Video Captures Austin Police Violently Arresting 2 Black Men for Jaywalking
"Just comply, quickly, so you do not become a statistic."
That's what mother Nevetta King said after watching a wrenching online video of her son's violent Nov. 6 arrest in Austin, Texas, for the crime of jaywalking, according to local news station KENS 5.
The video captures Austin police punching and kicking her 22-year-old son, Jeremy King, and one of his companions. According to the younger King, the incident ensued after one of the two cursed under their breath while being stopped for jaywalking at 2:30 a.m. on Sixth Street, near the city's bustling nightlife district.
Throughout the three-minute video, members of the city police department strike the two men repeatedly, put them in headlocks and pin them to the ground, though the events that immediately precipitated the violence are not seen.
"Be still, be still," someone yells as the police wrestle with one of the people pictured in the video. "OK, I'm down, bro! I'm down!" the man responds. A few seconds later, he asks, "What did I do?"
Officers inform pedestrians the men in question were "crossing against the light."
A woman in the video responds "Nothing! He didn't do nothing! He's fucking black, that's why!" She too is arrested after approaching the officers.
In a statement to KENS 5, the Austin Police Department wrote "As is standard protocol, the Chain of Command will review the Response to Resistance and the incident to determine what led up to the events captured in the video and whether the officer's actions were in compliance with APD policy."
In Austin, jaywalking is punishable with a citation and fine that can range from as low as $49 to as high as $500.
A similar incident in February 2014 drew headlines when Austin officers stopped a female jogger who may have been wearing headphones and arrested her for jaywalking and "failure to identify," BBC reported last year. Scathing criticism flew at Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo after he told reporters "In other cities, cops are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas."
The First Amendment protects a citizen's right to curse at a police officer, though the Denver Post notes "the law draws the line at interfering with a police officer in the course of their job or threatening a cop."
According to the Dallas Morning News, when Acevedo took the job as head of the police force in 2007, the department was under a Department of Justice civil rights inquiry. In the years between 2007 and 2010, the paper wrote Acevedo "cleaned out the department's internal affairs unit, overhauled its disciplinary processes, proved willing to fire or demote problem officers and made frontline supervisors more accountable."
However, a recent investigation by the Dallas Morning News in partnership with student researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found many Texas police departments are considerably less diverse than the communities they serve. In September, Austin police shut down a "Black Lives Matter" protest in the capitol.