The shocking video says it all: eight white plainclothes police officers suddenly and aggressively surround two black teenagers, Sidney Newman and Ferdinand Hunt, and violently throw them to the ground.
The thing is, Sidney and Ferdinand weren’t doing anything. The video shows that they were simply talking outside a local store when they were attacked and pinned to the ground. That's when Ferdinand's mother arrived on the scene -- and when the men learned that she’s a police officer, they quickly bolted.
Ferdinand and Sidney said that the police officers didn't initially identify themselves. Ferdinand told one reporter, "I thought they were robbing me."
Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmondson tried to explain the incident away by saying the officers were just trying to enforce local curfew laws during Mardi Gras -- but at 17 and 18-years old, Sidney and Ferdinand weren't subject to curfew. And even if they had been young enough, the aggressive actions of the state police are far too extreme. Is what we see in that video the way police should approach our young people to ask for identification?
In recent years, police in New Orleans have committed other horrific acts: shooting eight civilians in what's now called the "Danziger Bridge massacre" and even burning the body of a police brutality victim. The Justice Department has put two local police departments under federal supervision.
This moment clearly calls for the Louisiana State Police to be held accountable to the public. We need to send a them a strong message: attacking innocent children is not acceptable.
Join me in asking the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice to investigate Louisiana State Police for discriminatory policing practices. This move can lead to major reforms in the force that ensure the officers involved are held accountable and that this doesn't happen to other kids like Ferdinand and Sidney.
- Assistant US Attorney General Tom Perez
By now you've likely seen the video of Louisiana State Police officers singling out two young black men for violent engagement in New Orleans just a day before Mardi Gras.
This incident must not be taken alone, and instead must be viewed in the context of the very recent history of discriminatory policing practices in New Orleans -- practices that led to Department of Justice consent decrees with both New Orleans Police Department and Orleans Parish Sheriff.
It is apparent that Louisiana State Police deserves a similar level of scrutiny; if not for a nearby security camera, this incident would never have seen the light of day. How many more Sidney Newmans and Ferdinand Hunts exist? Is this Louisiana State Police's standard for attempting to enforce local curfew laws?
Only your office can come up with the answers to these questions, Mr. Perez. I urge you to immediately open and announce a patterns and practices investigation into Louisiana State Police.
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