably shouldn’t be in force if that’s the case, but we can’t say because of the 50-A shield provision”, he added.
Call for the dismissal of the police officer
Myrie was born in New York and began his term as a state senator in 2019. This Monday morning, he met with other senators for a press conference on the epidemic of police brutality and the violent assaults on peaceful protesters. The group calls for the firing of Officer Vincent J. D’Andraia, accused of pushing a woman to the ground who ended up convulsing and hospitalized, and also allege that Assistant Inspector Craig Edelman should also be removed.
“We are always told they are bad apples, but bad apples ruin the whole group. We are forced to eat that rotten apple pie in black communities, and people are surprised to see that we are tired of being poisoned,” said Myrie on his social networks.