Saturday Night Live veteran Jay Pharoah revealed on Instagram that a Los Angeles police officer recently kneeled on his neck while detaining him. The actor and comedian also posted an apparent surveillance video showing the full incident.
Pharoah said that in mid-February, he was jogging in Los Angeles when he stopped by a police officer on Ventura Blvd. when this happened:
“I see an officer to the left of me, I’m not thinking anything of it because I’m a law-abiding citizen,” Pharoah said. “And also keep in mind I got my Bose headphones on, noise-canceling, so I’m in my zone right now. I look to my left, I see him coming with guns blazing. I see him say, ‘Get on the ground. Put your hands up like you’re an airplane.’ As he’s looking at me, I’m thinking he’s making a mistake… They tell me to get on the ground, spread my arms out, put me in cuffs. The officer took his knee, put it on my neck. It wasn’t as long as George Floyd. But I know how that feels.
“I said, ‘Why are you doing this? What’s wrong?'” Pharoah continued. “They said, ‘You fit the description of a black man in this area with gray sweatpants and a gray shirt.’ I told them, ‘If you Google right now, ‘Jay Pharoah,’ you’ll see that you made a big mistake.’ They said, ‘Do you want to sit on the side?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t even want to be on the ground.’ They come back: ‘We’re sorry. We just got a call that it’s not you.’ I said, ‘Get these f—ing cuffs off me.’
“I had never been in cuffs before,” Pharoah added. “I’m from the ‘burbs, you know? My parents tried to shelter me and my sister for years. So we never saw that. I hadn’t experienced firsthand racism until this year. Black lives always matter. My life matters. I’m still here to tell my story. But I could have easily been an Ahmaud Arbery or a George Floyd. But I’m not, so I can tell my story. This is what you need to do: Educate yourselves on the laws. Understand what the cops are saying to you. So if they try to flip anything on you, on young black men, we have the knowledge and power to overthrow that. Be in the know.”
An L.A.P.D. representative said they’re looking into the matter.
Pharoah’s Instagram post comes in the wake of international protests against police brutality and racial injustice, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died May 25 after a white police officer pinned Floyd’s neck with his knee for nearly nine minutes in an encounter captured on video. The officer has been charged with murder and manslaughter.
To help combat systemic racism, please consider donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero, which is dedicated to ending police brutality in America through research-based strategies.
- Color of Change, which works to move decision makers in corporations and government to be more responsive to racial disparities.
- Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal services to people who have been wrongly convicted, denied a fair trial, or abused in state jails and prisons.