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Why Were a NYC Mayoral Adviser & a 74-Year-Old Activist Jailed Overnight for Filming an Arrest?

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The New York Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau has launched an investigation into the arrest of an adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio and a prominent Harlem activist last Tuesday night. Five Mualimm-ak was arrested while attempting to mediate a police confrontation with a homeless man in midtown Manhattan. Five serves on Mayor de Blasio’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System. He had just left an event at George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, where he read his essay in the new book “Hell is a Very Small Place” about his five years in solitary confinement. Since being released from prison in 2012, Five has become a prominent advocate for helping previously incarcerated men and women. Five was arrested Tuesday along with Harlem activist Joseph “Jazz” Hayden, who was recording the police confrontation with the homeless man with his cellphone. Hayden is the founder of the anti-police brutality organization All Things Harlem. Five other people who attended the book reading were later arrested at the police precinct, where they went to inquire about the arrest of Five and Jazz. They were charged with “refusal to disperse.” We speak Five Mualimm-ak, Jazz Hayden and Terrence Slater. All three work with the group Incarcerated Nation Corp.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau Department has launched an investigation into the arrest of an adviser to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and a prominent Harlem activist last Tuesday night. Five Mualimm-ak was arrested while attempting to mediate a police confrontation with a homeless man in midtown Manhattan. Five serves on Mayor de Blasio’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System. He had just left an event at the Soros Open Society Foundations, where he read his essay in the new book Hell is a Very Small Place about his five years in solitary confinement. Since being released from prison in 2012, Five has become a prominent advocate for helping previously incarcerated men and women.

Five was arrested Tuesday along with well-known Harlem activist Joseph “Jazz” Hayden, who was recording the police confrontation with the homeless man with his cellphone when they came out of the Open Society after the reading. Hayden is the founder of the anti-police brutality organization All Things Harlem. Five other people who attended the book reading were later arrested when they went to the police precinct, where they went to inquire about the arrest of their friends and colleagues Five and Jazz. They were charged with refusal to disperse.

Well, on Thursday, Nermeen Shaikh and I spoke to Five Mualimm-ak and Jazz Hayden, as well as Terrence Slater, one of the five that were arrested. All three work with the group Incarcertated Nation Corp.—that’s INC, I-N-C. I started by asking Five to describe what happened Tuesday night.

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: So we were celebrating with Solitary Watch and Open Society Soros Foundation a book launch, which is called Hell is a Very Small Space. It was a very successful launch of multiple projects that we do together in representing the different voices of those who are suffering in solitary, survivors, family members. When we were leaving out, and there was an emotionally disturbed call happening there, and I was speaking to the EMS drivers, because that’s what I do. I work on emotional disturbances. And being with the behavioral health task force, we have set up certain protocols that were to happen. So, speaking to the EMS drivers, I understood that they were fully knowledgeable, while Jazz was observing.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to this clip, what they were doing. There’s a disturbed man who’s simply saying, “Please leave me alone.”

HOMELESS MAN: I’m not trying to hurt nobody. You can call whoever you want to call. I’m not hurting nobody.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what were you telling the police?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: The EMS driver—I was telling the—

AMY GOODMAN: And was it just EMS, or was it also police?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: It was also police. But we were just letting them do their job, because they were doing their job. They weren’t arresting him. They were talking him down, getting him into the ambulance. That’s the hardest part, getting them into the ambulance rather than going to jail. Right? And if it takes too long, they’re going to end up apprehending him. So the EMS workers being nonthreatening, also being able to just talk to him, letting them know what they’re going to do before they do it, those type of de-escalation techniques is what keeps a person calm and not react towards their actions. So, once I understood that, they were fully professionally knowing what they were doing, and the other officers was assisting them. It was a perfectly controlled situation. I was there just watching and monitoring, as Jazz was monitoring, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Jazz, you were filming, and tell us what you saw. It started out, you’re just filming as Five is instructing—is talking with the EMS and the disturbed person. You were also encouraging the disturbed person to go in the ambulance.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yes. We came out of Soros, and at that point we—the incident was already in progress. Right? And so, the homeless person was laying on—sitting on the ground, and he took off his shirt and flung it. And so he was topless. And he saying, you know, “Why? You know, why is—what is all this for? You know, I’ve done nothing to nobody. I haven’t hurt anyone.” Right? So I’m filming, because this is what I do, you know? And this was a perfect opportunity. And he was telling me, “Yeah, record it. Record it.” You know, this is the homeless person, right? And so, eventually, the police that were there were doing an excellent job. You know, they were nonconfrontational. They were trying to get him to go to the ambulance, which was parked at the curb, right? And as they began to go to the—as they began to take him to the ambulance, he flailed up. And you can hear me in the background talking about “Hermanito, suave. Hermanito, suave.”

