By Zaid Jilani
Earlier this month in New York City, a woman angrily denounced police who were beating an already restrained teenage boy as others made sure to film the incident to hold the plainclothes officer accountable. It is possible that the assembled and outraged crowd prevented further abuse, and with the help of the cellphone video, the cop faced at least some discipline from the department.
This past weekend in Delray Beach, Florida, dozens of people quickly organized to stop what they believed to be a petty and unnecessary arrest.
That night, Delray Police entered a neighborhood after seeing a man walking down the street smoking. The officers thought the smoke smelled like marijuana, so they decided to pursue the man. When the man entered a home nearby, the police followed and tried to apprehend him. They were surprised when about 20 people came out of the home and surrounded the man to prevent the arrest from taking place.
“They formed this shield and started to get aggressive,” one of the officers said.
“The next thing they know, there’s 70 to 75 people out there,” another officer who was on the scene reportedly said. “The officers had to use pepper spray to get the people back.”
The crowd grew rowdy, and at some point an object was hurled at the windshield of a police cruiser. By the end of the night police had detained four people, on charges including inciting a riot.
The incident could foretell greater citizen intervention against what they perceive to be abusive and unnecessary policing and shows the urgency of reining in the over-criminalization of American life.