In a video posted to social media Saturday, police officers at the 145th Street subway station in Harlem appear to be aggressively dragging a visibly distraught child away from a woman later identified as his mother as people witnessing the spectacle expressed anger and concern for the child’s wellbeing. The boy’s crime? Selling snacks to passengers on the train.
In the video, multiple witnesses can be heard frantically exclaiming “That’s a little boy!” A woman can also be heard telling officers repeatedly, “That’s my son!” and “Let my son go.”
One officer responds to the woman’s plea, saying, “We’re gonna let your son go when you speak to me,” to which the woman replies, “I’m speaking to you now!”
“You’re not speaking to me,” the officer says to the woman—because, apparently, yoking up an 8-year-old is perfectly fine, but a mother shouting at multiple adults who are manhandling her child is just excessive.
A second video shows more officers joining the others to forcibly drag the boy up the subway stairs as the crowd continues to erupt in horror and frustration.
Shaquan Jenkins, the witness who posted the first video to Twitter told Gothamist that the boy had been moving through the subway car selling candy when officers grabbed him.
“They looked like kidnappers, like they were trying to kidnap the little boy,” Jenkins said. “I felt outraged. It’s a little boy. Can’t they talk to him on his level and say it’s not safe, go home? Why did they need three officers to take him to the precinct?
“He’s crying, as they try to close the train doors, they called down extra police officers,” Jenkins continued. “It looked like they trampled him in a pile.” Jenkins also said that bystanders were trying to help by gathering the candy the boy had dropped, but that police took it and threw it in the garbage.
It’s understandable that a child moving through a subway car selling snacks to people isn’t a thing that can be allowed, especially during a pandemic. What isn’t clear is why all of these officers felt the need to swarm around a child and put hands on him rather than simply tell him he needs to stop. It’s hard to imagine police treating some white child selling lemonade in the suburbs the same way under any circumstances. It’s also unclear why, if the boy’s parents were there once the confrontation started (later it was reported that the boy’s stepfather was there as well), the officers couldn’t just deal with them and leave the clearly terrified child alone.
According to Gothamist, an NYPD spokesperson eventually released a statement (which clarified exactly zero of the above questions), saying that Detective Denise Moroney reported that police were flagged down by the conductor and that “they observed a male child of about eight years of age by himself exiting and re-entering train cars over the course of several stations. Officers canvassed the train and located the child. The child informed them he was with adults who were located somewhere else on the train. The officers conducted a canvass and several trains cars away from where the boy was found, police located two adults, a 36-year-old female and 24-year-old male, accompanied by a four-year-old male child. Both adults, which were the child’s mother and stepfather, were uncooperative and threatened the police to release the boy to them. Police escorted the two children and the two adults to Transit District to conduct a further investigation. After arriving at the Transit District and conferring with ACS the child was released to his mother and the adult male was issued a C-Summons for disorderly conduct.”