WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Protesters in West Haven said their march against police brutality was met with police brutality.
Justice for Mubarak (Soulemane) protesters said a peaceful march was winding down when a white woman in a gray sedan sped through marchers Sunday afternoon. They allege at least two people were injured or side-swiped by the vehicle.
“She was accelerating,” said protester Kurt Erickson. “We wanted to make sure at that point that that car was not going to leave.”
Protesters tried to detain the driver as they waited for police to arrive, but the response from officers was not what they expected.
“We seen her drive through people and you allow her to get back in the deadly vehicle?” said Erickson.
He said police allowed the driver to leave before Erickson himself said he was tased, beaten with a baton and arrested minutes later.
“Boom. Down on the ground,” described Erickson.
Erickson is out on bond. He showed News 8 his injuries. He is now facing a felony charge of assaulting a police officer and four other misdemeanors including resisting arrest. Two other protesters were also detained.
“All of them, in my world view, [are] trumped up charges from a police department who went there hell bent on being aggressive,” said State Senator Dennis Bradley, (D) 23rd District.
Bradley is an attorney and has taken on Erickson’s case. He takes issue with police use of dogs to push protesters out of the street.
“Those are 1,950 tactics to scare just regular American citizens from exercising their constitutional rights,” said the State Senator, referencing the painful history surrounding the use of police dogs within the civil rights movement. “While they’re at it, they should bring fire hoses.”
In a Facebook post earlier in the week, West Haven Police Chief Joseph Perno wrote:
…a peaceful rally was held on the West Haven city green with a march to the police station. The majority of the demonstrators conducted themselves respectfully and peacefully….Once the rally had ended there was an incident at the intersection of Main Street and Kelsey Avenue. I will not elaborate on said incident at this time due to the fact that the investigation is ongoing.
However, I will say that peaceful demonstrations are a freedom enjoyed in our country. Those that choose to be disruptive to the demonstrators or the general public will be dealt with accordingly. To those who were driving in the area at this time I thank you for your patience and cooperation.”
Currently, West Haven police do not wear body cameras. That’s something Bradley said he plans to push to change at the legislative special session, which is slated for sometime later this month.
Bradley added that he plans to move to have the charges against his client dismissed.