Nate Blair, an Elm City resident arrested by the New Haven Police Department at a Feb. 4 protest that spilled onto Route 34, is still waiting for his case to be heard in court.
Blair was arrested on Church Street as the group of activists protesting President Donald Trump’s call for a border wall were walking back toward the New Haven Green. According to an NHPD press release on Feb. 7, Blair, the only arrest that the NHPD made during the protest, was booked for misdemeanor disorderly conduct and released on his promise to appear in court. According to his lawyer, Patricia Kane, the state attorney’s office has not yet given feedback on the what the case’s next step will be. But Blair maintains his innocence.
“The whole fabrication of the story is appalling to me,” he said. “It makes me completely lose faith in police officers.”
NHPD officer Brian Watrous, the arresting officer, told the New Haven Independent that Blair did not stay in the left-hand traffic lane with the other protesters and that Blair pushed NHPD Officer John Gergorczyk.
Blair, on the other hand, claims that he never left the left lane and that videos of the incident taken by bystanders prove his case. Blair said he believes the NHPD acted more aggressively than they would have because nobody notified them of the protest in advance.
According to Kane, the state attorney’s office has three options in prosecuting misdemeanor cases like Blair’s: pursuing formal charges in court, dropping the case or offering nolle. According to the third choice, which is the usual course of action, the prosecutor would agree not to pursue the case, though the arrest would remain on the record. After a year with no run-ins with the law, the previous arrest record would be erased, Kane added.
To support Blair’s case, Kane said she provided videos to prosecution that, she claims, show an NHPD officer pushing Blair at least three times before a group of officers slammed him to the pavement. She said the NHPD violated its own general order because misdemeanor charges warrant only a ticket. In Blair’s case, he was taken to the NHPD headquarters for two hours and was not given proper legal and medical resources, Kane said.
“I believe that [Blair’s arrest] was racially motivated,” Kane added. “This is a case, in my opinion, of the police being angry at the protesters and retaliated by picking out a young man of color with no prior record of violence.”
Blair said he understands why an arrest was made during the protest as police were under stress but added that his treatment since has been unfair. He said he was made to wait for over two hours in the precinct before being processed and that the police have refused to admit that he committed the crime of which he was accused.
Blair attended the protest with activist group Food Not Bombs and distributed free tea at the rally before the march. He said he went to the protest to show solidarity for immigrants in New Haven.
The protest on Feb. 4 lasted for around two hours.