A black woman in Atlanta was protesting the police killing of George Floyd on Friday when she was hit and shoved by a police officer using his bicycle. In response, a white woman grabbed the officer’s bicycle and shoved him onto the ground.
As seen in the video, the officer’s uniform identifies him as “M. Lugo.”
Local CBS affiliate WGCL-TV reporter Brittany Smith caught the incident on camera–describing the officer’s attack as “the first clash between police [and] protestors” in Atlanta.
“As a black woman in America, I see the media and the attacks on black people and I’m tired of it,” Ashley Simpson-Haley told Law&Crime. She is the person the officer shoved in the video.
“I just graduated with my masters in social work and I was driven to do that because of advocacy,” she said. “Our people die at the hands of cops day by day and it tears me up inside.”
“I went out there to peacefully protest,” she continued. “I made a sign and wanted to show up in numbers. We are tired of seeing black people being killed by cops and other racists.”
In the video, Simpson-Haley holds a sign which reads, “your job is to protect & serve, not kill blacks.”
She lowers her sign and begins to address the officer in front of her. Someone off-camera screams: “You can’t fuckin’ do that!”
The officer then grabs his bike with both hands and shoves her backwards eliciting a loud, harsh and negative response from the crowd of protestors.
In an instant, the white woman, who was watching the incident unfold, rushes up and squares up against the cop. She grabs his bicycle with both of her hands and easily launches him away.
“This is when it all started,” Simpson-Haley noted via Twitter. “This cop pushed me with his bike for no reason, besides that I was standing there. Thank you to the woman in the red dress who intervened on my behalf.”
She elaborated on the lead-up to the incident.
“When I arrived at Centennial Olympic Park, it was 3 p.m., and there were masses of people there to march in solidarity for a reason,” she said. “White people, black people, Hispanic people. There were people of all backgrounds, races, social classes, etc. There were all kinds of people out to protest the killing of black people.”
“So we did that for two hours,” Simpson-Haley noted. “We marched. Once we got back is when this incident occurred. The media originally reported this as a peaceful march. And then the narrative just switched. And there was nothing that showed when the narrative switched or what started the switch. But this is the incident that started it.”
On Saturday afternoon, she posted an alternate angle of the incident:
peaceful protest turn to riot because of cop behavior like this!
Here’s another angle of the situation. pic.twitter.com/GNqD4AxnoG
— I Am (@yourfavSW) May 30, 2020
The second video shows the officer repeatedly tapping a third woman while being excoriated by the crowd.
“Don’t touch me,” Simpson-Haley tells the Atlanta cop. “Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me. I’m not touching your property, sir.”
“I’m not touching you,” she notes an instant before Lugo attacks her with his bike. “Don’t touch me.”
The scene grows hectic as the officer shoves the woman before being tossed to the ground by the woman wearing red. He quickly regains his footing and launches himself back into the group.
Simpson-Haley also detailed the immediate moments before the attack and the attack itself.
“As we arrived back there were a large number of police in the area,” she noted. “There was one particular car that was a government vehicle trying to drive through the crowd of people. Protesters gathered around the car and kind of blocked it from moving. They were still peaceful but they had stopped the car. I was behind the car and holding my sign up. My back was to the car. Then they sent in police to surround the car. The police were on bikes mostly and they used their bodies to surround the car.”
“At that point, Officer Lugo started to touch me to push me and get me to move. When he touched me, I stepped back and said: ‘I’m not touching you. Please don’t touch me.’ I tried to be compliant when it was clear he wanted me to move. That’s when he proceeded to pick up his bike and shove it into me.”
The woman in red, who could face legal issues for her response, became an instant online sensation:
— Ryan Knight 🌹 (@ProudSocialist) May 30, 2020
Simpson-Haley had kind words for her crimson-clothed avenger–and another man who intervened.
“To the women in the red dress, thank you,” she said. “Thank you for using your privilege to stand up against it. As you can see in the video, the officer never got violent with the lady in the red dress. She’s a white woman and he never got violent with her the way he got violent with me. I could have easily been arrested, detained, pushed down or been another hashtag.”
“To the man with the black shirt and the yellow backpack, I want to thank him as well. I know that after the clip went off, he was pushed to the ground by about six police officers and handcuffed. I’m not sure if he was actually arrested but I want to thank him for standing up for me and let him know I will do what I can to make sure that justice is served on his behalf.”
Law&Crime repeatedly reached out to the Atlanta Police Department for comment on this story but no response was forthcoming by the time of publication.
“Black people in this country have been fighting for freedom since the beginning and that doesn’t necessarily mean violently or physically fighting for freedom but every day when we wake up we are fighting for freedom in un-quantifiable ways,” she said in our interview.
“I want there to be a day when I wake up when we don’t have to do this. I want there to be a day when there is genuine equity and equality. I want there to be a day when we are all given equitable resources, equitable treatment and equitable judgment in this country. I’m sick and tired of seeing marginalized people–black people specifically–murdered by racist police and other racist people.”
“I stand for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and all other people who have been murdered at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and to serve.”
[image via screengrab/Brittany Smith]
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