MERCED, CA --Late Saturday night on July 8, Merced Police Department (MPD) impeded on a private college student party at Chandelier's Hookah Lounge & Smoke Shop on Main Street looking for a robbery suspect, but instead clashed with startled attendees who panicked once they realized the MPD trapped them inside the building.
The lounge was rented out for the non-alcohol private affair, catering to an 18+ college crowd, where the chill atmosphere soon turned into a melee of several arrests of black students and guns drawn by the MPD.
UC Merced mechanical engineering student Isa Bey, along with Nedir Bey, a Laney College electrical engineering major, Ciazonne Foster, from Diablo Valley College, Yakub Bey, a student at Merrit College, and Majied Bey, a student at Bethany College were all arrested.
According to the Merced Sun Star, several people, including club patrons, have said police instigated the violence at the club that night, but officers have said they only used force after the club-goers got out of hand and assaulted a police officer.
The above video captured by Anthony Munoz, who was working private security for the event taking place at the lounge, shows the end of the confrontation during which several individuals were brutally restrained by the MPD, along with an officer firing at one of the partygoers a non-lethal, anti-riot weapon that fires a rubber baton, according to the MPD.
In the video below, Attorney Mark Harris of Sacramento had an exclusive sit down with the five young college students and the California Black Media News Team:
Issued on the “Drop The Charges" Facebook, here is a part of the statement from Teresa Wachira, the ASUC External Vice President from UC Merced, Refilwe Gqajela, the ASUC External Vice President from UC San Diego, and Zoë Broussard, the ASUC External Vice President from UC Irvine, who are also urging people to sign a petition against the “aggressive actions” of the MPDperpetuated against “unarmed Black men and women" :
Saturday evening, July 8, 2017, at a Black student gathering in a Merced hookah lounge, Merced city police abruptly raided the space with claims of searching at least one of the individuals present for drugs. The aggression brought in the space was met with defense and the events that followed lead to several students sustaining major injuries including broken ribs from being shot with rubber bullets, bean bags, and tasers. Given the history of racial violence and lack of accountability for ‘law enforcement' there is great student concern that not only will the events of Saturday night go untold or reviewed, being deemed business as usual for policing's militaristic approach to Black people, but that the students and individuals arrested will be charged and given extensive sentences considering an officer was hurt, which will likely be weighted greater than any student sustained injuries from the attack.
The violent interactions between Black students and local police in Merced was not isolated in the long history of racial violence occurring in the communities surrounding University of California campuses. University of California campuses surrounding community culture and locale has reflected the anti-Black climates students organize around all too often. The student identity is not mutually exclusive from all others that students bring with them when attending the prestigious public universities...
In a letter to students from the chancellor and vice chancellor of students wrote:
Those of us who have seen the video clip showing a portion of the incident can surely understand the fear and trauma experienced by people who were there.
Our initial and continuing concern has been to provide support for students who were directly or indirectly affected. Additionally, we have been in contact with city officials, and they are aware of our concerns and desire for a comprehensive and impartial investigation of the event.
Many of the students in attendance are pillars of leadership in our campus community and have volunteered many hours in the local community, all in an effort to create positive social change. They have been exemplars of the values and commitment to community of our young campus.
We are proud of the current and past leadership of our Black Student Union. They worked thoughtfully and intentionally to coordinate a peaceful demonstration. Their perspective matters, and each of us should stand up against the excessive use of force and violence that too many people of color still experience. Each of us should work to advance the agenda of a safe community that supports all races, ethnicities, sexual and gender identities, and religious identities.
At the Merced City Council meeting today, a diverse group of protesters, supporters and students spoke out against the arrests of the five young black men, suggesting ways the city could improve its police department’s protocol.