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Black Restaurant Owner Arrested for Helping Unconscious White Woman Sues NYPD

"You're not a physician or any s--- like that tonight," an NYPD supervisor told Dr. Clyde Pemberton.

Dr. Clyde Pemberton, a Black restaurant owner and retired psychiatrist in Harlem, sued the NYPD for his arrest after he helped an unconscious white woman in his restaurant.

When Pemberton tried to tell the white supervisor from the 28th precinct that he was a doctor, the officer interrupted him:

"You're not a physician or any s--- like that tonight," Pemberton recalled.

The federal lawsuit is claiming a #WhileBlack moment— removal of the right to be a professional and business owner.


"The NYPD arrested Dr. Clyde Pemberton for being a conscientious business owner while Black. And it arrested Christian Baptiste and Thomas Debnam for being helpful employees while Black...Dr. Pemberton, Mr. Baptiste, and Mr. Debnam 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," the lawsuit states.

Back in June 2017, two white women were seen dragging a third out of the MIST restaurant bathroom in Harlem, N.Y. When Pemberton intervened to help, the women responded with racial slurs and unprovoked punches to Pemberton's chest and assaulted an employee with a purse smack to his head.

"She repeatedly called us the N-word, told us to go back to the Congo, to the jungle," Debnam said.

Police were called and Pemberton was relieved.

But, instead of the intoxicated, racist, violent women dragging an unconscious woman being of concern to the officers, the Black business owner and his employees were arrested.

The lawyers filed actions against the police for the following: false arrest, malicious prosecution, excessive force, failure to intervene, false imprisonment, common law malicious prosecution, assault, battery, and negligence in training and supervision.

Pemberton was forcefully restrained, causing his eye glasses to break and his head hit on the patrol car as officers pushed him inside. He and his employees were not interviewed at the scene. The officers had observed the two white women hurling racial slurs and being violent toward Pemberton and the employees.

But the employees were also arrested and brought down to the precinct for questioning for six hours. Pemberton and his employees were charged with unlawful imprisonment, but the charges were dropped five months later.

"You can't just round people up and sort it out later without probable cause they have committed a crime," said Elizabeth Saylor, of emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLC. "That's illegal," she added.

The lawsuit states an officer knowingly lied about the Pemberton holding the women against their will, which had resulted in the unlawful imprisonment charges.

Pemberton and his employees have been substantially affected. He is losing business and investors. He also reports being harassed by police doing random checks of his restaurant. Debnam said he's afraid the arrest will prevent him from applying to be a teacher.

All of them avoid police interaction now.


Reader Question: Have you or someone you know had a #WhileBlack experience to share? Join The Conversation below.

The Conversation (5)
06 Sep, 2018

That thing that happens when hlack men;

1) Attempt to do the right thing and

2) Reflexively out of their way to help white women.

Zuazo506 Sep, 2018

This story isn’t credible. I visited New York last February. I toured every part of it. There are no Confederate monuments or flags, so racism could not possibly exist in New York.

John Hoade06 Sep, 2018

Every cop involved in that arrest should be sued.

Carol Mortimer05 Sep, 2018

This world is getting more and more insane every day.

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