Newark social justice advocates gathered on Cypress Street, the site where four men were arrested on June 1, allegedly for an altercation with police officers who were investigating gun violence.
Protesters hosted by People’s Organization for Progress say the incident was wrongly provoked by plainclothes police officers who failed to identify themselves and unfairly targeted four men who were arrested.
At 1:30 p.m., two police officers, assisted by an Essex County Prosecutor’s Office detective, were patrolling Fabyan Place and Cypress Street in response to recent gun violence in the area.
As they approached a group of men on Cypress Street, the law enforcement officials attempted to stop one person on suspicion of gun possession.
That’s when two brothers of the suspect came to the scene and physically interfered with the stop, so the police officers called for backup.
They subsequently arrested Branden Rodwell, 31, Jaykil Rodwell, 28, and Jasper Spivey 24, all of Newark, and Justin Rodwell, 30, of Irvington.
Newark police released body camera footage of the incident in a move contrary to standard policy before an investigation is concluded.
“Regardless, when police wear body-worn cameras, the public expects that we have nothing to hide," said Newark Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara. "Therefore, I believe it is in the best interest of the public to release this video — especially in light of all the false information circulating about this incident."
O’Hara praised the officers and said they exercised restraint throughout the confrontation but Newark Mayor Ras Baraka sought tp tamp down controversy and clarify misinformation circulating about the incident.
"While it is true two men tried to interfere in the arrest, our officers were not ‘pummeled to the ground and kicked in the head’ as one source, who was never at the scene, relayed to the press," said Baraka. "Equally, the headlines that said police were attacked by a ‘mob’ were patently false and sensational."
Cynthia Hardaway, an attorney representing Justin Rodwell, said the video released by police tells a different story than the official account.
Hardaway said that Jaykil Rodwell was confronted by the police without any reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in criminal activity.
“The police officers, as it would be shown in the videotape that was released by the police, approached this young man, did not say anything we could hear indicative of ‘This is the police’ because they were all in regular civilian attire and unmarked vehicles," Hardaway said.
The attorney explained that the brothers weren’t doing anything indicative of criminal behavior and that when the arrest of Jaykil ensued, it remains unclear in the video if arresting authorities gave an account of what they were doing when his brothers interceded.
“This incident happened in front of their family home, and when his brothers saw what was happening, they intervened to try to get the police off of their brother because they had no clue that he was being put under arrest or had done anything wrong,” she said. “All because they did not know what was going on and they were reacting to what we contend was unlawful, aggressive behavior by police officers.”
Deborah Smith-Gregory, president of the NAACP’s Newark chapter, People’s Organization for Progress Chair Lawrence Hamm said the incident was a result of racial profiling and police brutality.
“We are here to demand justice because there are powers that want this issue to be swept under the rug,” said Hamm. “We are here today to say that these brothers are not going down without a fight.”
Branden Rodwell and Justin Rodwell each face charges of three counts of aggravated assault against a police officer, obstruction of the administration of the law and resisting arrest.
Jaykil Rodwell and Jasper Spivey each face charges of three counts of aggravated assault against a police officer, obstruction of the administration of the law and hindering apprehension or prosecution.