AMY GOODMAN: So you’re saying, “Brother, little brother.”

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, “Little brother, man, calm down, man. Calm down. You know, ain’t nothing gonna hurt you.”

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s listen.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Hermanito, suave, man. Suave.

HOMELESS MAN: You’re recording.


HOMELESS MAN: Record me!

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, I’m going to be recording you.

HOMELESS MAN: Record me!

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, suave, man. Suave.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the video, as you’re sort of both shouting and you’re videoing. You’re calming him.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, yeah, I’m calming him, you know, and trying to achieve the same goals that this police unit is trying to achieve. Right? And then, all of a sudden, flashing lights come from the left, and this group of policemen jump out their car. And it’s a sharp dichotomy of the policing that we were observing and the policing that they brought. You know, they brought this aggressive policing.

AMY GOODMAN: So let’s take a listen.

POLICE OFFICER 1: Move back. Move back.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Hold it, hold it.

POLICE OFFICER 1: Sir, move back! Let’s go!

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, I mean, you just moved us back.

POLICE OFFICER 1: Everybody move back!

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Man, you’re doing all this yelling and screaming, man. Come on, man.

POLICE OFFICER 1: OK. All right, move back.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s the video, as they’re telling you to move back, move back.


AMY GOODMAN: Are you moving back? But you are still filming.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yes, but I’m moving back, but I’m still filming, you know, because that’s my priority at that time, is to film. And, you know, the Supreme Court and other judicial bodies have said that citizens have a right to film their public servants as they perform their activities, right? So, I’m filming. But this guy is becoming more and more aggressive, right? And he—

AMY GOODMAN: Not the disturbed man, but the police.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, no, this new unit of police that showed up. And—

AMY GOODMAN: He’s in the ambulance already, right, the disturbed man?

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, the disturbed man is—

AMY GOODMAN: So this is all over.


AMY GOODMAN: Except they’re pushing you.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yes. I mean, you know, he’s cooperating with them, and they put him in the ambulance. Right? And—

AMY GOODMAN: He had some friends there who were picking up his things?

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, I think there was a couple guys involved in that spot, you know, and they kept coming back into the picture. But I couldn’t hear what was going on between them and the police. But this new unit escalated the conflict between the crowd, that was observing and not in any way being aggressive towards the police or in any way—you know, because this unit that was there originally was led by a sergeant, and the sergeant was soft-spoken and, you know, sympathetic. And when this guy came in with his crew, suddenly things became confrontational.

AMY GOODMAN: And then you’re filming them with Five. And, Five, what are you telling this new group now?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Well, they were—when they came, they accosted the person who was already going into the ambulance. And he had an injury, which the other man grabbed him up. And then they came over to us about 10, 15 feet away and persisted to push us back. I was still trying to intervene, because the incident was over. He was already in the ambulance getting care. Now, after he already had grabbed up the other mentally ill person and put him into the van, his friends were gathering his belongings, but also tried to intervene, as well. And I was pushing them out of the way, trying to at least de-escalate the circumstances. Like, “He’s moving back. You don’t have to persistently push.” And that’s when he hit me with the baton.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to the videotape.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yo, I’m under arrest for what? For what?

POLICE OFFICER 2: Why are you next to my gun, dude?

POLICE OFFICER 1: Get back! Get back!

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Nobody’s next to your gun.

POLICE OFFICER 2: You’re next to my gun, dude!

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Nobody’s next to your gun.

