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Physical Encounter On Blue Hills Avenue Pits Black Community Against Hartford Police

Hartford Police (screen grab)
Hartford police officers restrain Sydnee Ransom during an arrest Monday. Some members of the local Black community believe one officer used his knee to pin her down to the ground and are protesting in response.

A video featuring a police encounter with a Black person -- this time a Hartford woman -- is again highlighting the tense relationship between law enforcement and the communities it serves.

Hartford police say Sydnee Ransom was arrested Monday on charges of interfering with police and reckless endangerment after they stopped her for driving a car on a list of stolen vehicles. But Ransom repeatedly said in a video of the incident posted online that the car was hers.

“The car’s not stolen,” Ransom yelled to a white officer. “It’s in my name.”

The scene intensified, as more police arrived on the scene at Blue Hills Avenue in Hartford. At one point in footage released by police, Ransom said, “I’ll just leave.” She then got in her car and tried to pull out.

In another Facebook video, shared via WFSB News Channel 3, Ransom is facedown on the pavement as officers attempt to restrain her.

“I can’t breathe,” Ransom screamed.

Hartford Police have addressed a portion of that video that local Black Lives Matter activists are complaining about -- in which an officer’s knee may have come into contact with Ransom’s head.

“There is one point in some of the video footage where it appears an officer has his knee on the woman,” Lt. Paul Cicero said in a statement. “However, based on an initial review of the video footage, he does not. It appears he has his knee hovering over her head area, which he then moves.”

Cornell Lewis, a member of a local social justice group called Moral Monday CT, disagrees.

“If I took a piece of paper -- 8x11 white paper -- and tried to put it between her head and that cop’s knee, it wouldn’t have gone because he had his knee on her head,” Lewis said.

Lewis joined members of a nonprofit called Black Lives Matter 860, or BLM 860, to protest the incident in Hartford a day after it happened. It began with a demonstration in front of the police station followed by a march to Main Street, where protesters held up signs for honking cars.

Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public
Members of Black Lives Matter 860, or BLM 860, wrote "Black Lives Matter" in chalk on an entrance to Hartford Police headquarters on High Street a day after Sydnee Ransom was arrested during an encounter that caused controversy among the local Black community.

Natalie Langlais, vice president of BLM 860, said the incident -- and the escalation from a stop to physical restraint -- is symptomatic of what happens when police don’t look like the people they serve.

“We need the force diversified and we need anti-racism training immediately for the white cops, and we need the good white cops to step up and say, ‘Look, these are the rotten apples. Get them out,’” Langlais said.

Langlais also took issue with an officer’s knee possibly coming into contact with Ransom’s head. She said it reminds her of what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“Right now, that is a trigger for the Black community, and definitely cops should not be doing that around this time,” Ransom said. “That is more antagonizing than trying to create unity or create an avenue where we can collaborate and do better for the community.”

Hartford police said Ransom went to the hospital after the arrest but suffered no injuries. Police said they will investigate the use of force.

While the officers initially told Ransom the car was stolen, Cicero said that the car was on the list because it was involved in a recent “shots-fired” incident and that a male passenger in Ransom’s car was a suspect in that incident.

Efforts to reach both Ransom and the police department for further comment were unsuccessful.

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