Black Restaurateur Sues NYPD After He Tried To Help An Unconscious White Woman But Was Arrested Instead
A New York restaurant owner says that he along with two of his employees were the victims of a false arrest, negligence and racial profiling at the hands of the NYPD, stemming from a June 1, 2017 incident.
Clyde Pemberton, the 68-year-old owner of MIST Harlem recently shared his troubling account and impending lawsuit with The New York Times. Pemberton, along with two employees Christian Baptiste, and Thomas Debman, filed a lawsuit last week against the NYPD in Manhattan federal court citing false arrest and the violation of civil rights.
“The NYPD arrested Dr. Pemberton, Mr. Baptiste, and Mr. Debnam not because of their conduct, but because they were there and they are black. Neither their side of the story nor their freedom mattered to the police,” the lawsuit states according to the Times.
Pemberton claims that on the particular evening in question, his business meeting was disrupted around 10:30 p.m. when he heard a commotion inside his establishment. He found that two women exited the bathroom, dragging a third unconscious woman through the restaurant, knocking over stanchions in a roped off section. All three of the women were white.
The suit claims Pemberton, a former psychiatrist, said he was punched in the chest and called a racial slur when he approached and suggested they place the third woman in a chair. Baptiste ran over to help and was assaulted by the second woman, who hit him in the head with her purse. Workers in the restaurant called 911 as the women continued to cause a scene by yelling and hitting employees.
When authorities arrived, a supervisor only spoke with one of the women, and did not follow-up with questions for the men and ordered that the three of them be arrested according to the lawsuit. The men were charged with unlawful imprisonment and were released after six hours. The charges against them were dropped five months later in November. One of the women was also arrested and charged with intent to cause physical injury, according to the lawsuit.
According to the arresting officer’s report, he observed the three men blocking the exit and claimed they admitted to attempting to stop the women from leaving. The suit denies the claim on the basis that the men were never questioned by the arresting officer, but took the other party’s word for face value–leading them to believe that they were racially profiled and criminalized for being Black in America.
“Everything we did was in the right way and approach, and it was overlooked, ignored and disrespected, our rights as human beings,” Debnam, 32, said in an interview with the outlet. “There’s a flaw in our system.”
The story which opens up with the deafening lead says: “The one place a wealthy black business owner might least expect to be arrested on flimsy charges by the police would be at a popular restaurant he owns in the heart of Harlem.”
But in actuality Black people are not only subjugated to racial profiling and systemic violence in non-Black neighborhoods, as Pemberton’s incident proves. Wealth does not prevent harassment by the police as many public cases show that upper class Black citizens are privy to the same mistreatment as their Black brothers and sisters who make less money than them. And Black Harlemites, now presented with gentrification and an influx of individuals who know nothing about the history of neighborhood, would exist as prime real estate in unwarranted 911 class and arrests.
MIST Harlem has been the target of random checks and experiences heightened police presence, according to Pemberton, which he says has cost the business. Pemberton, a native of Trinidad and Tobago also said that since his arrest he’s experienced issues as he travels back and forth out of the country.
It’s evident that Pemberton’s nightmare is well from over.