Six months after his death, protesters walked down main street Sunday in West Haven in honor of Mubarak Soulemane. Suddenly a woman drives through the crowd, crossing a double yellow line to the other side of the road.
“We want her to be charged. We need people to be held accountable,” Mikaela Adams said. She says some of the group of about 50 people attempted to stop the woman while they waited for police to arrive. They say two people were injured.
“Everyone was standing with their hands up, blocking her car from leaving, so they whip out their batons and start hitting people,” said Adams.
Video shows the crowd trying to let police know their side, explaining what they say happened with the stopped driver. But the woman was allowed to leave.
“They immediately started helping her, coaxing her, not listening to any of the people that it just happened to,” said Kurt Erickson. “I could not believe at all that they were letting someone go like that that just did that.”
Kurt Erickson says as the officers cleared the way to let the woman go, they also tried to disperse the crowd.
He says he was tackled from behind while filming and was one of four people arrested. That number did not include the driver.
“They hit me with six charges, break my back, shoot me with a taser and mace me in the face while I’m down,” said Erickson. Medical records show he has a fracture in his spine following the incident.
Chaos followed and police dogs were brought out. Adams says the use of dogs on demonstrators is rooted in historical fear.
“I’ve seen videos where they’ve allowed these dogs to go loose, and they latch on to people and they don’t let go,” said Adams, who called the experience traumatic.
While all of this was captured on cell phone video, none of it was captured by police. West Haven police department does not have body-worn cameras.
“Right is right, and we need accountability. These guys are running amuck without body cameras and no repercussions,” said Erickson.
NBC Connecticut has reached out to Mayor Nancy Rossi for comment but has not yet heard back.
Late Monday afternoon, West Haven Police Department Chief Perno released this statement:
On Sunday, July 5th, 2020 a peaceful rally was held on the West Haven city green with a march to the police station. The majority of the demonstrators conducted themselves respectfully and peacefully. The West Haven Police Department’s primary function during events such as this is the safety of the demonstrators as well as the general public.
Once the rally had ended there was an incident at the intersection of Main Street and Kelsey Avenue. I will not elaborate on said incident at this time due to the fact that the investigation is ongoing.
However, I will say that peaceful demonstrations are a freedom enjoyed in our country. Those that choose to be disruptive to the demonstrators or the general public will be dealt with accordingly. To those who were driving in the area at this time I thank you for your patience and cooperation.
Soulemane was killed in West Haven by Connecticut State Police in January after a police chase. A month later, Mayor Rossi said she supported body cameras, but the budget was tight.
Now, six months after his death, supporters are still calling for better policing.
“We’re looking for equality, that’s all. It’s insane,” said Erickson.