While the media coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and systemic racism has died down, the violence that the police inflict on the citizens they are charged with protesting has not. A new video shows an NYPD officer viciously beating a homeless man about the head for sitting in a subway car — and in an outrageous miscarriage of justice, the homeless man was then charged with a felony!
CONTENT WARNING: VIOLENCE
— Rosa Goldensohn (@RosaGoldensohn) July 15, 2020
Thirty-year-old Joseph T. had left a shelter in frustration shortly after midnight on May 25th after not being able to secure a bed for the night, so he went and got on the subway. An officer told him he was taking up too many seats with his few possessions, so Joseph switched train cars. The cop followed him in there and demanded he leaves.
“You can’t arrest me for not wanting to get off of the train,” says Joseph in response. The policeman tries to force him to get up and begins brutally punching Joseph for refusing to comply. “Why are you f—–g hitting me?” asks Joseph as he and his bags are thrown out on to the 51st Street and Lexington Avenue subway stop.
In a terrifyingly Kafkaesque display of police impunity, Joseph was arrested for resisting arrest. But the Manhattan DA’s office decided to add grievous insult to unnecessary injury by upgrading his charges to a full felony because the police officer claimed he had kicked him in the hand while they attempted to arrest him — again, for the crime of resisting arrest.
Prosecutors argued that Joseph had “responded to [police] with violence” and the Manhattan District Attorney decided to uphold the charges of felony assault against the police officer.
The entire debacle is a terrifying glimpse into our broken “criminal justice” system, which in this case is clearly neither just nor concerned with criminality. These police officers bullied and abused one of society’s most vulnerable members, exploited their power to concoct a non-existent crime with which to charge him with, and then had prosecutors use an accidental injury as an excuse to throw the book at a man who did nothing but fail to maintain proper control of his limbs while the instruments of state violence assaulted him.
It’s not just the police departments that are in drastic need of reform; we also must rid ourselves of the prosecutors who enable them and the corrupt District Attorneys like Manhattan’s Cyrus Vance who bring the hammer down on his city’s poorest residents while allowing actual criminals like Ivanka Trump and Harvey Weinstein to run free.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.