The incident comes as the UK sees an increase in hate speech and anti-immigration sentiments from some pro-Brexit politicians.
Rabat – Police in Worcester, central England, have sparked controversy after officers were involved in a revealing “Walking While Black” incident.
UK newspaper, The Independent reported earlier this week that members of the Worcester police force followed and handcuffed Vanylson Silva, a fourteen-year-old black boy, while he was on his way to the local church.
“As he entered the building,” the newspaper explained, referring to Silva, “officers who had been following him, grabbed his arm and handcuffed him.”
Vanessa Santos, the boy’s mother, said that police only released her teenage son after members of the church he was entering explained that the boy is a known member of the church. They added that he is actually one of the volunteers doing community work before and after church services.
While she was happy that her boy was released on the spot and did not have to undergo the distress of police interrogation, Santos lashed out at the police for arbitrarily arresting the boy in the first place. She especially lamented the fact that the police offered no apology or acceptable explanation after the incident.
“The church workers told the police he was a volunteer. They uncuffed him and left, without even an apology,” she said. “I just think it is harsh the way they dealt with it. There was no reason for him to be cuffed at 14 years old. What would you expect a young boy to be doing inside a church on a Sunday morning?”
A subsequent statement from the Worcester police later indicated that the reason for the incident was because of “drug dealing concerns” in the area. The boy looked suspicious, police explained.
“Police were patrolling on St Paul’s Street in Worcester on Sunday morning when they saw a member of the public acting suspiciously,” Inspector David Troth said. Troth explained that officers decided to arrest the boy for a search due to his “behavior and concerns about drug dealing in the local area.”
Without offering an apology, he went on to point out that officers however immediately released after they “were made aware the individual had legitimate reason for being in the area and determined that no offenses had taken place and grounds to continue with any subsequent search no longer existed.”
In response, the boy’s mother said that the event left him “embarrassed and distressed.” She said he is a “normal boy” who plays with friends of his age “but knows to keep away from boys that smoke and drink.” For the mother, the boy’s skin color was the primary reason why police officers thought he was suspicious.
“I prepare my son and tell him that with our skin color, unfortunately we are labeled. I tell him that people will react in different ways and some people will be nice to him, but others will not be so nice,” she said.