Thursday's New York City protest of Michael Brown's shooting and death led to the arrest of at least five people. Of those five, three were arrested together, and two of these men — TreQuan Love and Gregory Alexander — have stepped forward publicly to tell their story to The Wire
Love spoke with us earlier today about his experiences with the New York Police Department, and Alexander has since come forward with his story.
Alexander is a New York University student, father to a young son, and a New York Department of Transportation employee. He attended the entire protest, marching from Union Square to Times Square yesterday evening.
In an interview with The Wire, Alexander explained the protest "was a statement to the public's unhappiness about the state of the police's tumultuous relationship with the public." He marched alongside his girlfriend while holding his son."I took tons of pictures with my son on my shoulders and people loved us as a unit because we were happy and enjoying the good vibe of unity," he said. To keep his family together, Alexander asked that his girlfriend fasten a yellow balloon to his son's stroller, so "I can find her easily at all times."
While Alexander and other protesters did not encounter too much police force at Union Square and during the march, once they arrived in Times Square, the commotion began. He heard one officer say, "This is not good, we need more guns here," whereas another seemed confused, asking what the rally was about.
As officers attempted to move thousands of protesters, sectioning them off with an orange net, the yellow balloon moved further away from Alexander. Alexander was able to slip out of the crowd with TreQuan Love, and Alexander's family headed out of the crowd with Julius Stukes, another protester who was later arrested.
The family and their friends decided to meet at a nearby ATM, to withdraw cash to get home and regroup, and to get a bit of relief from the herd outside. Alexander's girlfriend suffers from anxiety, and while she calmed down for a while inside the TD Bank, the family decided to head home. "I was not willing to put my family in any added danger by going outside while emotions were high and things were tense. Over two dozen officers were in front of the bank and I felt that we were protected from anything happening," explained Alexander.
From within the ATM lobby, the group witnessed Jason Woody get arrested. Officers told Woody, who was on a bike, to get off the sidewalk. "Then when he got off the sidewalk, they arrested him for being in the street," explained Alexander, "Officers were being extremists and I didn't want my child in danger. So we stayed in the bank. A black man and his lady who happened to be white walked to the door and I opened the door for them. Then continued to stand at the door to watch what was going on."
When Alexander's girlfriend approached the ATM to withdraw money, a captain approached Alexander. "I heard a captain in a white shirt say that he 'needs some plastic cuffs over here' referring to us in the bank. He then came to the door with other officers and said 'open the door.' I asked 'Are you going to arrest me?' He said 'open the door.' And I asked again 'Are you going to arrest me?' He said to other officers, 'They are resisting and refusing to open the door.'"
Leaving his family inside, Alexander exited the ATM and was immediately arrested. He says he was not read his Miranda rights, nor was he given a stated reason for arrest. He has been charged with criminal trespassing, the same charge Love and Stukes received.
Alexander is due in court September 22. He hopes the charges will be dropped, "as they are completely baseless. I cannot trespass in a bank where I am attempting to do business and I cannot trespass unless the owner files a complaint." He plans on fighting the charges, though he has not yet retained a lawyer.
Nonetheless, Alexander remains optimistic about the future for African American men. "I protested for the rights of my peers, but more importantly for the rights of my growing 11-month-old son," he said, "One day he will hear about this and I will gladly tell him that I fought for him and his right to live. His right to cross the street. His right to go get Skittles. His right to wear a hoodie if its chilly outside. His right to go to school and not be harassed."
Though he faces charges, Alexander says he "wouldn't have changed a thing about last night."