When the video begins, all you hear is yelling. “It was just a cigarette! Mister, it’s just a cigarette, sir!” The video focuses, and you see a plainclothes police officer holding 17-year-old Marcel Hamer to the gutter with his foot. He bends down, punches the man in the head, and tries to arrest him. “Do you wanna get fucked up?” the office says, “Yeah, get it on film,” he continues. At this point, the young man is unconscious and unresponsive, and his friends are still shouting, screaming that he’s knocked out, begging him to get up.
This footage—taken on June 4—comes from New York City, and follows video of a similar incident from August in a nearby neighborhood, where an officer pistol-whipped an unarmed 16-year-old for briefly running away from police.
But there’s an important difference between the two videos. In the second, we see a familiar scene: black youth, white cops. The first, on the other hand, shows something less common: a black youth and a black cop.
In the aftermath of the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown—a black teenager—was killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, we learned that Ferguson Police Department was nearly 95 percent white in a town where blacks were the large majority. Residents wanted change. “We want answers, we want justice in our community, we want diversity,” said Rev. Derrick Robinson in one of the early protests.