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Justice

Video shows human rights advocate approached from behind, slammed to the ground by Kalamazoo police

Oct. 8 incident comes two days after city of Kalamazoo instructed police to physically remove 100+ unhoused people from year-and-a-half-old encampment.

A video of police, responding last Friday to a gathering of residents displaced from a nearby encampment and their supporters, shows a person walking away from a group of Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) officers before being restrained from behind and then body-slammed to the ground.

NowKalamazoo has seen the video, which has not yet been made public, and has confirmed the identity of the person.

According to the video, after being slammed to the ground, Monica Washington-Padula was then held face down by police, hands bound behind their back, and escorted away by two KDPS officers. Prior to that, the officer who violently took Washington-Padula to the ground was escorted away by another officer. It’s unclear why from the video.

Washington-Padula, 35, was one of several advocates for encampment residents present as police issued tickets, made arrests, and damaged or confiscated property. Four others were arrested and charged along with Washington-Padula.

“I spoke up to protect a Black brother, my community member, from being brutalized,” Washington-Padula wrote in an Oct. 13 post on Facebook, two days after being released from a weekend in the Kalamazoo County Jail. “I made it and so did my fellow neighbors, but the terrorizing and inhumane treatment we observed and experienced is far from excusable. It was abhorrent, violent, and undeserved.”

Washington-Padula, in a phone call with NowKalamazoo, referred to removal from land by force and ordinance restrictions preventing access to land as “acts of aggression,” most prominently in Bronson Park in the summer of 2018.

“This is not the Kalamazoo that I want to have, that the city portrays itself to be,” Washington-Padula told NowKalamazoo by phone on Wednesday. “The city needs to be honest about who it is and who it protects.”

Ryan Bridges, the city’s public information officer, had no comment on the specifics of the video.

“We encourage anyone with any evidence of unprofessional behavior by anyone from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety to come forward with the information, to share it with the department so an official investigation through the Office of Professional Standards can begin,” Bridges said.

Residents and services organizations have said there was little notice given on Oct. 6 when the encampment was being shut down by police, who have been accused of being heavy handed and disregarding the necessity of personal property to someone who lacks traditional housing. Residents and supporters began to congregate on land that is adjacent to the encampment, which is located on the northeast outskirts of downtown.

Two days later, on Oct. 8, KDPS began to force those people from that land as well.

The rationale of Washington-Padula and other allies of the community’s unhoused are rooted deeper than the crisis of people living without adequate housing options. Released from jail on Indigenous People’s Day, Washington-Padula said that the through line dates back hundreds of years, to the violent enforcement of European settlers’ claims to land rights.

“On the day of the sweep where force was used against community citizens, housed and unhoused, we were uniting to let the city know on stolen land, where they displaced Indigenous people and dictated where Black people could or could not live and used lethal force to enforce this, that they were continuing a legacy they created,” Washington-Padula wrote on Facebook. “It is not a crime to live on the land. It is not a crime to stand up for your neighbor. It is not a crime to defend yourself from bodily harm.”

Washington-Padula, who was arraigned Monday on four felony charges and one misdemeanor stemming from the events on Friday, maintains their innocence – and is contemplating legal action against the city and police.