New Jersey cops under fire for seizing bikes from ‘unlicensed’ Black teens

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Police Officers in Perth Amboy, NJ are under fire over a viral video that shows them harrassing a group of Black and Latino teens who were riding their bikes through town.

The footage shows the officers confiscating several bikes and reprimanding the teenagers for being “unlicensed” bike riders. One of the teens is ultimately hauled away in handcuffs. The 17-minute video circulating on YouTube, TikTok and Twitter on Tuesday shows a group of about a dozen teenagers popping wheelies and riding their bicycles on the wrong side of the street and against traffic, NJ Advance Media reports.

The group split up after police appear and start seizing bikes. At one point, an officer is heard telling the group “You guys are supposed to have licenses and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “Guys, we don’t make the rules. You guys know when there’s 30 or 40 of you together, it creates a problem for people driving,” the officer added.

Read More: Black patron calls out New Jersey restaurant for racist double standard

According to the Perth Amboy municipal ordinance, bicycles require license tags, and owners of confiscated bikes receive their property back upon “payment of any fine imposed or upon any final adjudication.”

“I appreciate you guys stopping, okay,” the officer tells the group. “I told you, I promised you we’re not taking your bikes.”

The group is given a verbal warning about obtaining licenses to ride their BMX-style bikes through the city. The video then cuts to another officer, identified as a sergeant, who orders the cops to confiscate the bikes of two teens who argue with him. “Take their bikes,” the sergeant is heard saying. The one Black teenager who refuses to give up his bike is handcuffed and put in a patrol car. It’s unclear if he was charged with a crime.

Perth Amboy Council President William A. Petrick said he saw no arrest in the video, and noted that the teenager was simply taken into “protective custody.”

“I think the first officer who eventually got a very small handful of all of them to stop, I think, handled himself very well and diffused the situation I think the second officer that came on scene had asked some of the group, and they ignored her and they just kept going,” he said. “And so she was coming into the different emotional level. But I think that she did the right thing, and that she confiscated the bikes and brought them back to the police station, and the minor, young adult, that she took into protective custody because I did not see an arrest.”

Read More: New Jersey ‘Karen’ arrested after hurling N-word at Black woman in viral video

The incident sparked outrage on social media as the national conversation intensifies about police targeting young Blacks and Latinos. 

Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU New Jersey, wrote on Twitter “Are the police really arresting kids over bike registrations? Does it really require this many officers to address whatever situation this is? Police CANNOT continue to be our response to EVERYTHING.”

Petrick added, “The visuals of that, especially now, under what’s going on in the country, yeah, the visuals are very bad, and how it happened to be, but also it appeared, and we’re watching the video from the perspective of one of the other cyclists,” he explained. “And the visual of that– yeah, it’s, it’s a difficult thing. But he was not being very cooperative with the police, and why they decided to take him into protective custody, it may have been the stance he was taking with them.”

Sinha said the incident highlights law enforcement over-policing of “Black and brown” people.

“The incident in Perth Amboy is an example of the kind of excessive criminalization that invites selective enforcement by police officers,” Sinha told NJ Advance Media. “Black and brown people are targeted and racially profiled for normal activities like riding bikes, walking down the street, or driving a car.”

“No one should be threatened with arrest or have their bike confiscated just for riding down the street rather than the sidewalk,” he added. “And we should be alarmed when police use their authority to brand normal behavior as crimes.”

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