By Mary Alice Miller
The beat of African drums, via cell phones and text messages, was urgent and intense.
About 6pm, June 21, Majida Abdul-Karim put out the call after she happened to witness officers from the 77th Precinct hit and arrest attorney Michael Tarif Warren and his wife, Evelyn.
At the time the calls went out, information was sketchy about the incident which occurred near the McDonald’s franchise on Atlantic and Vanderbilt.
Less than an hour after the arrest, Majida was at the 77th Precinct. Majida was at a garage at Vanderbilt and Atlantic when she “saw a situation with a man who had hit a car.” She said, “This man jumped out of the car and proceeded to run. Once the police officers witnessed that, they drew their guns to go after the man. I looked behind them to see the outcome of what they did to the man, and I saw attorney Michael Warren being led into the [police] van, shirt open, tie really tight around his neck, and he was thrown into the vehicle. I had to do a double take, because I didn’t know it was him. I spoke to him through the glass and asked him if there is anyone he wanted me to contact immediately. He gave me the number and I called a couple of people. Then someone said his wife is over there in the car. I ran to the car, and she was being written a summons by the police officer. She was a little upset while the officer was handing her the summons, she snatched it, and was told, ‘So, you want to snatch now?’, banged her up against the car, and said, ‘So now we are going to arrest you, too.’ That’s why I am here at the precinct.”
Word spread quickly. Radio station WBAI began announcing the breaking news as soon as they got word.
Less than an hour after the arrests, people had arrived at the 77th Precinct, and continued to come throughout the evening in support of the Warrens. Standing vigil was a wide variety of community folk, including representatives of December 12, Black Men’s Movement, BNYEE, NBUF and Roots Revisited.
Councilman Charles Barron and attorney Reginald Haley were allowed to talk to Michael Warren in the precinct, where they observed Warren’s bruised lips and face, and torn clothing.
Haley’s impressions after talking with Michael and Evelyn: “Obviously, she is upset. She saw her husband beaten and arrested. She was hit as well, and manhandled by the police. Long story short, they saw a man being arrested and beaten after he was handcuffed. They merely raised their objections; they did not attempt to intervene physically in any way.”
Haley continues, “It is really appalling that any citizen of the United States, especially an attorney, would be manhandled and beaten simply for raising an objection to someone else being beaten after they were handcuffed. Michael was beaten as well. He was punched several times in the face. What we are doing now is waiting and hoping to get him released tonight.”
Attorney Marisa Benton, as well as Barron and Haley, conferred with Evelyn Warren in the precinct. According to Benton, Evelyn was “in shock.” You could see that she felt violated, as a result of being punched in the face by an officer (her chin was visibly bruised), and being arrested. Benton stated Evelyn was “in disbelief over what has taken place and what she witnessed. It just seems like a classic case of police brutality. Apparently, there was some man who was being brutalized by the police, and a large crowd gathered and Michael and Evelyn had stopped to inquire what was happening because it looked like clear police misconduct. So, I guess they were asserting their rights as citizens to inquire and the police officers didn’t appreciate it. And they began to hit Michael Warren. And his wife was also hit. I still haven’t heard a lawful basis [for the police] to approach Michael and Evelyn. And I still haven’t heard a lawful basis for the arrests. I am dumbfounded as to what led to them being arrested.”
Meanwhile, people kept coming. Observers filled the precinct’s reception area, the overflow spilling onto the steps and into the street. Approximately 200 people showed up.
Kevin Powell on why he came to the 77th Precinct Thursday evening: “I have known Michael Warren for 15 years or so. He’s been a longtime supporter of a lot of us in the community. He has been a victim of police brutality; he’s been a victim of a lot of things that happen in the community. When I heard about this, I got the text [message], I said, ‘I have to go support the brother and his wife.’ I think it is unfortunate what is going on with them. I know he is already under the people’s radar because of the work that he does. We want to make sure that he gets due justice here, and that’s why we are going to sit here and make sure that that happens.”
At about 11pm, Michael and Evelyn Warren were released; Evelyn with no charges, Michael with a desk-appearance ticket. Michael’s trilogy of charges is obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The desk-appearance court date has not yet been released.
After the release, Michael Warren, Councilman Barron, attorney Roger Wareham and Marq Claxton (100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care) were guests on WBAI, and all of last Sunday’s Black Talk Radio broadcasts.
Warren, an experienced defense counsel, could not go into detail regarding the particulars of what happened to him because of pending legal proceedings. He did talk about what made him stop his car that evening. Warren said he saw a young man being chased by a group of police officers. He said it looked like a National Geographic documentary in which the predators were aggressively chasing their prey. Warren said the look he saw on the man’s face was one he had never seen before- a look of palpable fear. Warren said he saw the officers tackle the young man and place him in handcuffs. While this man was lying facedown on the ground, Warren said he saw supervisor Sgt. Talvey kick the handcuffed young man in the head, step back, and then Talvey watched while his police officer/ staff mimicked their supervisor’s behavior.
Barron and Wareham describe what happened to Warren: Michael then got out of his car, imploring the officers to “stop beating the man, you already have him in handcuffs, just put him through the system.”
The officers involved answered with a few choice expletives, telling Warren to mind his business. When Warren identified himself as an attorney, the officers said, “we don’t care who the **** you are.”
Warren retreated, got back in his car, and began to take notes. After the officers finished with the man they had arrested, they approached Warren’s car, dragged him out, punched him in the face and mouth, and arrested him, with his wife watching.
Traumatized at witnessing how her husband was being treated, Evelyn asked why the officer was treating her husband that way, the officer swung past Michael and hit Evelyn in the jaw.
The beatings and arrests of Michael and Evelyn Warren prompted local black-elected officials to hold a press conference last Sunday at City Hall. In attendance were Council members Letitia James, Darlene Mealy, Matthew Eugene, Robert Jackson and Helen Foster; State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Eric Adams, as well as Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries and Nick Perry, and also Rev. Conrad Tillard. They all expressed outrage at NYC’s “out of control” police force.
Later that day, a rally was held in front of the 77th Precinct. About 300 people attended. Although most of the elected officials at the press conference promised to show up at the rally, only Nick Perry actually did.
A wide variety of community leaders spoke at the rally, including Ron Daniels, Viola Plummer, Bob Law and others.
A follow-up strategizing meeting for organization representatives will be held at Sista’s Place Monday, July 2.