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In New Haven, St. Patrick's Day Arrest Video Sparks Protests

Davis Dunavin

Tuesday, March 24:

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp says an officer seen in a video forcibly arresting a 15-year-old girl would be removed from active duty. The video appears to show the officer slamming the girl onto the street after an altercation during the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Protesters say she suffered a fractured shoulder and facial bruises.

“I’m happy,” said organizer Barbara Fair. "I am happy. He is off the street. That’s our first demand that we wanted to happen, and it’s happened.”

This was the second day of protests. During the first, protesters occupied the New Haven Police Department until a police officer told them the department had launched an internal investigation of the incident. The officer said it’s not standard procedure to automatically put officers on desk duty during internal investigations.

Today, they went inside city hall and said they wouldn’t leave the mayor’s office until they could talk to Harp. She told them she’d asked Police Chief Dean Esserman to put the officer on desk duty. But she said she wouldn’t ask police to take further action against the officer or to drop any charges against the girl seen in the video being arrested and slammed to the ground.

“The reality is that she has been arrested,” she said. “I’m so sorry. If she was my child, I would not want that to happen to my child. In that way.”

Harp also said she would investigate claims the altercation at the parade that led to the arrest had taken place because the girl was being bullied by classmates.

“It’s definitely a good start,” said organizer Holly Tucker. “So I’m going to follow up and make sure she does what she promised. And if she does, she has my support.”

Organizers said they didn’t have immediate plans for further protests.

Monday, March 23:

Chanting "Black Lives Matter," at least two dozen protesters occupied the New Haven Police Station and stopped traffic on the street outside to protest a video they say shows a New Haven officer slamming a girl to the ground during a St. Patrick's Day Parade, fracturing her shoulder and bruising her face.

"We don't even have community policing here," said activist Barbara Fair as she led protesters up the steps of the police station. "You don't slam a child in the street and call that community policing."

Fair and her daughter Holly Tucker organized the protest. Protesters began their march down Columbus Avenue, gaining additional members as they neared the station. After speeches from community leaders, including Fair, and clergy members on the station steps, they entered the station and demanded to speak with Police Chief Dean Esserman.

Esserman didn't come out. Police told protesters he was out of state. But they did question Lieutenant Herbert Sharp, who told them the department has begun conducting an internal investigation.

"Like with anything, there's a due process for anyone," Sharp said. "So you have to allow that process to come to fruition. And I'm sure, positive, 100 percent, the chief will make those results available to all of you."

Afterwards, Fair said she still wanted answers. Protesters say they plan to go to city hall next to try to speak with New Haven mayor Toni Harp, who hasn't commented publicly on the investigation.  A spokesman for the city said it's police policy not to comment on ongoing investigations.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.