Charlotte police officers cuffed and arrested local LGBT activist and former state Senate candidate Ty Turner as he distributed small voting rights flyers on parked cars during a Labor Day Moral Monday rally, Think Progress reports.
“They said they would charge me for distributing literature,” Turner told Think Progress. “I asked [the policeman] for the ordinance number [being violated], because they can’t put handcuffs on you if they cannot tell you why they’re detaining you. I said, ‘Show me where it’s illegal to do this.’ But he would not do it. The officer got mad and grabbed me. Then he said I was resisting arrest!”
A video taken by Turner on his cell phone during the incident shows Turner repeatedly asking the officers what city ordinance is being violated. Instead of citing the ordinance, an officer demands to see Turner’s ID and orders Turner to put down his phone, then appears to attempt to grab the phone from Turner’s hands. When Turner refuses to stop filming, the officer approaches Turner and tells him he is “under arrest.”
A spokesperson for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department told QNotes Tuesday that Turner was only detained, not fully arrested. But the above video clearly shows officers repeatedly telling Turner that he is “under arrest.”
Turner said that officers transported him to three different locations other than the Mecklenburg County jail — located just a few blocks away from the rally — including an empty parking lot. About 30 Moral Monday activists marched silently to the jailhouse to demand his release, only to be told Turner had not yet arrived.
Via Think Progress:
As the crowd waited, Reverend Dr. William Barber—the founder of Moral Mondays and President of the North Carolina NAACP—said the incident illustrated the urgent need to get out the vote in the African American community.
“Police are hired by police chiefs, who are hired by people that are elected,” he said. He then turned to Turner’s friends, who were crying. “I want you to be angry. Rosa Parks got angry and she changed the world. Take this incident and turn it into power. Anyone who says they’re upset about this profiling of black men, ask them if they’re registered to vote. That’s how we change this system.”
Dr. Barber added that Turner’s arrest reminded him of earlier, darker times in the American South. “The arrogance to come into our rally and think they can snatch up one of our boys and we’re going to be quiet about it! That day is so old we can’t even remember it.”
Only after the President of the National NAACP called the police department demanding Turner’s release did the squad car carrying Turner show up. Police told the crowd they would be releasing Turner with a citation, rather than processing him at the jail.
A second video recorded after the arrest by Moral Monday activist Casey Throneburg shows Turner describing the incident to other officers on the scene:
Throneburg told Think Progress that there is a local ordinance prohibiting leafleting on cars, but that it’s almost never enforced, and “certainly not with handcuffs.”
It’s worth emphasizing that it is perfectly legal to film the police, so long as you’re not interfering with law enforcement operations. Read the ACLU’s guide to photographing and filming police here.
QNotes reports that Turner was appointed by county commissioners Tuesday evening to the Mecklenburg County Domestic Violence Advisory Board. A press conference is scheduled Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. at Little Rock AME Zion Church. Check back for more.
Ty Turner and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police shared conflicting stories about the arrest at two Wednesday press conferences, QNotes reports.
Charlotte police said officers behaved appropriately when they arrested Ty Turner because his actions signaled he would not comply with directions. Via QNotes:
Said Putney: “Mr. Turner did not only refuse to give us an ID to the officers, he was screaming loudly trying to bring the crowd in so that they can see what was going on — which, in and of itself, is not an issue, but it did give us an indication that he was not going to be compliant.”
The confrontation between Turner and Tropeano, however, continued as another officer attempted to find the ordinance to show Turner.
“During the course of that conversation, Turner screams loudly,” Putney said. “At that point, Tropeano sees this is not going to be one of those instances that ends peacefully without some level of resistance. He decides he’ll need to detain Mr. Turner.”
But Turner said it was the officers who became aggressive after he asked to know what city ordinance he was violating:
Turner said officers approached him after he was almost done leafleting most cars in the parking lot. An officer asked him what he was doing and Turner explained. He alleges the officer then told him to stop and told him to retrieve every flier Turner had already distributed. Turner asked why and the officer told him it was against a local ordinance. At that point, Turner asked to see the ordinance, and that’s apparently when Tropeano became frustrated and an argument ensued.
In a video of the incident filmed by a CMPD officer on the scene, Turner can be seen repeating this version of events. Turner relays to the officers arresting him that he had asked to see the city ordinance in question, and that an officer was was in the process of looking up the ordinance when Tropeano ordered him to put down his cell phone. An officer in the video confirms that he was looking up the ordinance at the time.
“I said sir, can I see the city ordinance? He was going to pull out the book. This man right here grabs me and says ‘put the phone down,’ I can keep my phone on if I want to,” Turner says in the video.
“You’re right, but maybe we didn’t want your phone to get broken,” one officer can be heard saying in response.
CMPD Deputy Chief Putney said Wednesday that Turner was transported away from the scene to an empty parking lot and two other locations in an effort to de-escalate tension among people observing the incident.
Putney said he has seen “no pattern of behavior to believe [Tropeano] would be a problem,” and emphasized that the officer in no way violated the law. Tropeano is not on administrative leave.
But some Charlotte residents say they’ve had similar run-ins with the officer. Michael Zytkow, a former Occupy Charlotte leader and candidate for Charlotte City Council, told QNotes that Tropeano “selectively enforced” city ordinances during Occupy protests in 2012, targeting “individuals he thinks are vulnerable.”
QNotes has more about the allegations here.
“[Officer Tropeano] came into a situation of a minor infraction that escalated not only into an unnecessary arrest, but to a deep concern in our community,” said Dr. Jay Leach, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, at the NAACP press conference. “We would be less concerned if this was a first-time incident. Sadly, we find in the case of this particular officer it is not a first-time incident. This officer has failed this standard repeatedly and he has made situations worse.”