Maya Sweedler

On Friday evening, over 100 activists, New Haven residents and Yale students came together to protest the recent arrests of local citizens Tyeisha Hellamns and Jeffrey Agnew.

The rally took place at Beverage Boss, a liquor store on Whalley Avenue. Six days ago, Hellamns and Agnew were arrested after refusing to leave Beverage Boss, which had requested Hellamns and Agnew provide a matching ID and credit card — something they did not display. Agnew, a 27-year-old New Haven resident, said he initially cooperated with police but was handcuffed then beaten and sprayed with pepper spray by three members of the New Haven Police Department. He has been charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer.

“They were arrested by the police for trying to purchase liquor legally,” one protester said to the crowd. “I don’t like being beat up. I don’t think anyone does. It doesn’t feel good when you’re attacked by the people who have sworn to protect you. It makes me feel less safe to be here.”

Despite the persistent drizzle and unseasonably cold weather, the attendees carried signs and circled outside the liquor store for more than an hour and half, chanting sayings like  “How do you spell guilty? N-H-P-D” and “No justice, no peace. No racist police.”

Groups present included Black Lives Matter, two local chapters of Show Up for Racial Justice, People Against Police Brutality and a handful of Yale organizations including Next Yale, Yale DOWN Magazine and the Dwight Hall Social Justice Network. On a list of 30 sponsors, just seven were unaffiliated with Yale.

The NHPD were also present, instructing the protesters to clear the driveways that flank Beverage Boss and to avoid protesting on the liquor store’s land. The demonstrators complied, moving to a smaller L-shaped patch of sidewalk.

“We are not allowing violence to happen here, on the streets of New Haven,” Leah, a protest organizer who declined to provide her last name, told the crowd after they shifted to the sidewalk. “We paid for this sidewalk we’re on.”

“Whose streets are these?” she called to the crowd, which responded “Ours.”

An April 30 NHPD report presented a different account of the arrest than did Agnew. According to the report, police arrived after Agnew began threatening the occupants of the liquor store and its clerk. The report said Agnew “fought with [police] and violently resisted arrest … Agnew was warned he’d be pepper-sprayed if he didn’t comply. He didn’t and was pepper sprayed.”

The report also noted that Agnew has been arrested eight times since 2009, and he has been released on bond.

Activists and residents alike noted the unprecedented turnout of Yale students, who comprised more than half of the demonstrators. One organizer said though it is sometimes difficult to engage with Yale students given the brevity of their stay in New Haven, he appreciates student support and hopes it will remain consistent.

Yale students said they heard about the protest either from an email, which went out to several sponsoring groups, or on Facebook, where a photo containing the date, time and location urged Yale students to attend in solidarity.

“There’s a sign over that says ‘The system is guilty.’ There are a bunch of names on that sign: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner,” one protester, a New Haven resident, told the crowd. “I thank God Jeffrey’s name isn’t on that sign … he was this close to being murdered and we’ve been talking about that here in New Haven for a long, long time. This police department under [Police Chief Dean Esserman] wants to tell us that they are a friendlier police department than we have in Ferguson, in Baltimore, and that could never happen in our city because we have community policing … that’s a bunch of bulls—. This police department is as brutal as any other.”

Cars driving east along Whalley Avenue slowed to honk at the throng of protesters, and some rolled down windows to take a handout bearing Hellamns and Agnew’s description of events as well as a list of demands.

These demands include: that the State’s Attorney drop charges against Agnew and Hellamns; that Mayor Toni Harp and Esserman suspend the officers involved and open an investigation into the incident; that the Board of Alders adopt the Malik-Dawson proposal for granting subpoena power to a Civilian Review Board of the NHPD; and the Connecticut legislature rewrite the law for interfering with an officer.

Black Lives Matter activists closed the event by reminding attendees that Agnew’s court date is May 16 and Hellamns’ is May 19, and exhorted people to call Harp and encourage her to suspend the officers involved.

Clarification, May 7: An earlier version of this article did not fully describe the circumstances in which Hellamns and Agnew were arrested.  

  • Boott Spur

    “On a list of 30 sponsors, just seven were unaffiliated with Yale.”

    If there’s one thing Yalies love doing, it’s putting organizations’ names on things. Anyone remember the Ayaan Hirsi Ali omnishambles?

  • Ralphiec88

    The store security guard, store clerk, and police all say Agnew was enraged, racially abusive, and threatening. And yet these students, who claim an offensive Halloween costume can be a safety issue, embrace a man with 8 arrests including a current felony sex assault charge. They’re an embarrassment to themselves and Yale.

  • Hieronymus Machine

    “No justice, no peace. No **racist** police.”

    From elsewhere: “Three officers arrived… One, a light-skinned black man… began to talk to [Agnew]… Two other officers, one Asian man and a white woman, walked up to him. … As the Asian-American officer approached him, Agnew said he ‘stepped toward him’ to begin talking to him, an instinctual move…” And all heck ensued… And what did our inferentially unraycis “victim” reportedly have to say?

    “G-dd*mned Indians. You come in here to this country and own the gas stations and the liquor stores,” shouted Agnew [allegedly] at [clerk] Arpit Dave and [Beverage Boss owner] Hasu Patel”

    “No justice, no peace. No racist[s puh-lease].”

