(ABC News) — A cellphone video showing the arrest of a black man in Minnesota who was walking in the street has sparked concern among community and civil rights groups that the man was mistreated and manhandled without justification.
The video, which circulated widely online after it was posted on YouTube, shows the man, Larnie Thomas, held at first by his jacket by a plainclothes police officer who refuses Thomas’ demands that he let go.
The officer tells Thomas he’s in the middle of the street. Thomas responds that he was avoiding construction on the street and demands to be released. Throughout the video, Thomas’ frustration is apparent, and at one point Janet Rowle, a bystander who filmed the altercation, tells the officer that Thomas is scared.
Thomas removes first his jacket, then his shirt to escape the officer’s grasp. A second officer arrives, and puts Thomas under arrest.
The Minnesota NAACP demanded a formal apology from the Edina Police Department through a statement released on social media that said Thomas was “manhandled and emasculated” by police.
“Watching that video and seeing a black man being manhandled and emasculated by Edina police was not only painful and humiliating, it was a vivid reminder that blacks are still too-often seen as second class citizens in the State of Minnesota and in this nation,” the NAACP statement said.
The Minnesota ACLU also expressed concern.
Teresa Nelson, legal director of the state chapter of the civil liberties group, said it is “pretty unusual for plainclothes officers to be doing the kind of patrol seen in the video,” and suggested that the officer appeared to desire to maintain a level of control over Thomas that was not clearly based on criminal conduct.
“In most cases, if this was jaywalking, you would typically give a warning,” Nelson said of what she saw on the video. “Especially if it were true that he was simply avoiding construction, this wouldn’t make much sense. There must be at least a reasonable, articulable suspicion that he has violated the law to warrant such behavior.”
The City of Edina said in a statement made on behalf of the police department that the incident started several minutes before the recording.
A police officer “observed a man walking southbound … in the southbound lane of traffic, though there is a sidewalk on the east side and a sidewalk under construction and a paved shoulder on the west side of the street. Recognizing the risk to the safety of the public, the officer pulled in behind the man with his lights and an audible signal in an attempt to advise him to get out of the roadway.”
The statement continued that “the man, who was wearing headphones, turned and looked at the officer and continued walking in the lane of traffic.” The officer then drove in front of the man to block him but the man deliberately walked around the squad car and continued walking.
The officer got out of his car, followed the man and asked him to stop. “The man did not stop and was defiant. It was after that point that the recording began.”
The statement added that the officer smelled alcohol on the man’s breath and that “a breathalyzer later confirmed the presence of alcohol.”
Edina, a suburb 15 minutes south of Minneapolis, has a population of 50,000, that is 88 percent white and 3 percent black, Census figures show.
“People of color don’t always feel welcome in Edina, particularly African-Americans,” Nekima Levy-Pounds, a spokesperson for the NAACP of Minnesota told ABC News.
In addition to the community’s lack of diversity, Levy-Pounds said African-Americans in Minnesota have a heightened sensitivity about police interactions with their community since two high-profile, police-involved shootings, of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile.