The events that led up to the petition, as described by the America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in an article:
“[On Memorial Day] in Florida, 14-year-old Tremaine McMillian was playing in the water with a friend at the beach when a Miami-Dade police officer approached him to ask what he was doing, misinterpreting their play for a fight. Tremaine walked away from the officers, carrying his new puppy in his arms. After observing his allegedly “dehumanizing stares” and clenched fists, the officer used his ATV to chase Tremaine down and throw him to the ground in a chokehold so intense that the teenager wet himself during the incident. It was his mother who caught part of the incident on camera.
14-Year-Old arrested for playing with puppy while black. Seriously.”
The outrageous response by the arresting officer when asked about the arrest, according to the ACLU article:
“Police detective Alvaro Zabaleta justified his physical response to McMillian, saying, ‘All of that body language alone is already letting the officers know that this is a person that is now obviously getting agitated and can become violent. Of course we have to neutralize the threat in front of us.'”
The charges, according to Miami.cbslocal.com:
“Resisting arrest with violence, a felony, and disorderly conduct.”
Tremaine’s words, according to NewsOne.com:
“I don’t like it. I feel sad. He got in front of me on the ATC (sic) and he slammed my hand. Then he started choking me. Then my 6-week old Pit Bull mix named Polo got hurt and bruised his front paw when the police grabbed me and slammed me down. It makes me feel sad.”
The petition by Change.org, in Tremaine’s mother’s words:
“These are serious charges- this could carry jail time and impact his entire life. I thought my family was just going to have a nice day on the beach, but it turned into a nightmare. Please tell State’s Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to drop all charges against my son, and let us get on with our lives.”
What happened to Tremaine McMillian that day was unjust. It cannot and should not be tolerated. If we allow this child to go to prison, it may set a dangerous and unstoppable precedent in which these kinds of incidents come to be seen as normal and permissible. Racism is already pervasive in the American justice system- the only way to loosen its grip on the courts is to do something right now.