Militant Journalism

Syracuse police filmed manhandling 8-year-old boy

Recently in Syracuse, N.Y., an 8-year-old Black boy was caught on film being brutally apprehended by Syracuse police officers after having been accused of stealing a $3 bag of chips. Several days after the film was released, community members demonstrated in front of the police department building to condemn the horrific incident.

Onlookers were mortified as the officer first dumped the bag of chips on the child’s lap and went on to yank the terrified, sobbing child’s arms behind his back, lifting him and tossing him into the backseat of their squad car. Community members nearby demanded to know what he had done, why the officers were brutalizing him and what they intended to do with him. Fearing for the boy’s safety, the person who caught this incident on camera, as well as others, even offered to pay for the bag of chips. Officers yelled back at the concerned community members, telling them to leave and “just keep walking.” 

During the encounter, one officer got directly in the face of the individual filming, trying to intimidate him by saying, “What if he breaks into your house and steals something?” to which the individual indicated that wasn’t what happened and that all this was unnecessary for a simple bag of chips. The police continued shoving the child into their car as he screamed, and the other two officers on scene harassed and intimidated onlookers. 

When asked about the incident, the individual who caught it all on camera said, “I felt his terror, I felt I had to intervene.” It seems that the officers were not concerned about the terror the child felt and actually went on to defend the event in a news article on, in which they stated they were happy overall because it came to “a positive outcome after a bad beginning.” The boy was brought home to his parents, and Syracuse Police congratulated themselves by stating, “This is community policing 101.” The boy’s harrowing experience and terror at being thrust into the police car was deemed irrelevant. 

The boy’s parents decried Syracuse Police Department’s actions and perspective on the incident, accusing the officers involved of excessive force. During the investigation that followed, the boy’s mother Tyiesha Fletcher revealed that she too had been the victim of violence at the hands of SPD. A family member told CNY Central that Fletcher was never the same after being shot by police in 2019; long-term family trauma surrounding relations with the police makes the 8-year-old’s encounter with them even more disturbing.

As if the boy’s detainment were not damning enough, this entire situation happened in the wake of another incident in downtown Syracuse’s Armory Square, where a shooter opened fire into a crowd of friends, killing one and injuring four others. The incident occurred not even 30 feet away from on-duty officers and was captured on camera on South Clinton Street, yet the police were not able to find the shooter for days. Instead of pooling all available resources to locate the individual responsible for the attack, Syracuse police kept business as usual with the harassment of young people of color in working-class neighborhoods. Placing personal property above human safety is typical of police departments in capitalist societies; in order to end police terror on young people of color and working-class communities, a whole new system of care and compassion must be built by the people!

Syracuse community members protest 8-year-old’s mistreatment. Photo used with permission from Richard Gerharz.

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