The arrest of a mother and her two daughters that was broadcast and shared nationwide and beyond this week on television and social media was an act of racism, African-American pastors said during a Christmas Eve news conference.
Calling the incident rude, as Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said during a news conference on Friday, or saying that racism was not a significant factor, as Mayor Betsy Price suggested, does not accurately depict the situation, according to Michael Bell, pastor of Greater St. Stephen First Church. The officer unnecessarily escalated the incident and then city officials circled the wagons around him, Bell said.
“The conduct of this Fort Worth officer was obviously racist,” Bell said. “Any efforts to recast or spin the narrative only serves to make a bad situation worse.”
More than 40 pastors from Fort Worth and Arlington gathered at Beth Eden Baptist Church to address concerns about how a police officer responded to a mother’s call for service on Wednesday to report a man’s alleged choking of her 7-year-old son. The mother, Jacqueline Craig, was manhandled by the officer along with her two daughters, and then all three were arrested. The suspect in the alleged choking went home, Bell said.
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A video of the arrest, posted online Wednesday, had been viewed more than 3 million times as of Saturday afternoon.
The video shows Craig being thrown to the ground by the responding officer, who pointed a Taser at her back. The police officer, who has not been publicly identified, also aimed his Taser at one of Craig’s daughters, before throwing her on the ground and arresting her. The officer also detained Craig’s 15-year-old daughter.
B.R. Daniels Jr., pastor of First Greater New Hope Baptist Church, said the African-American community has lost trust in the police officer who arrested Craig, and her daughters and residents no longer want him patrolling their neighborhoods.
“We do not trust him to carry a gun nor does he have our permission to come in our community and enact deadly force,” Daniels said. “He has lost credibility in our community.”
Daniels said the African-American communities in Fort Worth trust Fitzgerald, Price and other city leaders. Daniels also said that to call for justice for this family and for due process in the alleged assault of Craig’s 7-year-old son is not an indictment of the entire force.
Pastors asked that the African-American community remain calm while the police investigation unfolds. They want the process to be as transparent as legally possible.
A Fort Worth civil-rights activist, the Rev. Kyev Tatum, said the leadership of the city and the African-American community had reached an agreement on a plan of action in 2014. Had it been enacted, the plan would have strengthened the relationship between the Police Department and African-American residents, Tatum said, but it has not been put into practice, Tatum said.
The plan has several recommendations on dealing with police encounters with residents, responses to critical police incidents and for increasing and respecting diversity on the police force, Tatum said.
“We believe that the city has not in good faith kept up with the nature and intent of the bargain, so it will be incumbent on us to meet with our city leaders immediately,” Tatum said.