BLM Ithaca Challenges Police Brutality Following Arrests

A Black Lives Matter group is holding a rally to protest police brutality in response to the treatment of two Black individuals during three arrests that took place in April. The Ithaca Police Department (IPD) said in a statement that officers witnessed Cadji Ferguson, 26, run across the Ithaca Commons and hit another man across the face on April 6. The officers ran to take Ferguson into custody when Rose DeGroat, 22, reportedly “attacked an officer from behind, repeatedly striking him in the head,” and then hit a second officer before she was taken into custody. A third person, identified as Riley Johnson, was arrested for disorderly conduct though officials may dismiss the charge. DeGroat was charged with two counts of attempted assault and one count of resisting arrest. Ferguson and Johnson were both charged with disorderly conduct. Black Lives Matter Ithaca demanded that Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and IPD release the body camera footage of the incident. In a statement on Facebook on April 30, the group said that Ferguson, who is Black, was “tasered and otherwise brutalized.” They added that Ferguson had witnessed an unidentified man approach DeGroat from behind and grope her. When Ferguson tried to intervene, the other man attacked him. “Instead of questioning the parties involved or attempting to deescalate the situation, IPD officers immediately rushed in and tasered Cadji, knocking him to the ground. They then placed Cadji under arrest, ripping the barbed taser probes from his back without medical supervision and leaving several painful wounds,” Black Lives Matter Ithaca wrote. “This excessive and potentially deadly use of force is totally unacceptable.” Body camera footage was released by the city on Friday, May 3. It shows an officer tasing Ferguson just 30 seconds after they arrived on the scene, as two other officers grabbed Ferguson by the arms. DeGroat can be seen attempting to push the officers off of Ferguson before she was taken down by officers. In one video, the white man who Ferguson reportedly hit, who has been identified as Joseph, can be heard explaining to the officers what happened that night before, the Ithaca Journal reported. It’s unclear whether Joseph is the person who groped DeGroat. "These Black guys (expletive) with me and then I slapped them around a little bit, and they cold (expletive) me, and so they're here and the officers are asking me should I press charges, so I said no, I don't want to do that," the man said. After viewing the footage, Myrick ordered an internal investigation of the incident to get to the bottom of what happened that night. “Immediately after the incident I asked to review this footage. I saw enough that worried me — so I ordered an internal investigation,” Myrick wrote in a statement on Facebook. “I can't speak to the details of an ongoing investigation but I can tell you that if the outcome suggests wrongdoing we will take appropriate corrective action.” In a May 6 statement, the Black Lives Matter organization said they rejected Myrick’s response to the charges and criticized officers for allowing Joseph to go free. “Police never question — or lay hands on — the instigator of the incident, the white man. Even as Ferguson repeatedly alleges that the white man touched the Black woman inappropriately (and possibly sexually), the officers refuse to act on or acknowledge these claims,” the statement read. The North Star reached out to Black Lives Matter Ithaca for comment but did not hear back in time for publication. The organization plans to hold a rally on Monday, May 13. “Throughout American history, police have enforced the white supremacist, capitalist order. They have always seen African Americans as threats to be neutralized rather than as citizens to be protected,” the organization said in a statement. “No amount of “sensitivity” training will change that. Only grassroots pressure from the people will make cops think twice before brutalizing another person of color!”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.