POLICE OFFICER 1: Give me your ID. You’re going to get arrested.


POLICE OFFICER 1: Give me your ID. You’re going to get arrested.

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.


FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Hold on. Don’t—you’re not—

POLICE OFFICER 1: Step back!

AMY GOODMAN: So, there, they’re pushing you back. They have hit you with a baton now?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Right. He was—they already hit Jazz a few times, in his abdomen, in his stomach.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, he poked me, yeah. I’m still sore in the ribs, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And I hear them say something like “You’re near my gun.” I mean, they’re pushing up on you.

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Yeah, and that’s when I got scared, because—my hands went up at that point, because he pushed me and said, “You’re too close to my—or near my gun!” or something in that aspect, making it basically an accusation that I was going to grab his gun. So my hands went up immediately, when he shoved me back.

AMY GOODMAN: You were wearing your top hat and a suit?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Yes, just coming from an event, actually, yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And then what happened?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Well, then the other officer, who had a racist comment, as well, said, “Oh, you’re one of them Harlem activist niggers,” and literally grabbed me up. And that’s when I was arrested.

AMY GOODMAN: And on what grounds?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: He said he was from Harlem, and he doesn’t like activists from Harlem, and that’s why he left the Harlem district and moved down to Manhattan North, “because we don’t do that down here. We’re not allowing that.” After that point, I know I’m going to jail. There’s nothing else to say. I went to make sure that Jazz was OK.

AMY GOODMAN: But on what grounds were they arresting you?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: They said we were—I was obstructing governmental procedures, resisting arrest—being arrested resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and a slew of other frivolous charges.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Jazz, what did they tell you? And did they take your camera?

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: No, they didn’t take my camera.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s your cellphone.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, I passed that—I passed that on to a young lady that was there.

AMY GOODMAN: Because everyone had just come out of the Soros Foundation event.


AMY GOODMAN: So they were all watching.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: They was trying to get my camera. But I was holding it out here, and the young lady grabbed it. And that was the end of that, you know, the camera.

AMY GOODMAN: So, where were taken, and why were you held overnight?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: They held us overnight, 'cause they literally told us—when we came into the precinct, one of the first things that they said was, “Yeah, you're not going nowhere, because we don’t want you to.” They literally said, “We can let you go with a summons, but we’re not.”


FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Yes, literally. And I already gave my belongings to Dolores Canales, who was there, as well, at the event. She had came in from California. It was a big event.

AMY GOODMAN: And Dolores is?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Dolores runs the family prison hunger strikers organization. She’s also a Soros fellow. And she does a lot of organizing and literally reduced the amount of solitary in California. An amazing activist, mom and leader in this movement. And she was there, as well, amongst many other people, as well.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Terrence Slater, you were there that evening, too.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what happened to you?

TERRENCE SLATER: Well, as a result of the incident that took place with Jazz and Five, me and four other individuals said, “Oh, let’s go to the precinct to find out what’s going on,” because nobody knew what they were being charged with. So when we get there, I’m on the phone, and I go in the precinct. So they tell me I can’t use the phone there. So I’m like, “All right.” So I’m calling a bunch of people that I know. “Listen, we need some lawyers. We need to try to find out what’s going on with the brothers.” So, as I do that, I’m coming in, and I walk in. They say, “Yeah, him, too.” And we all get arrested. So we don’t even find out why we’re arrested. We’re all standing there. We’re all cuffed. We don’t know what’s going on. But one thing in particular I do remember, they was always trying to find out what’s going on with these phones. They’re like, “Where are the cameras? Where are the cameras?” So—

AMY GOODMAN: You went into Manhattan North to say, “What’s happened with them?” And you all have your cameras.


AMY GOODMAN: And they arrest you, or they give you a summons?

TERRENCE SLATER: No, they arrested us. We were standing there cuffed for some time. And after they—after we were roughed up and placed into cuffs, the lieutenant was just basically saying, “Yeah, we have to go through the process. You’re all going to end up getting a summons in lieu of arrests.” Then I asked, “Why you’re not reading us our Miranda rights? We’re standing here in handcuffs.” They said, “Well, we don’t really have to do that,” and being sarcastic, “You have the right to remain silent. I suggest you exercise that now.” So, I’m sitting there looking like, “What’s really going on here? Like I don’t really understand.” It was really confusing.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’re the CEO of INC, of Incarcerated Nation Corp.


