On the same day that police arrested 18-year-old Sabrina Parker for her role in a St. Patrick’s Day fight, roughly a dozen community activists stood outside the New Haven Police Department headquarters yesterday afternoon to protest the police’s response to that incident.
During the St. Patrick’s Day parade, Parker was involved in a fight at the downtown Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant. The incident garnered attention after a video depicting NHPD officer Joshua Smereczynsky slamming 15-year-old Teandrea Cornelius to the ground was widely circulated. Cornelius was arrested that day for assault, possession of knife and breach of peace. Over two weeks later, Parker — who was accused of assaulting Cornelius’s sister — was arrested Monday afternoon at the state courthouse, where she had appeared for an unrelated felony weapon case. According to a press release from NHPD spokesman David Hartman, Parker is being charged with risk of injury to a minor, assault and breach of peace.
Even though Hartman’s Monday release does not include Cornelius’s name, the details of Parker’s arrest match those related to her case. Hartman has repeatedly declined to comment further on the investigation or the response it has garnered in the city.
The NHPD’s investigation into the event has received widespread criticism from both community activists and members of the police union. After NHPD Chief Dean Esserman announced on Friday that Smereczynsky had been exonerated, pro- and anti-police protesters stood in opposition outside City Hall for close to an hour. Monday afternoon some of the same anti-police protesters gathered for a rally outside NHPD headquarters on Union Avenue, where they criticized the police department’s ability to conduct its own internal investigations.
“There’s no accountability. There’s no one saying ‘Hey, let’s look into that,’” said Norman Clement, who attended both protests. “And if they do look into that, it’s only them looking into themselves.”
For the protesters, Parker’s arrest means little. The protest had been planned ahead of the announcement, and Parker’s arrest was not its focus.
Chris Garaffa, who also attended both protests, said Smereczynsky, not Parker, should have been the one arrested.
“I know the family’s happy about it because they’re trying to get some justice and all that, but I’m certainly not happy about that being the arrest and not the officer,” Garaffa said.
Clement echoed Garaffa’s sentiments. He said the protesters will continue to build momentum around the movement. The protesters publicly expressed their intent to continue approaching the city administration on this issue and discussed the possibility of attending Cornelius’s court date to show solidarity with her.
Clement spoke to a group of no more than a dozen members of the community, most of whom had also been at the protest on Friday. At 5 p.m., when the protest was scheduled to begin outside of NHPD headquarters, the street outside was mostly empty. Forty minutes later, protesters unraveled the same sign they held on Friday, which lists names of 15 people in New Haven who have experienced violence from police.
Blest Peters, a longtime New Haven resident, said the protesters should consider alternative ways to garner support, especially given yesterday’s low turnout. He also proposed that the protesters renew their push for the establishment of a new Civilian Review Board in New Haven, which would hear, review and investigate claims of police misconduct. The previous review board was suspended last year to allow the Board of Alders to create a new iteration. Peters suggested that the protesters flood the next Board of Alders meeting in support of the board’s quick creation.
Barbara Fair, a prominent New Haven activist, largely agreed with Peters, but remained skeptical about the prospects of such a strategy. She noted that the group has already advocated in favor of the review board, and that the issue is now in the hands of the alders.
“We’ve had so many times where we go to the Board of Aldermen, we go to all the legislators, we do all of these things, and nothing seems to happen,” she said. She agreed with Peters’s suggestion to make a show of numbers at board meetings, saying that it might be a good way of showing the strength of the movement.
The Civilian Review Board last met in September.