The only difference between Champaigne Hale and Justine Ruszczyk is Hale is still alive.
That’s what supporters of Hale are telling the public following an Aug. 10 encounter with Minneapolis Police Department officers. Like Ruszczyk, who was killed in July 2017 after calling Minneapolis police to report a possible crime, Hale say her mother’s call to police to report an assault resulted in Hale, 28, being brutally beaten and tasered simply for opening the front door to her home.
“I opened the door and they immediately attacked me,” said Hale, following an Aug. 19 news conference called by varying groups including the Minneapolis and St. Paul branches of the NAACP, the Minneapolis Urban League, Communities United Against Police Brutality and Freedom Now, Free the Land. “The officers came in and immediately attacked me with no questions asked.”
Hale’s brother, Lee Evans, 29, corroborates Hale’s account. Evans said, disturbingly, the police knew their actions were unlawful, making reference as to if they were being recorded.
“I heard a cop ask if the body cams were on and another officer said ‘no,’ and that’s when I saw him (a Minneapolis police officer) punch my sister and after that I went to my sister’s aid and at that point I was attacked,” said Evans, who said he was then tasered two times by police.
Now as a result of the incident Hale and Evans … first, witnesses and potential victims to the underlying reason for the police call … are now both victims and accused. Hale, whose photos of her many injuries were placed throughout the room of the press conference, is now facing two felony counts of assault on a police officer and Evans is facing one felony count of assault on a peace officer.
“When is enough, enough,” asked Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis NAACP. “Gov. (Tim) Walz, (Minneapolis) Mayor (Jacob) Frey, when is enough, enough?”
Redmond said an even greater injustice occurred when Hale was arrested and instead of being placed in a jail cell she was placed in a psychiatric ward because she told officers she didn’t feel safe.
“I don’t feel safe,” said Redmond. “Raise your hands in this room if you don’t feel safe with what’s going on here.”
A majority of hands went up in the room of almost all Black spectators.
“Five cowardly men came into this home and beat this woman (Hale) and I’d have taken the same beating her brother took to protect my sister,” said activist John Thompson.
“What Lee did was heroic. He saw five grown men beating his sister and he put his body in front of hers to protect her from being beaten … to protect her from being tased,” said Redmond, who said she intends to start the social media hashtag, #BeLikeLee, to bring further light to the situation and Evans’ actions.
“What you see here is a whooping from head to toe,” said Spike Moss, founder of Freedom Now, Free the Land, pointing to the photos of Hale. “It’s time for community action. We’re talking, we’re walking, we’re pushing back and it has to start with this child (pointing at Hale).”
Moss called for a march on the state capitol to force the governor to address the issue of police brutality in the state.
Hale said she is so traumatized by the incident she’s been unable to return to her job. According to a Facebook post made Aug. 15 by Hale – that has been shared more than 950 time – she said she was tasered up to 10 times including after being handcuffed, punched in the face and thrown to the ground. Hale posted photos of her with a swollen face and bruising along her ribs, arms and legs. She also said she suffered two fractured toes during the incident.
A statement from the Minneapolis Police Department says Hale and Evans were the aggressors in the Aug. 10 incident.
“Officers arrived spoke with the victim. When they entered the residence to arrest the suspect, family members were uncooperative and interfered physically with the officers carrying out their lawful duties. Officers were outnumbered and additional squads were requested,” read the statement. “During this incident, an officer was punched in the face, an officer was kicked in the head by a handcuffed suspect and a family member ripped the cord off an officer’s radio, rendering it useless. Three persons were arrested for charges ranging from Domestic Assault, Assault in the 4th Degree and Obstructing the Legal Process with force. This incident, as with any incident where force is used, was reviewed by an on-scene supervisor and Internal Affairs.”
The coalition supporting Hale and Evans are calling for a meeting with Minneapolis police officials and an immediate release of any and all footage captured by police body cameras.
“Just because they changed the color of the chief doesn’t mean they changed the color of the uniform,” said Thompson, referring to the fact that the police chief of Minneapolis is African-American.