AMY GOODMAN: So then what happened?

TERRENCE SLATER: Well, as we’re sitting there, we see Jazz, we see Five. We ask, “What are you all being charged with?” They don’t know at the time. We don’t know what is going to be on the summons. So, it’s just an area where nobody knows what’s going on. They’re doing a lot of work on the computers. They’re fingerprinting Jazz. They’re fingerprinting Five. And we still don’t know what’s going on. So, after everything settling down, we come out, and we all link up, and we’re trying to find out what was the next step, what’s the best course of action now, because they had let us know Jazz and Five’s not going anywhere.

AMY GOODMAN: So, were the two of you—have you been injured, Five and Jazz?



JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: I feel like I’m a hundred years old, you know, and I go to the gym regularly. But they injured the back of my leg, and I can’t even do a knee bend. And they was trying to handcuff me, and literally I thought they was trying to break my arms. Right? So I still have pain in my elbows and in my wrists, right. And then, where he was jabbing me with the club, as he was moving me backwards, right, he tapped me there three times. And, you know, I have—I mean, I thought maybe I had a fractured rib. And this is why me and Five ended up going back to the hospital, you know, to get x-rays to see how much damage was done.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Five, how much damage was done?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Well, I have some injury to my leg. I just had a total knee replacement recently. I tried to explain that to them.

AMY GOODMAN: I remember when we last interviewed you—


AMY GOODMAN: Right, you had—

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Right, and then also had some damages in my ankle and some scratches and abrasions and a few bruises. And my wrists, of course, were swollen, because when they put the cuffs on, they put them on extra tight, right?


FIVE MUALIMM-AK: And it’s a different lens for a person with mental illness. It’s a different lens when you’re over the age of 55, right? when you’re having this type of treatment from them.

And the sad part is that the other officers who were there all now have to be silent, because of this blue wall of sort of trust that they have. So you have two officers who really escalated the circumstances, and everyone else is just like, in the precinct, having to be complacent. They’re being coached. The other younger officers were being coached to how to write the report. So you have the two officers who were aggressive telling the other ones how to write the report in front of us. And this is their sort of rookie initiation. This is the problem with NYPD, right? You have officers who are community policing, who understand their importance—


FIVE MUALIMM-AK: —in being in the neighborhood, being visible, not being threatening, because that’s their environment that they’re a part of. And then you have officers who come out like it’s a war report, right? Like they have quotas and other things to fill, and that’s their priorities. So we have these two clashing cultures. And it seemed that all those hours that we’re in that cell—and then I’m going through it again, being in those small, confined spaces—that we were denied medical treatment, up until the point that corrections had to make NYPD give us treatment.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Can you explain how you were released?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: We were released through court, though we had to argue about bail, because they wanted to give us all high bails, which was one of the major issues I have with the mayor—people with mental illness having bails that are beyond their capacity to pay.

AMY GOODMAN: As a member of the—of Mayor de Blasio’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System—


AMY GOODMAN: —did you ever tell them who you were, that you were an adviser to the mayor on these issues?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: I spoke that very many times to dulled ears, and he said, “Oh, I don’t care about that. Oh, you’re one of those Harlem activist niggers. Oh, I know about you. That’s why I left the Harlem precinct. That’s why I don’t deal with them in Harlem. I’m going to”—and he locked me up. So he very well knew. The officer or the sergeant, whoever else was there, also knew.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you know what’s happened to that emotionally disturbed man who was taken away in the ambulance?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: No, but I do know he was injured. And I’m not sure the extent to that, but I’m trying to look into that, because my release was, of course, a whole day and a half later. In my own situation, I was handcuffed to a chair without safe restraints, without some type of cushion straps. And we remained handcuffed in the chair the entire time.

