V. Matthew King-Yarde was in the middle of a Black Lives Matter protest in New York last summer, trying to document a car on fire, when he says three NYPD officers tackled him and pinned him to the ground. He feared for his life, and the mental trauma is still with him now, eight months later.
“The officers were on my back, and I wasn't focusing on anything other than, is this when I'm going to die—for no particular reason other than just covering the protests?” he told VICE News. Then, in the middle of a pandemic, he was placed in a small holding cell with at least 20 other men.
King-Yarde was just one of about 2,000 people arrested in New York during the BLM protests over the police killing of George Floyd, with many still grappling with the impact of their arrests.
Rigodis Appling, a public defender with the Legal Aid Society, said protesters shouldn’t be arrested in the first place. “Just simply being arrested now—actually going through what people go through in detention—that's something that people probably don't grasp how traumatic that is.”
Angelica, a protester who was arrested during the summer protests, told VICE News that she used to try to view police neutrally, but watching cops arrest protesters “made me completely shift my view on them in a negative light.”
Now, the city is facing a wave of lawsuits over its handling of the protests, most related to police arrests. There are at least six active lawsuits against New York City and the NYPD, and another 400 are expected to be filed.
King-Yarde said he joined a civil rights lawsuit to hold police accountable. “They need to know that certain things are just not OK — certain behaviors cannot be tolerated.”
We first spoke to King-Yarde, Appling, and Angelica during the protests. Watch the original interviews here.