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Suit: I Tried to Help My Unconscious Customer, Got Arrested

Eatery owner sues NYPD, says he was arrested for being 'business owner while black'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2018 7:21 AM CDT
Clyde Pemberton and two other men are suing the NYPD.   (Getty Images/Manakin)

(Newser) – The NYPD has been accused of "testilying" in the past, and now a Harlem restaurant owner and two of his workers are suing over an incident last year. Clyde Pemberton, who owns the high-end MIST Harlem, says in his lawsuit that he was arrested June 1, 2017, for being "a conscientious business owner while black," along with employees Christian Baptiste and Thomas Debnam, per the New York Times. It started when Pemberton, now 68, saw two women in his eatery dragging a third, unconscious woman (the suit says cops noted she was drunk or on drugs) out of the bathroom, spurring him to ask what was going on and suggest they put her in a chair. One woman uttered a racial slur and punched him, per his complaint, while the second hit Baptiste in the head with her purse. When the cops arrived after a 911 call, the three men faced more trouble than the three white women.

One of the women was arrested and charged with assault, among other infractions, but the three men were charged with unlawful imprisonment: One cop said he saw them blocking the exit and that they told him they were trying to keep the women from getting out, which the men deny in full. Pemberton and his workers "did nothing wrong, and no reasonable police officer would have believed they did anything wrong," the suit says. In addition to the $15,000 the men say they've paid in legal fees, Pemberton says since the arrest ICE has given him grief while traveling and cops have increased their presence at his restaurant. The men remain "deeply shaken," the suit notes, per the New York Post. The charges against them were dropped in November. An attorney for the men tells the Times, "You don't just arrest everybody on the scene and sort it out later." (Read more Harlem stories.)

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