Militant Journalism

Activists call jailing of Long Island homeless activists a political arrest

As a man struggling with homelessness, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, Devon Toney founded an organization called AINT (All Included “N” Treated) to provide food and support for the homeless at Ross Memorial Park located in Brentwood, a neighborhood primarily filled with working class Central American and Caribbean migrants. 

On the night of Aug. 30, Toney and three others were beaten by police and arrested. Multiple police officers from three precincts showed up to the park in response to an anonymous 911 complaint of people gathering there. Toney was charged with several offenses, including first degree riot, resisting arrest, second degree harassment, and second degree assault. 

Activists and community members believe Toney’s arrest is political in nature, retaliation for his organizing in support of the homeless community and against police brutality.

Protests planned for Sept. 22 and Sept. 25

Mobilizations are being organized by Devon Toney’s allies, including the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Democratic Socialists of America, starting Tuesday Sept. 22 at 9 AM at Suffolk County Court (210 Center Dr S, Riverhead, NY). 

A protest is also planned for Friday Sept. 25 outside the office of local legislator Phil Ramos (1010 Suffolk Ave, Brentwood, NY) to bring attention to Ramos’ corrupt response to the unfair, violent arrest of Toney. 

The actions will demand freedom for Devon Toney, dropping all charges, removing the officers involved from their positions, and arresting the officers for police misconduct.

Seven officers sat on Toney

Footage of Toney’s arrest, captured by fellow AINT organizer Latoya Bazmore, shows seven officers sitting on top of him as he asked, “Why am I being detained?” and later exclaiming, “I can’t breathe!”

“Get off of him!” Bazmore screamed in fear, until she was struck in the head by an officer and dropped her phone.

In addition to making arrests, the police also damaged grills belonging to AINT, and kicked up dirt from their vehicles onto food supplies. 

Local Long Island media, News12 and Newsday, both reported the incident, with Newsday only reporting the injuries of two unnamed officers. Suffolk Police Department claimed it was putting down a “riot,” but videos taken by Tone y and Bazmore indicate that the rioters in question were the police. Others arrested and charged with first degree riot were Patrick Guillaume, Kwajo Wilkinson, and Esperanza Tricoche. Wilkinson and Tricoche have since been released. 

A relative of Toney who was present that night, Kierem Harrell, told News12, “We were chilling in that little circle, playing basketball, playing music, we were actually feeding some of the homeless people too.” Harrell was thrown to the ground by police, but not arrested.

Suffolk PD officers who know Devon Toney are aware of his past and mental health issues, yet they did not provide him the proper medication he needed within his first few days at Yaphank Correctional Facility.

Pattern of Political Repression

Because Devon Toney organized with homeless people, he has repeatedly been subject to police harassment, and has been a witness to  officers from Suffolk PD harassing others. Toney would record these moments and post them on Facebook. Previous examples of repression witnessed by Devon Toney and Latoya Bazmore include police jumping out of their cars, pinning their subjects down, performing illegal searches and groping detainees’ genitals and backside.

On multiple occasions, harsh arrests ended with police leaving the area after Toney or Bazmore began recording the officers. After retreating, the police would wait until the activists left the park to begin their harassment after dark. 

After Toney’s arrest, Latoya Bazmore reached out to local legislators Phil Ramos and Sam Gonzalez for support within the local government, but organizers were not satisfied with their response. In fact, Ramos, who is a retired police officer and undercover detective for Suffolk PD, shut down the park with help from Suffolk PD, about a week after the incident.

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