Harlem Black Business Owner Arrested for Being a Business Owner While Black

The law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA) yesterday evening filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three black men who are among the many black New Yorkers and black Americans arrested for simply doing the normal things that normal people do—driving a car down the street, having a barbecue, or, in this case, doing one’s job.

Plaintiff Dr. Clyde Pemberton is the CEO of the corporation that owns MIST Harlem (https://mistharlem.com/), a restaurant and entertainment venue. The complaint alleges that Dr. Pemberton and two MIST employees were arrested on June 1, 2017 simply because they are black. Dr. Pemberton went to aid a white woman who was unconscious and being dragged through MIST by her two white friends. The ill woman’s friends screamed racial epithets at him and attacked him. MIST employees called 911 for an ambulance. When the paramedics and the police arrived, Dr. Pemberton and two MIST employees were arrested for allegedly falsely imprisoning the ill woman. The police never interviewed them before arresting them.

Plaintiff’s attorney, Elizabeth S. Saylor said, “It is time for the NYPD to be held accountable. The NYPD must stop reflexively defending its officers without even conducting an investigation. The NYPD must take real action to stamp out discrimination by holding accountable those officers who violate citizens’ constitutional rights.”

Despite having done nothing but express concern for a patron in danger, suffer an unprovoked racist attack, and try to deescalate a volatile situation, Dr. Pemberton and two other MIST employees were arrested, held at a police station overnight, and forced to go to court to fight charges for several months, before the district attorney finally dismissed the charges.

“This is exactly the kind of interaction that destroys trust in law enforcement in minority communities,” said Ms. Saylor. This incident has left Plaintiffs deeply shaken. They had not previously known the fear, the disrespect, or the pain of being the victims of arbitrary and heavy-handed conduct by the police. Dr. Pemberton had even previously worked with the police. He ran a Harlem-based community mental health center, performed psychological evaluations for the NYPD, and served as a psychiatric consultant to the Newark Police Department.

“This lawsuit seeks to remedy the injustice perpetrated by the NYPD,” said Ms. Saylor. The complaint is available here. The three plaintiffs are represented by Elizabeth Saylor and Doug Lieb. Read coverage of the case in the New York TimesNY Daily News, NY Post, New York Law Journal, Hip Hop Wired, and The Grio.

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