Weeks after George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police spurred a global racial uprising, a new video clip shows an Allentown, Pennsylvania police officer attempting to apprehend a man by holding his knee to his neck.
The footage, which was posted on the "Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley" Facebook group Saturday, shows a group of Allentown officers pinning a man to the ground outside the emergency room of the Sacred Heart campus of St Luke's Hospital. The man being apprehended does not appear to resist as the officers hold him down, and can be heard screaming in Spanish as one officer kneels on his throat.
The video recalls the now-infamous video of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes on 25th May, despite his repeated cries of “I can’t breathe.” A final medical examiner’s report classified Floyd's death a homicide caused by "a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained" as a result of "neck compression," and Chauvin, along with three other officers, were eventually charged with murder in relation to Floyd’s death.
Ben Crump, the attorney representing Floyd's family, wrote on Twitter, "@AllentownPolice held down this man's face to the pavement and then one of its officers placed their knee on his neck!! This happened yesterday and is exactly what led to #GeorgeFloyd's death. We need this officer's name and badge #NOW. #ICantBreathe"
In a statement released on Sunday night, Allentown Police Chief Glenn Granitz said that officers had been responding to an unrelated matter outside the hospital on Saturday when they noticed the man in the video vomiting and staggering down the street.
"The observed erratic behaviour resulted in the officers and hospital staff interacting with the individual,” Granitz wrote. “The individual began to yell, scream and spit at the officers and hospital staff. As the officers attempted to restrain the individual, all parties fell to the ground. The individual continued to be noncompliant which required officers to restrain the individual and the hospital applied a spit shield. The male in question was escorted into the hospital for treatment. The male was treated and later released."
Granitz also confirmed in the statement that videos of the altercation are under review, and that the Lehigh County District Attorney’s office is currently investigating the conduct of the officers in question. Although the 23 second clip posted to social media will play a “significant” role in the department’s investigation of the incident, Granitz also confirmed that "witnesses are being interviewed and additional videos of the interaction are being reviewed.”
“We plan on releasing relevant videos later this week as we complete this inquiry," he added.
Despite assurances by police that the incident is being investigated, a group of protestors gathered outside of the Allentown police headquarters late Saturday night in response to the footage, and another action set to highlight community leaders as speakers has been announced for Monday night.
In a Facebook post, the administrators of Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley outlined six demands in response to the incident, including the release of bodycam footage from the officers involved, the suspension of the officers while the results of an investigation are pending and the implementation of a criminal justice review board in criminal justice review board in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, Pennsylvania.
“The video that has now been shared at the national level was scary, alarming, and reduced trust not only for the resident's of Allentown, but for people across this country who shared our same sentiments,” the post reads. “All lives cannot begin to matter until Black Lives begin to matter.”