    “’We are not allowing violence to happen here, on the streets of New Haven.”
    A sampler (and, sadly, but a mere one at that):
    3/29: Eastern St. Armed robbery (shotguns)
    4/2: Water St.; person shot & in critical condition
    4/3: Bassett St.; two shooting victims
    4/5: Elm St. bank robbery
    4/7: May St.; Crime scene active for a person shot
    4/7: Armed robbery, Whalley Ave.
    4/11: Four New Haven teens arrested on weapons, drugs, stolen car charges
    4/22: Three nabbed in armed bank robbery
    4/22: NHPD arrests father/son team on 30 counts of burglary (75 chgs total)
    4/23: Shooting/Stabbing.
    4/23: NHPD investigating a fatal shooting of a male victim in a car
    4/25: Arrest made in deadly shooting at Cheetah Club in New Haven
    4/27: NHPD at Sherman Parkway after reports of gunshots fired at a home.
    4/29: Four rob game store, threaten to kill employee
    5/3: Police arrest New Haven man in connection with fatal crash
    5/6: NHPD arrests four people in street fight

    Google topix crime new haven ct

  • Karléh Wilson

    It is unnecessary to include the amount of arrests that Agnew has in this article, especially in light of the fact that the majority of those arrests are results of failures to appear in court. There is a difference between arrest and conviction, and when you report on an innocent person’s arrest record you unfairly paint them as a criminal.

    • Ralphiec88

      8 times?

    • FreedomOfSpeach

      Thank you for standing up for thug-life.

  • Sparrow

    The false narrative of BLM is not supported by real evidence, but it appeals to casual readers who take the bait. If you look at rates of these incidences (excluding ones where the shooting victim was, in fact armed and dangerous, and posing a threat) as a percentage of total police interactions in these kind of situations, and account for the racial make-up of the area where the incident occurs, it becomes clear that there is no special targeting of blacks, especially given that it is true that blacks make up a larger percentage of those committing crimes. This is not through any fault of their own, as blacks have had a hard go of it in this country, and this is not to say that racism does not exist (there are many things that need improving still, in this country that is slowly making progress, and I do believe it when some blacks say they experience racism on a daily basis), but this narrative deflects from some of the real problems, and how to solve them. The narrative that there is somehow an institutionalized targeting of blacks, and a blanket culture of racism in law enforcement is just false. Of course, real abuses of power should be prosecuted on an individual basis. It is understandable, however, why people support this movement, as many view the world through a certain lens- what is almost a cultural trauma that is generational. Is there a more constructive way to heal this trauma?

    • ShadrachSmith

      nice name.

  • Jason

    I guess your guilty until proven innocent now yet they want all charges dropped against the so called perp with a criminal history. Typical for blm

  • private

    How did the writer of this article (2nd paragraph) come to the legal conclusion that Agnew was “arrested while purchasing alcohol legally”? State Law prohibits the sale of Alcohol without ID, which is what Agnew’s friend was trying to do.

    Agnew caused enough of a scene that the owner called the police when he was screaming and bothering people in the store. It took the store security guard to get him to finally leave. This 28 year old model citizen (arrested eight times since 2009) is currently out on $10,000 bond on a sexual assault charge. Too bad the “Alleged” sexual assault victim didn’t have any Pepper Spray! Sounds like a nice completely law abiding person to me (sarc.)!

    What are BLM and the Yale students actually protesting? Do they even know that eye witness reports supported the police claim that that Agnew lunged at the arresting officers and violently resisted his arrest, fighting the officers trying to handcuff him.

    Oh, I forgot…Criminal Lives Matter.

    Where is the protest in support of the responsible tax paying employers and business owner of the stove who was harassed by Agnew? Do the Yale students support the racist language Agnew used against the Indian-American store owner: “Goddamned Indians. You come in here to this country and own the gas stations and the liquor stores.”

  • ShadrachSmith

    #blm is Obama/Sharpton produced street theater to nationalize control of local police powers, which is evil, so I’m against it 🙂

  • private

    In addition to being arrested eight times since 2009, according to the state judicial database, Agnew is currently out on $10,000 bond for a sexual assault charge, to which he has pleaded not guilty. Too bad Agnew’s “Alleged” sexual assault victim didn’t have any Pepper Spray!

    What are BLM and the Yale students actually protesting? Do they even know that some eye witness reports support the police claim of Agnew lunged at the arresting officers and violently resisted his arrest, fighting the officers trying to handcuff him.

    Where is the protest in support of the responsible tax paying employers and business owner of the store who were harassed by Agnew? Oh, I forgot…Criminal Lives Matter More.

    The New Haven Independent reported that the Beverage Boss owner Hasu Patel (Indian-American) heard Agnew say: “Goddamned Indians. You come in here to this country and own the gas stations and the liquor stores.” Do the Yale students protesting know about the racist language Agnew used against the store owner?

  • Brandon Hatch

    It sounds like the police officers did absolutely nothing wrong & were justified in their actions.

  • Hieronymus Machine

    “The truth will out.” The surveillance vids, while documenting some foul language on the part of the po-po — and perhaps a bit of overzealousness in the pursuit and arrest of the underage Ms. Hellamns — IMO shows a clearly different story re: Mr. Agnew’s actions than that disseminated by agenda-driven activists and their media fellow-travelers.

    Just sayin. Check the story over at NH Register or, better yet, the inimitable Paul Bass at NH Independent:

  • disqus_lrqJ7iPjuT

    This article should never have been published without the “fully describ[ed] circumstances in which Hellamns and Agnew were arrested,” despite the account being far from full. More embarrassing and irresponsible journalism from my alma mater. There is absolutely no editorial control at this paper.