A Pennsylvania police officer was seen putting his knee on a man's neck while trying to restrain him Saturday evening, drawing comparisons to the infamous viral video showing George Floyd before his death that sparked a nationwide reckoning against racial injustice and police brutality.
Ben Crump, the attorney representing Floyd's family, re-shared a video of the incident from Allentown, Pa., on social media, demanding the officer's name and badge.
“GRAPHIC VIDEO: @AllentownPolice held down this man’s face to the pavement and then one of its officers placed their knee on his neck!! This happened yesterday and is exactly what led to #GeorgeFloyd’s death. We need this officer’s name and badge # NOW. #ICantBreathe,” he wrote.
Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley initially posted a slightly longer clip of the incident on Saturday, writing “@AllentownPolice were filmed Saturday evening applying the same force to a resident that the cops used to murder #GeorgeFloyd. This happened here in #Allentown outside a hospital.
“We demand answers. We demand change. We're Done Dying. #DefundThePolice,” the tweet said.
The cellphone footage shot Saturday from a passerby's vehicle shows three Allentown officers restraining a man on the ground outside the emergency room of the Sacred Heart Campus of St. Luke's Hospital.
One officer has his elbow on the man's neck before switching to a knee to hold him down while the two other officers restrained his arms. A member of the hospital staff stands next to the officers as they pin the man to the ground.
The entire clip was fewer than 30 seconds long. It was unclear from the video how long the officer held his knee to the back of the man’s neck.
By contrast, the May 25 cellphone video that captured Floyd’s arrest showed former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin held his knee to the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, including even after Floyd lost consciousness, according to a New York Times analysis. Chauvin and three other officers involved have been charged in connection to Floyd's death.
Protesters marched toward the Allentown Police Department late Saturday night, and Mayor Ray O’Connell and Allentown police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. showed up by early Sunday morning to answer questions.
Granitz Jr. said the department was conducting an internal investigation into the incident but could not provide a “24-hour, 48-hour time table for you” as to when it would be finished.
O’Connell, a Democrat, said the clip was “disturbing,” but added, “I think we need to gather all the facts and information before we go forward,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Allentown Police reiterated in a statement released Sunday night that the interaction is being investigated and additional videos are being reviewed.
The department, like many others around the country, released its use of force policy earlier this month, five weeks after Floyd’s death. The policy prohibits neck restraints and chokeholds. It says officers should only use the amount of force necessary to control the situation.
According to the police statement, officers were outside the hospital for an unrelated matter when they saw a man staggering in the street, vomiting, and stopping in the driveway of the ER.
The officers and hospital staff interacted with the man, who began to yell and spit at them, police said. The statement said the man was “noncompliant which required officers to restrain” him.
The man was treated at the hospital and released. Authorities have not released the name or race of any individuals seen in the video. Police said in their statement that they plan on releasing more videos later this week.
Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said his office will also review the Allentown Police Department’s findings, according to the Inquirer.
Allentown Councilman Joshua Siegel said on Twitter “I’m disgusted and outraged. This is unacceptable conduct from our officers. There must be action: Make the body camera footage public. Suspend the officers during the investigation. Terminate the ones who violate use of force policy.”
Councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach posted a video to Facebook describing how she attended the “passionate” but “peaceful” protest outside the Allentown Police Department Saturday night because “fundamentally, people need to feel safe in their communities and they need to know if a police officer is going to use an illegal hold that he or she will be held accountable.”
State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, a Democrat, also said on Twitter that “The protestors last night were chanting 'Black Lives Matter' for a reason. You'd have to be heartless to not hear the pain and anger in their voices, or the trauma in the voice of the man in the video saying, 'I thought we mattered.' I can’t unhear his voice.”
The local chapter of Black Lives Matter is planning another march to City Hall on Monday evening with community leaders slated as speakers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.