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Outrage sparked across social media on Monday after photos surfaced showing a Black man is being escorted by a leash tied to his hand by police in Galveston, Texas.
Texas Congressional candidate Adrienne Bell shared photos of the incident on Facebook and said that Galveston officials confirmed they were real.
“It is hard to understand why these officers felt this young man required a leash, as he was handcuffed and walking between two mounted officers,” she wrote. “It is a scene that has invoked anger, disgust, and questions from the community.”
Galveston police have since identified the man as 43-year-old Donald Neely, who was arrested on Saturday for trespassing.
In a statement to the Daily Dot, the police denied Neely was on a leash and said that he was “handcuffed, and a line was clipped to the handcuffs.”
Bell also shared the photos on Twitter, where people reacted with horror.
Amazing. I am now resigned for the first time in my life to believe that it is possible for this country to go back 50 years to Jim Crow-like laws in the next 50 years.— Donovan Sparks (@SparksDonovan1) August 6, 2019
@AdrBell posted this photo on her campaign Facebook page today. She said the #Galveston #Texas police verified that it is authentic. Now the question is why in 2019 would police mounted on horses think it is okay to parade a Black man in handcuffs on the street with a leash? pic.twitter.com/RX1zGNi5YX— Clarene Mitchell (@MrsCMitch) August 5, 2019
Police officers arrested Donald Neely, who is Black, for trespassing, handcuffed him, attached a rope to the handcuffs and led him through the streets of Galverston on mounted horses. All as though they were slave masters, and he were their slave. https://t.co/G0ryVdi8Mj— Rebecca J. Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) August 6, 2019
Galveston Police Chief Vernon L. Hale III apologized for the incident later on Monday.
“First and foremost I must apologize to Mister Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment,” Hale said in an email statement to the Daily Dot. “Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgement in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of arrest.”
For many, the photo was disturbing not only for the treatment and humiliation of Neely but also how it evoked images of slavery.
This angers me deeply! This photo took me back to SLAVERY. We are not OVER IT because IT is STILL HAPPENING! @galvestonpd Shame! I can almost guarantee you won’t see this getting a lot off media attention ! #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/M4fzyrdwJt— Crystal Jones (@CrystalforVA) August 6, 2019
I fucking gasped in horror , my body felt hot from the anger and horror of this image, its exactly the same images I saw of slavery in this country... I am beyond... GOD damn it......FUCK THE POLICE. THEY NEED TO BE FIRED!!! #Galveston #Houston #Cops #Texas #WhiteTerrorists https://t.co/M4Qf3E8M9Q— Kelly Bennett (@ladymadonna79) August 6, 2019
“Slave patrol all over again,” one user commented on Bell’s photo on Facebook.
“All I know is that these are two white police officers on horseback with a black man walking him down the street with a rope tied to the handcuffs, and that’s doesn’t make sense, period,” Leon Phillips, president of the racial justice organization Galveston Coalition for Justice, told the Chronicle.
Phillips said the photos reminded him of racist images from the 1920s.
Some on social media also said the victim is mentally ill and homeless, but the claims were not independently verifiable. Galveston police did not respond to the Daily Dot’s question about this but said the officers in the situation were familiar with Neely who had previous warnings to not trespass the property.
Police also confirmed the officers wore bodycams when Neely was detained.
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Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque