14-Year-Old Arrested for Playing with Puppy While Black. Seriously.

Last week down in Florida, 14-year-old Tremaine McMillian was playing in the water with a friend at the beach when a Miami-Dade police officer approached him to ask what he was doing, misinterpreting their play for a fight. Tremaine walked away from the officers, carrying his new puppy in his arms. After observing his allegedly "dehumanizing stares" and clenched fists, the officer used his ATV to chase Tremaine down and throw him to the ground in a chokehold so intense that the teenager wet himself during the incident. It was his mother who caught part of the incident on camera.

When I was 14, a security guard reprimanded me for leaping back and forth between the different colored tiles on the floor at the mall while I waited for my mom to finish some errands. He seemed to think I was disrupting the peace (if such a thing can be found in a mall); I thought he was a grumpy and mean grownup. I glared back at him and jumped to another tile, then sulked off to find my mom. And that was the end of our interaction. As it should have been.

Tremaine's story, much unlike my own, has yet to end. Outrageously, he is now being charged with a felony for resisting arrest with violence, and a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct. Notably, both alleged offenses apparently occurred after the teen was pursued and tackled by the police officer—which begs the question why he was pursued and tackled in the first place.

But the better question may be why did Tremaine's story end with a violent and traumatic arrest, while I was allowed to go about my business? Both of us were messing around like kids do, and both of us (allegedly) shot a dirty look at an authority figure. But as a white teen, I had my skin color on my side. Tremaine, who is Black, is now one more kid on a growing list of Black and Brown kids and young adults around the country whose actions have been ruthlessly criminalized because of their skin color. (17-year-old Trayvon Martin, 5-year-old Michael Davis, 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot, 7-year-old Wilson Reyes, and 18-year-old Ramarley Graham are just a few that come to mind.) However chilling it may be to some of us, this narrative has become alarmingly commonplace. Indeed, such incidents have become so routine that one recent article focused more attention on the welfare of the puppy than on the young man, with a headline reading "6-week-old pit bull injured by Miami-Dade police in incident near Haulover Beach."

Police detective Alvaro Zabaleta justified his physical response to McMillian, saying "All of that body language alone is already letting the officers know that this is a person that is now obviously getting agitated and can become violent." That's right: Tremaine's body language was enough to constitute a threat to the officer. "Of course we have to neutralize the threat in front of us," Zabaleta went on to say. This interpretation of Tremaine's obviously benign response to the officer is so overtly racist that one would hope the criminal charges against him would be dropped just on principle, but a judge denied his public defender's request to have the charges reconsidered.

For the Miami police, racially charged interactions with Black men are especially common. That this kind of police brutality against kids of color is almost ceasing to shock the public is alarming, and the familiarity of Tremaine's story is haunting. The "threat" posed by this 14-year-old was clearly fabricated as a feeble excuse for the racism that poisons the assumptions and decision-making process of Miami-Dade police officers. There should be no room in the media's discourse for this inane justification for violence against young Black men like Tremaine. Maybe we should start by de-emphasizing the fate of the puppy, and focusing on how best to challenge the senseless brutality visited upon Tremaine and so many other young Black men and women in this country.

