Courtesy of Multicultural Resource Center

Black Lives Matter Ithaca protested the actions of Ithaca Police on April 6 when they responded to an altercation on the Commons.

May 2, 2019

Black Lives Matter Ithaca Says Local Police Have Displayed ‘Pattern of Abuse’ to People of Color

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Black Lives Matter Ithaca condemned the Ithaca Police Department in a Facebook post Tuesday, saying the department has demonstrated a “pattern of abuse and disrespect” towards people of color.

The letter was posted in response to an altercation on April 6, when officers said they saw Cadji Ferguson, of Ithaca, run and knock another man to the ground by punching him in the face. The officers detained Ferguson, when a woman began “repeatedly striking” an officer in the head, Sgt. David Amaro then said.

BLMI said that Ferguson, a black male, had been intervening on behalf of his friend, confronting a man who groped her. According to BLMI, the individual attacked Ferguson.

In the post from Tuesday, BLMI said officers only questioned and confronted Ferguson and Rose Degroat, the black female. A third individual, Riley Johnson, was charged with disorderly conduct, according to an April 8 press release. Sgt. David Amaro then called the situation “chaotic.”

Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 replied to the online letter, commenting that he had ordered an internal investigation after seeing concerning footage from the incident.

Footage from the event exists from cameras on the Commons and from police officers’ body cameras, according to the mayor. A video of the officers taking Degroat to the ground was posted on Instagram.

Myrick wrote that he would release the videos “as soon as possible,” but that he could not “speak to the details of an ongoing investigation.”

BLMI said that the event was one that fit into a national pattern of officers reacting to incidents with “snap judgments based on race.” Myrick acknowledged racism in his post — saying that the criminal justice system “has had racist outcomes” throughout history — but said that the department was well-trained.

The post accused the officers of behaving “recklessly,” saying that officers ripped barbed taser probes from Ferguson’s back, leaving wounds. The post also said that Ferguson and Degroat are facing medical costs and “disruptions to employment.”

Ferguson has been charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct and has pled not guilty to both counts, according to the Ithaca City Court website.

The Multicultural Resource Center organized a rally on Wednesday near the State Theatre to “denounce Police and Housing violence,” according to the Facebook page. Photos from the rally showed people with signs regarding racism and police brutality, with one poster naming the officers involved in the early April incident.

BLMI listed demands, including that Ithaca officials drop all charges, cover all expenses of individuals involved and acknowledge a “larger pattern of discrimination.” BLMI did not respond to a request for comment.

Degroat has been charged with one count of resisting arrest and two counts of obstructing governmental administration; she has pled not guilty to all charges, according to the court site. An attorney for Degroat could not be reached for comment.

BLMI urged individuals to “show up in court” wearing black on May 17, Ferguson’s next scheduled appearance in court.