At Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, police officer Ben Fields used force to remove a student from class. That was on Monday October 26th 2015. It was caught on video by three students with mobile phones and it spread like wildfire across the Internet.
The videos show a Black girl sitting at her desk in class. A White police officer, Ben Fields, moves the papers from her desk and asks,
“Are you going to come with me or am I going to make you? Come on. I’m going to get you up.”
He puts his arms round her neck (pictured above) and under her legs, flips her back in the chair-with-a-desk thing she is sitting in and removes her. Then he drags her (pictured below) and throws her across the floor. Like she was a thing, not a person.
Nia Kenny, a fellow student who took one of the videos, said:
“I was screaming ‘What the f, what the f, is this really happening?’ I was praying out loud for the girl. I just couldn’t believe this was happening. I was just crying. And he was like, ‘Since you have so much to say, you are coming too.'”
Fields arrested Kenny too, for “disturbing schools”.
It is unclear what led up to this. Kenny says that the teacher had asked the girl to leave after not participating in class. When the girl refused, the teacher called an administrator who, in turn, called in Fields.
Parents are “outraged” and “angered”.
The school district is “deeply concerned” and “will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize the safety of our students.” It says it uses police officers to protect students. In 2012, Spring Valley High was 51% Black, 36% White.
The Richland Two Black Parents Association said:
“The unfortunate actions of this police officer has revealed what many African American parents have experienced in this district for a very long time. This is just another example of why we must have an independent assessment from various parties including the Department of Justice to examine policies and practices in the District.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in South Carolina:
“There is no justification whatsoever for treating a child like this. Regardless of the reason for the officer’s actions, such egregious use of force – against young people who are sitting in their classrooms – is outrageous. School should be a place to learn and grow, not a place to be brutalized. We must take action to address the criminalization of children in South Carolina, especially at school.”
The mayor says he “will not accept this kind of behavior from any law enforcement officer.” Fields is a police officer for the county, not the city.
The county sheriff said he is “very disturbed”. He put Fields on paid leave and asked the FBI and Department of Justice to look into the matter.
Fields has been taken to court twice before: once for police brutality in 2007 (he won that case) and once for racial profiling (goes to trial in January).
– Abagond, 2015.
Update (14:20 GMT): Ben Fields will be fired according to NBC News.
Update (November 2nd): The girl’s first name is Shakara. She is 16. Her lawyer says she has carpet burns on her forehead, a hard cast on her right arm and a swollen neck, back and shoulder. She is charged with “disturbing schools”. If found guilty she could face a fine of $1,000 and 90 days in jail. She says she obeyed her teacher in putting away her phone, but not in leaving the classroom (presumably to go to the principal’s office). She thought that was an unfair punishment. Source: News One.
- YouTube: raw video – it shows one of the videos three times, twice at normal speed, once in slow motion.
- Twitter: #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh
- Also in South Carolina
- McKinney, Texas
- The term “thug”