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, in the police station?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: In the police station and in the hospital, as well. So, even on my therapy, handcuffed to the chair; talking to the psych, handcuffed to the chair; getting my medication, because I live with mental illness, handcuffed to the chair; spent the night, handcuffed to the chair, literally.

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you held overnight handcuffed to the chair?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Bellevue and then to the precinct, then back to the precinct, then to Bellevue, then—right, because—

AMY GOODMAN: Jazz, were you handcuffed to the chair, as well?

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, I was handcuffed to the chair, and it was all night. And then, during the process of transportation, I’m handcuffed in the back, and I have to sit on a seat in the back of the police car, where there’s no legroom, you know, and I have to lean on the side and hope that this guy doesn’t hit a bump and break my arm, my shoulder or whatever the cases be. You know, I had to remain constantly alert.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you seatbelted in?

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: No, I wasn’t seatbelted in. No, absolutely not.

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Never, never.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: You know, and this cuffing a individual in the back as you transport him—

AMY GOODMAN: You mean putting your—handcuffing your hands behind your back.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Try to imagine that, you know, that you’re in the back seat of a car or taxi, you know, and the taxi driver is not concerned about you, and he’s trying to maneuver in the environment. And you’re just there having to, you know, pay attention to—every little bump could be a broken arm.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you mind sharing your age?

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: My age? Seventy-four. Yeah.

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: No consideration.

JOSEPHJAZZHAYDEN: And I’m nonthreatening.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Five, just before we end, I wanted to go back to what you said about the ways in which the police should deal with emotionally disturbed people, like the person that night whom you were trying to help. In your experience, especially a homeless person, which I understand he was, how easy is it for them to get even the medical help that they need?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Well, now that the task force has created all of these intersections and understand that we can connect different organizations to work together to be able to support that, it’s a lot more different now. Right? From 2014 on, there’s a lot more access for people with mental illness. We have a lot more districts of BRC, with Muzzy Rosenblatt, as well. And that’s where he was trying to go. He was trying to get into detox and trying to get into the hospital. But through the hospital, he’s able to get his medication, he’s able to be treated—right?—if that hospital is in accordance with the process. And that should leave that he should not leave the hospital without a connection to have outpatient treatment, as well. So that means every time you have an encounter with a person, you’re creating the solution that will eventually not have them intersect with the police again. And that’s their intentions. But it wasn’t. And the process even for me wasn’t the process. We were asking for medical help the entire night. Corrections had to actually say, “We’re not accepting them until you take them to the hospital.”

AMY GOODMAN: What time and what day were you arrested?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: This was around 8:00, 9:00 Tuesday night.

AMY GOODMAN: And when did you get out?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Last night, yes, yesterday evening. We were the last to be held in the court.

AMY GOODMAN: So, over 24 hours.

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Oh, definitely over 24 hours, chained to a chair.

AMY GOODMAN: And you were handcuffed—you were chained the entire time?

FIVE MUALIMM-AK: The entire time.


FIVE MUALIMM-AK: Yes. Almost two days, and being transported and through transit, everything, and denied our medication, to the point that the sergeant said, “If you want to make this three days, you just need to lie to them and tell them you have no medical conditions, you don’t need any psychotropic medication and everything. If not, then this is going to take an extra day, as a punishment.” That’s just how much we play the number game. We play the number game and treat people like cattle to say, “Well, if you want this process to be three days, then just tell them you have no issues.” Now, then I will start decompensating and have another issue. So I wanted my medication, which should have been the first response. I should have had that at the precinct. I should have been taken, or call an ambulance or have me taken to the hospital.

AMY GOODMAN: Five Mualimm-ak, who serves on Mayor de Blasio’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System, along with longtime Harlem activist Jazz Hayden and Terrence Slater. All three work with the group Incarcerated Nation Corp., known as INC. Their arrests on Tuesday night are now being investigated by the New York Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau. We reached out to New York Mayor de Blasio’s office for comment. In a statement, a spokesperson said, quote, “The administration is committed to increasing police transparency while ensuring our hardworking officers can effectively perform their duties.”

And that does it for today’s show. Democracy Now! has three job openings. Check our website, democracynow.org.

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