One is tackled to the ground, knelt on face down by two officers and handcuffed. The other is sat on a couch.
Police in New Jersey are under fire after a video showed them breaking up a fight — and restraining the Black and white teens involved very differently.
The footage, posted to Facebook Sunday, shows a Black 8th-grader and a white high schooler exchanging words before a scuffle breaks out.
The pair start trading blows, which lasts about 18 seconds, before two Bridgewater police officers sprint onto the scene and separate them… but it is how they separate them that sent the internet into uproar:
While a female officer pulls the white teen off and sits him on a couch, a male officer tackles the Black teen back to the ground. He is flipped face down and knelt upon while his arms are wrenched behind his back and handcuffed.
The female officer then leaves the white teen on the couch unrestrained, and adds her weight to the Black teen’s back. The white teen is even allowed to stand over the scene and watch as his opponent is hauled to his feet and marched away.
“Yo it’s ’cause he’s Black,” one of the girls watching can be heard saying. “Racially motivated.”
The disparity angered many commenters, with many pointing out that the moment the officers arrived, the white teen was clearly the one on top of the grounded Black teen.
Both teens spoke to separate news outlets after the incident — and both knew what had happened was wrong.
“They basically tackled me to the ground and then the male officer put his knee in my back and then he started putting me in cuffs then the female officer came over and put her knee on my upper back too and started helping him put cuffs on me while he was just sitting down on the couch watching the whole thing,” the Black teen, Kye, told ABC7.
He said the fight started when the older boy began picking on his friend, who is in 7th grade.
“My friend was arguing with the older kid and so I kind of just jumped into a fight, and since he’s older, he was on top of me and he’s bigger,” Kye said. “I was just confused and mad about it.”
The 15-year-old white teen, Joey, meanwhile told PIX11 he couldn’t believe he wasn’t placed in handcuffs too; indeed as the video shows, he even offered his wrists to the officers.
“I knew it was wrong, and I knew there was gonna be problems when they did that,” he said. “They didn’t go for me.”
“I didn’t understand why,” he added. “I even offered to get handcuffed as well.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump was among those voicing outrage.
“These teens got into an altercation at a NJ mall, but ONLY the Black teen was arrested! 1 ofc,” he tweeted. “sat the white teen down & allowed him to watch while the other ofc. tackled the Black teen — then they both handcuffed him! Their actions are clearly racially biased & unacceptable!”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said that while the facts are still being investigated, “I’m deeply disturbed by what appears to be racially disparate treatment in this video. We’re committed to increasing trust between law enforcement and the people they serve.”
In a statement, Bridgewater Township Police Department said it was aware of the circulating video, and had requested assistance from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We recognize that this video has made members of our community upset and are calling for an internal affairs investigation,” it said.
The Prosecutor’s Office confirmed internal affairs was investigating, and requested anyone else with video footage to submit it to them.
In a letter to residents, Mayor Matthew Moench thanked the public “for its patience in refraining from jumping to conclusions while an investigation is pending.”
“I also want to thank the brave men and women of the Bridgewater Police Department for their continued service, and for keeping our public safe in today’s challenging environment,” he added, per ABC7.