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Anonymous

I'm not anonymous. By name is Bob Striffler. In regards to Playing with puppy. Does the Stare decisis doctrine apply? Is controlling case law not binding on that "rubber stamping" judge who found probable cause and refuse to drop that frivolous case....not an unconstitutional arrest? Judges should be held accountable for blatant rubberstamping so then this behavior by police would be held in check. Further lawyers should be tripping over each other to file a Civil Rights case against the police directly involved, the supervisors of these police, the chief and the city. After all civil suits are also a means of check and balance which would curtail growing police abuse. The reason the police, chief and city should be held accountable is because it's clear to see that this is not only a failure to train, supervise and discipline police it's a refusal to acknowledge the controlling case law on the subject thus refusal to train, supervise etc.. etc... This police officer was very clearly mistaken or probably was used to getting away with outright lies to justify reasonable suspicion/probable cause! There was nothing going on so it should have remained a consensual encounter not a detainment or arrest. Same old same old! Is not the controlling case law on the subject that the court should recognize, that reasonable suspicion/probable cause cannot be based upon mistake of law or mistake of fact? Hasn't the Florida courts ruled that entrapment occurs when the police create crime where none existed before their arrival. And that laws like loitering/resist obstruct etc... cannot be used as a catch all for police when no other crime can be described? Yes that is the controlling case law! Last but not least both of these Florida laws identically written have been ruled "unconstitutionally vague" under Kolender across this nation at every level. Kolender ruled, "a law cannot be so vague so as an average citizen cannot not read the law and know what conduct is prohibited" Again if the great legal minds across this nation have ruled identically written laws as Florida's are vague, how can a mere citizen know the meaning of the law. Answer that! When doing nothing wrong how can a person even expect that in a free society (America) they can be charged with a crime for resisting a false detention or arrest. Exactly what law was being broken when the police arrived? Answer none! I can submit the case law that is supposed to be binding even in Florida courts! Stare decisis is what allows for "equal protection of the law." If this young man was doing nothing illegal as is apparent, then he had "a right to resist and illegal arrest" Now at the federal level he could resist this with violence, thus a free society! But it's been ruled even in the Florida courts that flexing and struggling is not violence it's meeting force with force and in most case is involuntary anyway. Under the "Fairness doctrine" (which is why the courts exist) how, in a rational mind, can his actions be felonious! Does flexing muscles in an arrest constitute felony now? That's very disturbing! This is why people do not trust the police and have serious concerns of the number of Americans incarcerated. Also almost every arrest is turning brutal! People don't always need to be "taken down" during an arrest for God's sake! It seems to be the judiciary's responsibility to, as independent, behave in such a way as to not give people lack of trust for them with reason such as this which is more widespread then one would think.

Anonymous

I'm not anonymous. By name is Bob Striffler. In regards to Playing with puppy. Does the Stare decisis doctrine apply? Is controlling case law not binding on that "rubber stamping" judge who found probable cause and refuse to drop that frivolous case....not an unconstitutional arrest? Judges should be held accountable for blatant rubberstamping so then this behavior by police would be held in check. Further lawyers should be tripping over each other to file a Civil Rights case against the police directly involved, the supervisors of these police, the chief and the city. After all civil suits are also a means of check and balance which would curtail growing police abuse. The reason the police, chief and city should be held accountable is because it's clear to see that this is not only a failure to train, supervise and discipline police it's a refusal to acknowledge the controlling case law on the subject thus refusal to train, supervise etc.. etc... This police officer was very clearly mistaken or probably was used to getting away with outright lies to justify reasonable suspicion/probable cause! There was nothing going on so it should have remained a consensual encounter not a detainment or arrest. Same old same old! Is not the controlling case law on the subject that the court should recognize, that reasonable suspicion/probable cause cannot be based upon mistake of law or mistake of fact? Hasn't the Florida courts ruled that entrapment occurs when the police create crime where none existed before their arrival. And that laws like loitering/resist obstruct etc... cannot be used as a catch all for police when no other crime can be described? Yes that is the controlling case law! Last but not least both of these Florida laws identically written have been ruled "unconstitutionally vague" under Kolender across this nation at every level. Kolender ruled, "a law cannot be so vague so as an average citizen cannot not read the law and know what conduct is prohibited" Again if the great legal minds across this nation have ruled identically written laws as Florida's are vague, how can a mere citizen know the meaning of the law. Answer that! When doing nothing wrong how can a person even expect that in a free society (America) they can be charged with a crime for resisting a false detention or arrest. Exactly what law was being broken when the police arrived? Answer none! I can submit the case law that is supposed to be binding even in Florida courts! Stare decisis is what allows for "equal protection of the law." If this young man was doing nothing illegal as is apparent, then he had "a right to resist and illegal arrest" Now at the federal level he could resist this with violence, thus a free society! But it's been ruled even in the Florida courts that flexing and struggling is not violence it's meeting force with force and in most case is involuntary anyway. Under the "Fairness doctrine" (which is why the courts exist) how, in a rational mind, can his actions be felonious! Does flexing muscles in an arrest constitute felony now? That's very disturbing! This is why people do not trust the police and have serious concerns of the number of Americans incarcerated. Also almost every arrest is turning brutal! People don't always need to be "taken down" during an arrest for God's sake! It seems to be the judiciary's responsibility to, as independent, behave in such a way as to not give people lack of trust for them with reason such as this which is more widespread then one would think.

Anonymous

To the author: You used "begs the question" incorrectly. It does not mean the same thing as "raises the question."

Anonymous

Only thing i can say is that when African Americans start killing caucasions and utilize the stand your ground rule. The state that have it will start to repeal the law. I believe this is what those that created the law truly want... a race war.

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