#StarbucksWhileBlack, meet #MovingWhileBlack. #NYPD were called on a former #Obama aide for moving into his new apartment, claiming he had a gun. Police found nothing & were themselves baffled. Stories like this are why we do, what we do. #AdkDiversity https://t.co/jnmP16c597 pic.twitter.com/CIMzNuzpUV— Adirondack Diversity Solutions (@AdkDiversity) May 1, 2018
A black man who used to work for former President Barack Obama had the cops called on him while moving into his brand new apartment.
According to Blavity, Darren Martin is a former White House staffer who just got an apartment in New York’s Upper West Side. While he was moving in last Friday, he was approached by six New York Police Department officers who were responding to a call about a possible break-in.
Martin began livestreaming the encounter on Instagram.
“I’m in my apartment, but you know — you can’t go nowhere without the cops following me,” he said during the recording.
Apparently, one of Martin’s new neighbors didn’t recognize him and opted to call the police.
“Somebody called the cops on me in my own building,” he told viewers of his livestream. “About how many are y’all? About six of y'all showed up, rolled up on me.”
As he was recording, one of the officers turned up the volume on his radio, and the dispatcher could be heard relaying what was said in the original 911 call.
"Somebody was trying to break in the door” with "a possible weapon,” the dispatcher said.
The so-called weapon, however, was just Martin’s key.
Due to his work schedule, the evening time on Friday was the only time he had to move in. Martin attributed the misunderstanding to a combination of gentrification and racial bias.
“As a black man, when you’re in an all-white environment, you’re cognizant of that,” he said. “I have to say I found it kinda [sic] symbolic. [It’s] like welcome to the neighborhood.”
What Martin experienced is certainly not unique for many people of color, particularly black men. In fact, back in March, a similar incident near Sacramento, California, played out much differently.
Unarmed black father Stephon Clark was killed in his own backyard by police officers who were responding to a call reporting someone allegedly breaking into windows. They pursued Clark and ultimately opened fire based on the assumption that he had pointed a weapon at them, yet they later learned he had only been carrying a cellphone.
It’s ironic that everyday items, such as apartment keys and cellphones, can so easily be mistaken for weapons in the hands of a black man, even by people who are supposed to have trained eyes, such as members of law enforcement.
As Martin noted, assumptions of this nature are incredibly dangerous to make as they can escalate to life or death situations.
“The broader message to everyone is get to know folks before you make these assumptions,” he said. “When you make that call, there’s no turning back, and it could have ended very differently.”
Luckily, Martin was one of the lucky ones who lived to tell his story after interacting with police, but his new neighbors had better get used to seeing him around because he has a one-year lease he’s locked into. If they keep crying wolf, officers may become reluctant to show up if or when real crime strikes.
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