On Friday evening, 20 protestors assembled on the steps of the New Haven Police Department headquarters to demand an expedited internal investigation of the alleged assault of Holly Tucker by NHPD officers last month.
According to Tucker, on the night of Sept. 10, NHPD officers used excessive force against her while arresting her for allegedly disobeying an officer’s traffic signal, among other misdemeanor charges. Over the past few weeks, repeated requests for updates on the NHPD’s internal investigation of the matter have led to no further information or action, Tucker’s mother Barbara Fair — a prominent New Haven activist — said.
The protest, entitled “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied,” was organized by Fair and attended by local activists and residents of New Haven and nearby towns.
“As a mother, this has been very hard for me. It’s been 46 days,” said Fair, addressing the crowd gathered on the steps of the NHPD headquarters. “Every day my daughter doesn’t have justice, rage is building within me.”
As of Monday night, the News could neither obtain a copy of Tucker’s filed complaint nor comment from the NHPD.
Fair said that the officers involved in the incident were only interviewed after a month and a half had passed. Although Tucker filed a complaint about the detailing the incident and met with an Internal Affairs Division member two weeks ago, the NHPD has not yet provided additional information on the matter, Fair said. She added that she was frustrated that local media had ignored her daughter’s case.
Behind Fair, two protesters unfurled a banner that read “NHPD GUILTY,” and led the crowd in chants of “No justice, no peace” and “Justice for Holly Tucker.”
According to Tucker, on Sept. 10, two police cars began following her after she drove through the intersection of Foxon Boulevard and Quinnipiac Avenue. After pulling into a gas station, an officer gave her a verbal warning for disobeying a traffic signal and requested her driver’s license. The officer asked Tucker whether she had been drinking or smoking, which Tucker said she denied. When the officer requested that Tucker roll down her window more than halfway and open the door of her vehicle, Tucker refused, she said. Two additional officers arrived, reached through the window to open the car door, grabbed her by both arms, unbuckled her seat belt and forcibly removed her from the vehicle.
“Out of the car, they threw me to the ground,” she said. “They handcuffed me, never read me my rights. I spent the whole Saturday night in jail. They knew I had to get home to my daughter.”
Tucker showed the News a video of officers approaching her car before the alleged incident. Public records also show that Tucker was arrested that night on three misdemeanor charges and a verbal warning. Her next court date is scheduled for Nov. 1.
Addressing the crowd after her mother, Tucker said that she remains traumatized from the incident, and still has bruises on her arms from where the officers grabbed her. Despite being a full-time student and single mother, she will fight for justice, she said.
“We need to hear something. With all these delays and stalls, we have no idea what’s happening,” Fair said.
Several attendees said Tucker’s case reflects the department’s inability to efficiently review civilian complaints.
Tracy Davis, a member of the Unitarian Society of New Haven’s Anti-Racism Task Force, who was at the protest, said there must be a full investigation into Tucker’s case and that a civilian complaint review board should be established.
“It’s a sign of the good health of a community that people can speak up,” Davis said. “We have a right to hold [the NHPD] to a high standard. We’re asking for an investigation and we’re asking for the creation of a civilian complaint review board. This community has the power and the vision to get it right. We’re simply saying, get it right.”
At 5:45 p.m., after the protesters had been outside for 45 minutes, Fair led them into the lobby of the NHPD headquarters. Fair asked the officer on duty whether she could speak with Interim Police Chief Anthony Campbell, an assistant chief or a member of the Internal Affairs Division. The officer said he would inquire.
As the crowd waited for the officer’s response, many expressed their frustrations with Tucker’s case and grievances with the NHPD. Three women, including Davis, began singing “We Shall Overcome.”
IV Staklo said they had attended a rally for Tucker two weeks ago.
“We got upset because this has been going on for so long,” Staklo said. “They made a promise that they’d get back to her, but there’s been no progress.”
Flavia Damico, a New Haven resident, was holding a sign that read “Good cops speak out against bad cops.” She said she was invited to come to Fair’s protest after attending the protest to rename Calhoun College earlier that afternoon.
“I like to support anything that has to do with the community,” she said. “I’m Hispanic, and along with the black community, we’re very much abused by the police.”
Like Damico, a group of students affiliated with Central Connecticut State University’s Youth for Socialist Action Group joined Fair’s protest after the earlier demonstration that day.
David Kiely, who graduated from Central Connecticut State University in May, said he came to support the survivors of police brutality and help build the Black Lives Matter movement in New Haven and the rest of Connecticut.
At 6:15 p.m., the officer on duty told Fair that no one was available, and that she would have to schedule an appointment if she wanted to speak to someone.
“The police are pulling a power play,” said Fair, turning to the waiting crowd. “No one is available, we have to make an appointment. Forty-five days later, and they think we’re going to sit around and wait for an appointment.”
She led the crowd out of the building and into the street to form a line across Union Avenue. Two protesters lay down in the street, and the group continued chanting. Within minutes, four police cars arrived and asked that the demonstrators evacuate the streets. One protester was arrested.
John Lugo, a longtime activist for Unidad Latina en Acción who was at the protest, said he has been arrested three time during recent protests against Atticus Bookstore and Cafe and other restaurants for unfair labor practices. He added that the NHPD must work harder to facilitate open dialogues with New Haven residents.
“This police department needs to start having a real conversation with the community,” he said. “If they’re talking about community policing, they need to come out and talk with us.”
Correction, Nov. 3: An earlier version of this article used incorrect pronouns to refer to attendee IV Staklo.