Dr. Clyde Pemberton, a retired Harlem psychiatrist and restaurant owner was arrested last year by NYPD for trying to help an unconscious white woman in his restaurant. He explained to the white supervisor that he was a doctor and was trying to help, but the officer interrupted him, saying:
“You’re not a physician or any s— like that tonight.”
Pemberton recounted the supervisor’s words and details of the encounter in a federal lawsuit he filed, charging that:
“The NYPD arrested [him] for being a conscientious business owner while Black. And it arrested Christian Baptiste and Thomas Debnam for being helpful employees while Black…[They] 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 original incident took place last year, in June 2017, when two white women were seen dragging a third out of the bathroom of the MIST restaurant, owned by Pemberton, in Harlem, N.Y. When Pemberton tried to help, the women responded with racial slurs and punches to Pemberton’s chest. One of them hit a Pemberton employee on the side of his head with her purse.
“She repeatedly called us the N-word, told us to go back to the jungle,” Debnam said.
Police were called and when they showed up Pemberton said he was relieved. But police, instead of arresting the abusive women who were seen dragging the unconscious woman out of the bathroom, Pemberton and his employees were hauled in instead. According to Pemberton, the officers actually witnessed the two white women shouting racial slurs and throwing punches at Pemberton and the employees.
Pemberton and his employees were charged with unlawful imprisonment, but those charges were all dropped five months later.
Pemberton’s lawsuit charges the police with false arrest, malicious prosecution, excessive force, false imprisonment, assault, battery, failure to intervene, and negligence in training and supervision.
Since filing the suit, Pemberton says police are trying to intimidate him. They stop by his business frequently, doing random “checks” of his restaurant.