by Nanette D. Massey
Armed With Video And The Courage To Speak Up Citizen Stops B-District Cops Attempt To Violate Rights of Black Man
If you are online, you may have seen by now the video shot Saturday, September 29th by Buffalo resident Ed Lawton of two White B-district police officers detaining and searching a Black man at the corner of Elmwood and Allen Streets. At the time of this writing, the video had over 400,000 views. Challenger News spoke with Lawton, known as “Sparky,” and Paul Deck, two patrons of The Intersection Cafe (formerly Cafe Taza) who were present and witnessed the incident.
Both individual accounts corroborate that the man in the video was walking along the Elmwood Avenue sidewalk headed south towards Allen. A crowd of eight or ten coffee shop patrons were congregating outside where the sidewalk often serves as a makeshift open-air patio of sorts. The man, who explained later that he was in a bad frame of mind given a recent incident in his personal life, gruffly insisted the patrons move so he could pass. A few unpleasantries were exchanged between the man and the patrons, leading to the man very audibly lodging a curse word.
The police cruiser in the video was stopped second or third in line at the traffic light with windows open. One of the officers overheard the man’s words to the patrons and shouted back “do you want me to beat your fu#%@ing a–?” The man, agitated, responded with profanity as he continued to make his way down the sidewalk. The officers left their vehicle, detained the man against a public garbage can, patted him down and searched his backpack.
At this point Sparky, a veteran of the Occupy Wall Street movement, felt the situation was getting unreasonably out of hand and began recording. His zealous verbal intervention while recording resulted in officers leaving the man alone and driving off. Sparky says he was spurred to act “prompted by a long history of seeing police abuse their power. Then it’s always the officers’ word against anyone else. I thought if it’s going to go down, I’d better get it on film, the video is all we have.” A major source of contention in the video comes from the two officers’ unwillingness to freely divulge their badge identification numbers when asked.
Sparky contends in their exchange that the officers are required to reveal their badge numbers. A quick call around to some area police precincts uncovered that police are in fact not required to give their badge numbers. We were unable to obtain a source to cite for more information. Sparky says he has refused requests for interviews from other local news outlets. “My experience with mainstream media is they’ll do anything to appease the police. They always send a spokesperson, not actual cops. If a kitten gets stuck in a tree there are officers to interview all day long.
Unless [media are] going to hold the police accountable, they’re not worth my time.” I reminded Sparky that the only person who went to jail surrounding the 2014 death of Eric Garner in New York by police choke hold was Ramsey Orta, the man who captured the video of the episode. “Yes, I did understand the minute I opened my mouth that I was putting myself in an arrestable situation. Still, I hope more people take this as an example to step in and use their little bit of power to intercede on others’ behalf.
The cops did leave after all.” The man saw Sparky out a week later and thanked him again for his actions.