NORWALK, Conn. (WTNH/AP) — A minister accused police of engaging in racial profiling when they closed a local beach for a half hour on Memorial Day after reports that gang members wearing blue and red T-shirts were causing trouble.
The Rev. Nellie Mann of Norwalk's Calvary Baptist Church says the kids involved had marched in the city's Memorial Day parade and were simply wearing the colors of the American flag.
"Just like we marched for Trayvon Martin a few months ago, we are most determined and willing to march again and take to the streets and protest when profiling happens in our communities that affects our own kids," Mann said in a statement to the newspaper. "It is not fair that children wearing our nation's colors, some of whom marched in the Memorial Day parade earlier that day to recognize our fallen heroes, should be labeled as street gang members (Blood and Crips) simply for wearing any color, least of all our nation's colors."
Police Chief Harry Rilling said several people complained the teens were involved in fights and intimidating other beachgoers. He said between 100 and 200 teens had congregated at the Calf Pasture Beach, some of them claiming affiliation with the Crips and the Bloods.
Mann acknowledged there were fights but said they were not gang related.
Rilling said an officer radioed into a dispatcher that a large group of "Bloods and Crips" were fighting but said there was no evidence that any of the teens were gang members.
"He did say that, but I believe it was more in the heat of the moment," Rilling said.
"When you label them, when you say to them 'you are Bloods and the Crips' that is racial profiling," Mann said.
It turns out the Reverend is the Chaplin to the Police Department and while she has spoken to the chief, she still has concerns about the incident.
"All I want is for our youth and our police officers to work together but we must be careful how we say things," she said.
Norwalk Police sent six patrol cars to the beach, blocked the entrance and denied access for a half-hour.
No injuries were reported and nobody was arrested. Rilling said the department is stepping up its patrols of the beach in response to the incident, however to pay for the additions, people might have to pay more to use the beach.
"We want to provide for the publics' safety, as well as ensure our officers are well protected," Rilling said.
Mann has asked for a public apology from the officer who reported the alleged gang activity.
Information from: The Hour
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