Community and grassroots activists denounced the controversial arrest of a local resident during a rally in Freeport on Friday, calling for state authorities to step in and investigate the village's police department.
They also said they want the officers who arrested Akbar Rogers, 44, of Freeport to be placed on administrative leave without pay, and have the footage from their body cameras released.
Shouting slogans like “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” the more than 100 activists and local residents gathered on the steps of the Refuge Apostolic Church.
Rogers “experienced police brutality by some out-of-control rogue police officers,” said the Rev. Arthur Mackey Jr., of Mount Sinai Baptist Church Cathedral in Roosevelt.
Warning: Graphic language
Officers had come to arrest Rogers on a warrant for a traffic charge, as well as a separate incident in which he allegedly pushed a woman to the ground twice, officials have said.
The arrest of Rogers on Tuesday was captured by a neighbor on a video that has since gone viral. The video showed seven officers involved, with at least two punching the man while he was on the ground yelling for help. Another officer appeared to kick Rogers.
Mackey said the officers did not need to use violence against Rogers.
Race also has played a part in the outrage, as all the officers appear to be white, and Rogers is black.
“They could have just put the handcuffs on him and put him in prison and let him have his day in court. But they beat him and they beat him brutally. That could be our son, that could be our daughter, that could be our mother, that could be our father. We must stand up against the racism, the classism and the sexism,” Mackey said.
Freeport police say they followed proper procedures, though the Nassau County district attorney's office is investigating. A lawyer representing the police officers said Friday that his clients had to exert "reasonable force" because Rogers was resisting arrest.
Attorney William Petrillo of Garden City said Rogers was out of control and that police stopped the use of force once he was handcuffed.
Brian Finnegan, a spokesman for the Village of Freeport, said Friday that the officers involved remain on active patrol duty. Freeport has 100 on the force, including officers, sergeants, lieutenants and brass, Finnegan said.
Some speakers at Friday's rally said they do not trust local authorities to investigate Freeport police and called on state Attorney General Letitia James to launch a probe.
Rogers himself showed up at the rally with his mother and son but did not speak to the crowd. Rogers wore a sling on his arm and a gauze bandage around his head.
Nia Adams, a community organizer with the Long Island Progressive Coalition, called the video “deeply disturbing, traumatizing and unacceptable. We know these practices are rooted in racism and white supremacy.”
Adams said that “as a black woman and a resident of Long Island, I was horrified upon seeing this video of the vicious attack on Akbar Rogers. This could be my brother. And in many ways, Akbar Rogers is our brother, and we will not continue to disregard black lives.”
The Rev. William Watson Jr., pastor of Free Will Baptist Church in Freeport and president of the 56-church Long Island Conference of Clergy, said police on Thursday asked to meet with him and others and “they tried to explain to us it wasn’t what we saw. They tried to explain that it takes nine people to arrest one man unarmed. We’re insulted by their insinuation and by their statements. We will not accept it.”
Watson said that “only because there’s a tape there’s evidence. This is a culture and practice of this entire county. And if the district attorney does not prosecute, she needs to go. If the county executive does not take action, she needs to go.”
Watson also called for the resignation of Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy, whose son was one of the officers who arrested Rogers.
With Craig Schneider