Alameda, CA — Over the weekend, dozens of protesters gathered in front of the Alameda Police Department — and danced. The protesters were honoring an innocent man who was seen on video being attacked by multiple police officers because he was "dancing in the street," according to police. You cannot make this stuff up.
Mali Watkins, a 44-year-old martial artist, works out in the mornings and quite literally dances along the street. Despite the frequent and entirely harmless nature of his dancing, however, police claim someone "reported" him for dancing. The resultant interaction is infuriating.
"What did I do wrong?" Watkins asks the cops who start to close in on him, preparing their assault.
"You're dancing in the street," one cop says, as if this is a reason to go after anyone.
"I do this every day... please let me go," said Mali Watkins, a 44-year-old martial artist. "I was just dancing."
The incident unfolded on May 23rd, just two days before George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police. However, the video was only recently released, sparking the protest over the weekend.
In an interview with ABC 7, Watkins said he was handcuffed and pushed around by police for an hour — for dancing.
"Sir, listen...listen...let me go!" Watkins said as the tyrants moved in to attack and arrest him for dancing.
Exactly who reported Watkins for dancing remains unknown, but the Alameda police department's reaction to it is not. Cops continued their assault on Watkins despite neighbors pleading with them, telling them that he is dancing in the street every day.
"Hey... he's from around here, he exercises every day, we know his routine, he didn't do anything wrong," said Robert Davidson, a neighbor.
This should have been enough to stop the cops in their tracks, but it wasn't.
As the video shows, two cops are originally dispatched to place the innocent dancing man under arrest. Minutes later, Watkins is shoved to the ground and held down by a half dozen cops who apparently had nothing better to do than to arrest a man for dancing.
"Why you comin on me... why you comin on me... now you're on me," said Watkins.
According to ABC 7, friends teared up as they described what happened.
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"I saw him being abused... what else can I say," said a neighbor named Nolan.
According to police, Watkins was later cited for resisting arrest — an arrest that never should have happened in the first place as there was no crime.
"We were all like, why is this happening?" said Watkins.
After the video was posted to social media, Alameda City Manager Eric Levitt released the following statement, noting that in investigation is now underway:
"Based on an initial review, a full outside investigation is being requested by the Police Chief. I concur with his decision fully. While it has not been determined at this time whether it violated policy upon initial review, it does not represent my values that the Police Department needs to respect and serve our community with trust and without bias."
"I want to make sure everyone, regardless of color is treated equally," Levitt told ABC7 in a later interview.
Sadly, as the video below illustrates, that doesn't appear to be happening in Alameda. Would cops have reacted the same if it was a white woman dancing during her workout?
"I just don't understand this phenomenon of people calling on a black person for whatever reason or another... enough is enough," said Amos White, who works with a special grassroots project of the ACLU, People Power.
"Defunding the police means redirecting funds, not just shutting it all down," White said. "We need to take a hard look at where our money is going."
"Upon seeing the video, it was horrendous, and it really hurt," he said. "Being a black man, knowing this happens here right where we live."
Illustrating just how kind and forgiving he is, Watkins does not share White's sentiment and is not bitter about his attack and subsequent charges of "resisting arrest."
"I'm not angry at all, I wasn't angry then, and I'm not angry now," he said. Instead of getting angry, Watkins is focused on reforming the policy that landed him in handcuffs in the first place.
"I want to be clear, I'm not upset," Watkins said. "There is no aggression, there is none of that, its genuine concern for all of us and to make sure everyone is safe going forward."
As you watch the video below, remember what kind of person Watkins is and watch how police treat him. He was not committing a crime at all. He was dancing — and for this, he was assaulted, kidnapped, and will be extorted. Somehow, we still have the audacity to call this the Land of the Free.