The Black man who had a near-deadly encounter with Colorado cops who racially profiled him came forward over the weekend and blasted the implicit bias in policing that’s happening all too often.
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Zayd Atkinson was among the more than 600 protesters in Boulder on Sunday who marched from Naropa University, where he was racially profiled earlier this month, to the Boulder Police Department, the Daily Camera reported.
On March 1, a Boulder officer confronted Atkinson, a Naropa University student, while he was cleaning up his yard. The officer asked him if he was permitted to be there. Atkinson told the officer that he lived there and showed his student ID card. Nevertheless, the cop decided to detain him and call for assistance, claiming that Atkinson was uncooperative and refused to put down the grabber he was using to pick up trash.
That officer called for backup. Several cops responded and one drew his gun, while the others wielded shotguns and Tasers.
Atkinson said he became nervous when the initial officer moved his body camera, apparently to avoid recording what would happen next. He said he believed that the officer was going to shoot him when he drew his gun.
A video of the confrontation went viral.
“It’s not just about me, and it’s not just about racial profiling. This should not be happening anywhere, and it’s happening every day in our community,” said Atkinson, a 26-year-old sophomore studying yoga, environmental science and psychology.
In the aftermath of the encounter, Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa faced questions from local lawmakers and protesters at a March 5 Boulder City Council meeting. The besieged chief looked into the audience and saw folks clacking trash grabbers and holding up signs to express their anger. He became defensive when they demanded to know why his police officers drew their weapons on Atkinson. He admitted that Atkinson did nothing wrong but explained that officers are authorized to draw weapons when they perceive a threat.
“This is an extremely concerning issue and one that we are taking very seriously,” he said at the time.
An internal affairs investigation began while the initial responding officer was placed on administrative leave. It was expected to take 60 to 90 days.
“Internal affairs is too internal. These are friends overseeing friends,” said Darren O’Conner, a representative of the Boulder NAACP.
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