Police Brutality Close to Home

You know those stories people share about a black man or woman getting beaten up by a police officer? We read them all the time. And deep down, so many people react with “right, but… what provoked the officer?”

This is not one of those stories. 

I know Nandi from church. She is loving and kind and fun. We talk about race relations a lot. She knows I have a genuine interest, as I am raising a mixed-race little girl. She knows that when I ask questions, it’s because I want to know. And I know I can be honest with her. 

I trust her. 

So when I read the account of her story today, I literally didn’t breathe for a bit. My throat gets tight and tears well in my eyes every time I think about it. 

Warning: strong language ahead. Please read anyway. 

Late Friday night (Saturday morning) around 3:00 AM Nandi was walking home from a show with her girlfriend Stephanie. They were in Flatbush. (In Brooklyn) It was a quiet night, and they heard a man “barreling down the street.” It startled them, and Stephanie asked “Damn dude, where you going?”

I have done this same thing. I have asked strangers to slow down, quiet down, settle down. I have never had the next part happen to me. The man responded with “Don’t fucking talk to me you fucking piece of shit dyke. Mind your business.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I probably would ask someone what on earth their problem was if they addressed me that way. And that’s what Stephanie did. She asked “What’s your problem? Who are you talking to?”

Remember, seconds earlier Nandi and Stephanie were walking down the street, minding their own business. So imagine their shock when he grabbed Stephanie and started to beat her. Nandi tried to pull him away from her 110 pound friend. But seeing as Nandi is only 105 herself, and the man was at least 6 feet tall, she didn’t have much luck.  

Nandi and Stephanie had just gotten out of a cab, and the driver was still nearby. The man yelled to the cab driver to call the police, but he just watched, shocked. He yelled again, continuing to beat Stephanie. When the cab driver still did nothing, the man yelled that he is a cop. 

Nandi asked where his badge was. As she did so, 4 policemen showed up. They then handcuffed both Nandi and Stephanie and took them to the 63rd precinct. Nandi was released after about 15 minutes. Stephanie was charged with felony assault and taken to Riker’s Island where she stayed until Saturday night, when Nandi could post bail. 

The officer’s account of the story, as read in court, is pure fiction. He says the women were fighting, that he tried to break it up and Stephanie attacked him and called him a “white motherfucker.” He also wanted her tested for HIV, claiming she “probably” was HIV positive, and that she tried to bite him. (Also fiction.) He wanted to have her put in the psych ward. 

Nandi and Stephanie are supposed to appear in court on Thursday. They are getting legal advice, and I can only pray justice is served here. 

So why post this story?

Because Nandi and Stephanie are two young women who were walking down the street when they found themselves in handcuffs. Because my heart breaks that my friend is going through this. Because every time someone is attacked by the police, it’s someone’s friend.

Because we need to fix this shit before my daughter heads out into the world. 

Before you think I am a cop-hater or that I am attacking every police officer out there, please just don’t. I have lots of cops in my life, and they are all amazing people and they care about protecting the peace. But just because they exist, that doesn’t mean what happened to my friend doesn’t happen. Every day. Every where. 

They were two young women walking down the street. And a police officer beat them up and lied about it. And now the burden of proof is on them. 

This is why #BlackLivesMatter is important. Do all lives matter? Obviously. But I’m not worried about all lives right now. I’m worried about the black lives. How do we fix this?

We have to fix this. 

Update- there is now a crowd-funding campaign to help Nandi and Stephanie with legal fees. You can help by donating here: 

Edit: When this post first appeared, I referred to Stephanie as Nandi’s “friend.” I simply misunderstood their relationship- it has been changed to reflect the truth. But it is an important change. It’s not just adding “girl” to the beginning of a word. It helps us further understand how hateful this situation was. It was just as much a hate crime towards homosexuals as it was towards African Americans. And I want to make sure people know that. 

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