Police Accountability

New Haven Clergy Condemn West Haven Police Response During Protest

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The Greater New Haven Clergy Association is calling for the arrest of a driver who drove into a group of protesters in West Haven Sunday, and condemned the response to the protest from the West Haven Department during a protest Sunday.

"We have had many protests in this state and no one has tried to barricade through any of the protests, but here in West Haven they have allowed that to happen here," said Rev. Dr. Boise Kimber of First Calvary Baptist Church.

Protesters calling for justice for Mubarak Soulemane, a 19-year-old who was shot and killed by Connecticut State Police trooper in West Haven six months ago, were marching on Main Street Sunday when a car drove through their ranks. Video shows the car and protesters blocking the vehicle to prevent the driver from leaving, but when police responded, the driver was not arrested. Protesters said officers cleared the way so the driver could go on, then attempted to disperse them.

"Whether you disagree or not, does that mean you put people’s lives in danger," Pastor John Lewis of Christ Chapel New Testament Church said.

West Haven police confirmed that they arrested three other people during the protesters. The response has left protesters wondering why the driver, who they allege hit pedestrians, was allowed to go free while others were arrested. Protesters also questioned the police use of dogs to disperse the crowd.

"We want this individual arrested. We want to know why the chief allowed dogs to come out to the protesters," Kimber said.

The clergy members said they were frustrated by what they consider a lack of response to their demands for communication and action by the police department and the mayor's office. They called for the resignation of the department's chief and the mayor if action is not taken.

"We haven't had this, so why would we have this in West Haven?" Kimber said of what happened at the protest, which was a peaceful demonstration. "And why wouldn't the mayor make a statement? And the statement that the chief made, he put it on Facebook."

NBC Connecticut has reached out to Mayor Nancy Rossi and the police department multiple times this week and has not heard back.

Earlier this week, the West Haven Police Department issued the following 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.

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