‘All This Over $2.75?’ Harlem residents angry over latest police brutality incident
New York Police officers watch commuters using turnstiles at a Harlem subway station in this March 3, 2016, photo. On Monday, April 18, 2022, at the 125th Street and St. Nicholas station, police were seen dragging out an elderly man and beating him, allegedly because he did not pay his fare. The incident set off an immediate protest in the neighborhood. | Bebeto Matthews / AP

NEW YORK—On Monday, April 18th, around 5pm, as people were coming home from work, the scourge of police brutality once again visited the streets of Harlem. An elderly Black man was dragged from the subway station at 125th and St. Nicholas, police having accused him of fare-hopping. As this happened, a crowd of neighborhood residents began to form.

As the police threw the man in the back of the cop car, they beat him heavily. At this point, the crowd began to become restless and angry, and started shouting back at police. Many residents were filming the incident. Witnesses reported seeing and hearing white cops clapping and cheering their colleagues on as they beat up the gentleman they had just arrested.

Residents began filling up the sidewalk and even going into the streets around the police car. Seven more police vehicles arrived, seemingly in response to the crowd of angry citizens ready to protest against the police brutality they witnessed.

It was a tense hour, as more than 30 cops came to stand between the police cars and the now more than 50 people crowded on the one sidewalk, many of them Black and Latino, but also young white people, including young teenagers, seen in the crowd among them. They were all ready to step up their protests if the cops escalated further.

Throughout the hour, people coming and going from the subway stopped to ask what was going on, and when they were filled in got instantly upset. “That ain’t right,” passersby could be heard saying.

Eventually, the man who had been beaten up was transferred to an ambulance on the scene. “Oh he’s old!” one member of the crowd shockingly remarked. “They beat up an old man!” After this, most of the police cars began to disperse.

As the cop cars pulled away, one woman righteously went up to the police cars and spit at the police who had beaten up and allowed their colleagues to beat up the elderly gentlemen who had been arrested.

Another gentleman yelled at the cop cars as they drove off, “Try touching her and see what happens!” As they continued to drive away, he continued. “You know what you are? You’re the ‘Ku Klux Cops!’ The cops don’t catch the criminals! You are the criminals! This city is run by criminals, this state is run by criminals, the federal government is run by criminals!”

Once the police all left, the crowd of residents felt comfortable to disperse. Nerves were still on edge, however, and many neighbors continued to discuss what they had just witnessed.

“If this had been a white man, or if this had happened downtown, they would’ve just given him a ticket. Why did they arrest him?” one woman asked “We know why,” another onlooker responded.

One Harlem resident, Yamina, remarked:

“All this over $2.75? You don’t know what’s going on with people. Maybe he was homeless. And now how the cops are treating the homeless people, throwing away their stuff, and treating them like garbage. But where are they supposed to go?

“Greedy billionaires and thousands of empty apartments in this city, but no one can afford them. There are more and more homeless people in this city every day. But how many homeless people do you see in Cuba? Or in Venezuela? Almost none. Something here needs to change.”

This incident of police brutality comes amid Mayor Eric Adams’ crackdown on homeless camps in the city and his promises to increase police funding and presence in the New York City subway. His pledges have already led to other incidents of police violently removing and beating homeless people from the subway.

The residents of Harlem are angry. But they don’t plan to stay silent or cow down to state violence.

“What matters is that we came together,” a young white teenager was heard saying to an elderly Black man in the crowd. “That’s right,” the elder responded.

Sadly, this won’t be the last case of police brutality in this city. But at least New Yorkers are ready to stick together and defend each other when their rights and autonomy are under attack. Perhaps this at least can be a small ray of hope that the people will come together to create the changes we desperately need for a better world.


CONTRIBUTOR

Justine Medina
Justine Medina

Justine Medina is a co-chair of the New York Young Communist League and a member of the Amazon Labor Union organizing committee. Justine Medina es copresidenta de la Liga de Jóvenes Comunistas de Nueva York y miembro del comité organizador del Sindicato de Trabajadores de Amazon.

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