“At least I’m still alive, I only got Maced.”
Those were the courageous words of 10-year-old Taye (last name being withheld), who was the victim of being sprayed with a chemical irritant by a Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer during a downtown rally on May 13. The rally was in protest of the announcement that no charges would be filed in the Madison, Wisc. Killing of 19-year-old Tony Robinson, who was shot by police. The rally was organized by Black Liberation Project and Taye was marching along with his mother, Susan Montgomery, when he was sprayed. According to both Taye and his mother there was no provocation that caused the spraying and there was no warning offered by the officer in question.
While no video has surfaced of Taye being sprayed, there is video of a person off camera presumed to be Taye screaming frantically and people yelling, “You just Maced a kid, you just Maced a 10-year-old kid.” Seconds later in the video, which had gone viral, it shows an officer indiscriminately spraying other protesters. Protesters say the officer shown in the video is the one who sprayed Taye. While the MPD has yet to confirm the identity of the officer, several protesters, including Michael McDowell of Black Lives Matter, have identified the officer as Ray Witzman.
While where as on May 13 people were rallying for Robinson, the next day more than 100 people turned out in the rain to protest and march for Taye.
“I’m not going anywhere,” said a determined Taye. “Every time we protest they don’t listen to us and I’m not going to stop coming out until people listen.”
Taye, who according to his mother has autism, also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a condition his mother said was brought on when Taye was handcuffed and arrested at just six years old. According to Montgomery, as a result of the May 13 incident Taye suffered temporary partial vision loss and severe headaches.
With the climate think with tensions between police and African-American communities across the country, Montgomery said she was a bit relieved to get calls from both Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau expressing their concern for her son and the chief promising a full investigation.
Montgomery said the incident has shaken her and she even briefly considered not attending the rally being held for her son, but she and Taye decided it was important that they speak out about what happened.
“We haven’t even had a chance to calm down yet. We couldn’t sleep much,” said Montgomery.
Newly-elected Minneapolis NAACP president, Nekima Levy-Pounds called the actions of the officer outrageous.
“It was totally unacceptable for that officer to have used his spray like that,” said Levy-Pounds. “I’m a mother of a 10-year-old and to see that video and hear Taye’s screams – blood curdling screams – it was unbearable. This child has been traumatized.”
Levy-Pounds said the NAACP is calling for a full investigation and for a review and changes to policies and practices within the department.
“We are calling on Chief Harteau and the mayor to revamp and overhaul these police practices that lead to so many excessive force complaints” said Levy-Pounds. “From my perspective this officer showed a disregard for humanity and I think that attitude needs to be rooted out of the department. And in reality, he’s not the only one. This lack of trust breeds hostility. We’re not going to take it any longer.”
The NAACP branch president also called on police who are in favor of community to begin to speak out.
“We need to also talk about the silence of so called good officers who witness all these abuses. They need to come forward and stop doing nothing,” said Levy-Pounds.