Philadelphia, PA – Cellphone footage that has gone viral on social media shows police forcefully arresting a black teenager on Thursday who was selling bottled water near the Philadelphia Zoo. The youth was part of a group of black teens who witnesses say were walking through simply selling the water.
The incident began when a security guard in the West Philadelphia neighborhood flagged down police, reportedly claiming that a group of teenagers was panhandling.
“She apparently said something to the effect of, ‘They were panhandling and may have been on and off the property,’” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.
The video, which has been viewed more than 100,000 times on Facebook, has some people calling this just another instance of racially motivated actions—as the security guard who called police was white.
“???????? This afternoon in front of the Philadelphia zoo , a white security women called the cops on a group of black kids due to them raising money for football. Watching the video you can hear her coworker asking her why did she do it? And crying . Her response was i wanted them to leave . Every week our children have the cops called on them.”
Posted by Nelson Beats The Odds on Friday, July 6, 2018
The incident invokes a recent situation where an 8-year-old black child had the police called on her by a white woman, deemed “Permit Patty” by the internet, for selling bottled water outside of her apartment building in San Francisco.
Prior to that incident, video footage of a Black family having the police called on them by a white woman, now called “BBQ Betty,” for having a bbq at a public park went viral and stirred similar outrage.
The common thread in each of these incidents is that white people called police on individuals of color over what would generally seem to be legal activities that clearly don’t require any law enforcement presence.
A report by PINAC News explains:
The minute-and-a-half video starts out with one cop picking up a teenager and throwing him on the ground while several of his friends protest.
The officer has the teen facedown on the ground with his knee on his back, placing his body weight him him.
Cops then pull the handcuffed teen from behind, demanding he walk backward while cuffed.
According to witnesses that posted in the comments, the teenagers where walking in and out of traffic to sell the water, which they say was hindering traffic.
The witnesses state the teens were asked to stop by security and when they refused, the security called 911.
The teen that did not comply was handcuffed and charged with disorderly conduct, according to witnesses.
A spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Zoo released this full statement:
“Yesterday, one of the Zoo’s public safety officers interacted with a group of youth on the plaza outside of the Zoos gates. There have been a number of incidents with this particular group, including soliciting money from Zoo guests, throwing rocks at a Zoo staff member (just the previous day) and harassing another female public safety officer just before this incident occurred. The Zoo always asks individuals or groups engaging in aggressive or commercial behaviors to leave the Zoo’s Plaza. When asked to leave the area, the group began to move off but made a threatening remark to the public safety officer as a Philadelphia Police Department vehicle was driving by. At that time the public safety officer flagged down the Philadelphia Police Department vehicle and asked for help in dispersing the group. Unexpectedly, the subsequent interactions between PPD and the group resulted in the arrest of one of the individuals involved. This is an unfortunate and unusual incident at the Zoo. Philadelphia Zoo is an integral part of the City of Philadelphia and is proud of the diversity of the staff who work here and guests who visit; we work closely with our neighbors in the West Philadelphia community and the Philadelphia Police Department and will continue to do so.”
While Philadelphia Zoo officials say the group allegedly made threatening comments when asked to leave the area, an individual who had come into contact with the group of teens posted on Facebook that they “donated to these kids, they was nice and respectful.”
Ross said that violations such as selling water without a permit fall under the purview of the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections, but in a tacit admission of disparate enforcement, noted that there may not be consistency in how the law is applied.
“Whether you like it or not, it’s done all over the city, so what we have an obligation to do is to be consistent about it. If it’s done in the Northeast and in the Northwest and we don’t have that type of enforcement, then we have an obligation to look at ourselves and evaluate,” he said.
Let that sink in for a moment.
These rules may be enforced in some areas, but not others—a perfect recipe for racially based policing.
Clearly the same rules should be applied to all people regardless of race, class, or socioeconomic status?
If witnesses claim these teens were “nice and respectful,” but the Zoo and police report them as disorderly and threatening, perhaps those subsequent behaviors stem from being targeted—likely for being black—for simply trying to make a few extra bucks.