A month ago, one of the most disturbing optics to hit the internet emerged, of a Black woman lying on the floor, clutching her toddler to her body while several members of the New York Police Department pried her child from her tight clasp.
The incident, which took place in a public benefits office in Brooklyn, New York, on December 7, reminded many of the violence Black women experience for merely existing. Jazmine Headley, a 23-year-old mother who visited the office to inquire about her SNAP benefits and a subsidy for her son to attend day care, was accosted by the building’s city peace officers and later five New York Police officers because she opted to sit on the floor in the crowded waiting area.
“You’re hurting my son!” Headley screams in the terrifying video.
On Tuesday, Headley sat before New York City Council members as she explained how her life was violently disrupted due to the officer’s actions.
“It’s not just the fact that I was arrested. It was the harsh way that I was treated by people who are supposed to help me,” she said. “In my case, I was just sitting. A peaceful act,” Headley said during her emotional testimony.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who was one of the main advocates for Headley’s release, personally apologized to her. One that was way overdue and will no doubt, still no soothe the pain she experienced.
“I also want to apologize. I’m sorry on behalf of the city of New York. I’m sorry you ever had to go to that HRA center. I’m sorry that you and your baby had to experience that trauma,” Johnson said.
Headley, for her refusal to move was arrested and spent four nights in Rikers Island until she was released after a judge dropped the impending charges against her.
“You deserve so much more than you received and I am deeply, deeply apologetic that you had to have this experience and I am similarly, deeply, deeply grateful for your bravery,” Johnson said.
In response, the city council will introduce 13 bills which would look into city offerings for residents who rely on government assistance. They include a quarterly report on use-of-force-incidents from the Department of Social services and the creation of the “Office of the Special handlers,” which would respond to complaints and questions, according to The New York Times.
But what Headley also needs is a direct apology from the officers who failed her and provided an environment of chaos instead of intending to diffuse and protect.
To date, none of the police officers involved have faced disciplinary action, while two of the peace officers involved are no longer in their roles, according to report by NY1.com.
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