Two Black teens were arrested and held in jail cells in England for about 10 hours when they said playfully grabbing sweets with their peers turned into a sexual assault allegation.
Jabriel, 14, was accused of a bias crime of racially aggravated public disorder and Latif, 13, was accused of sexually assaulting a teen girl July 31, according to Kids of Colour, an activist organization.
The boys, both cadets, were on a trip with the Greater Manchester Army Cadet Force to the Newcastle area at the time.
“Sadly, their trip was cut short due to incompetence that has left both carrying trauma that we have no doubt will stay with them,” Roxy Legane, the Kids of Colour founder, said in a meeting notice she shared on Twitter.
In the notice, Legane detailed a series of events the brothers and their mother shared with her about the two separate incidents that resulted in the arrests.
Latif said authorities targeted him when he and other cadets were playfully trying to take sweets from each other.
He said he inadvertently touched a girl’s bottom while reaching for her back pocket and later apologized.
In another incident, Jabriel said he was falsely accused of racism for allegedly saying another cadet had ‘dirty skin.’
He said that the allegation was brought against him even though staff members ignored other cadets repeatedly calling him a n—a.
The other children would say ‘what’s up, my Nigel’ or ‘can I have a N pass’ when they passed him, Legane said in the meeting notice.
Still, the day after the allegations were lodged against them, staff took both Jabriel and Latif out of class and kept them in a separate room, Legane said.
“They were told they were to give back their uniforms; they were being kicked out of cadets,” Legane said.
The police had been called.
“Jabriel tried to call his mother, but a staff member took the phone from his hand,” Legane said.
When Northumbria police officers arrived at the barracks, both boys were arrested while other cadets laughed, the two brothers told Kids of Colour.
They were taken to the Forth Banks police station in Newcastle and made to wear custody uniforms before their mother was called, according to Kids of Colour.
The woman, identified in The Guardian by only the first name Angela, said she was told her sons were being taken to custody to ensure “other cadets’ safety” and that she should make her way to the station for their interviews.
The boys’ DNA and fingerprints were taken, and they were made to wait in their cells from about 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. the next morning, according to Kids of Colour.
Manchester, where the family is from, is about three hours away from the station.
“Jabriel willed his younger brother to go to sleep so he wouldn’t be scared,” Legane said in the meeting notice. “They could see excrement stains on the floor, and in the courtyard.”
Latif read from his cell’s wall: “I’ve killed 5 people.”
“They are children,” Legane said in the meeting notice.
Their mother told Legane even the police questioned why the boys were there, and within 12 hours of their release, all charges were dropped.
Northumbia police confirmed the boys’ arrest and release in a statement to Atlanta Black Star Monday.
Police said they received a report that a teen girl had been sexually assaulted and racially abused in the Otterburn area of Northumberland.
“An investigation was carried out but no formal complaint was made to police,” an official said in the statement. “The individuals have been released with no further action to be taken.”
Angela is now calling for the suspension of Greater Manchester Army Cadet Force staff members who handled her children, according to The Guardian.
“I understand they had a duty to safeguard but they also had a duty to my sons,” she told the newspaper.
The Ministry of Defence said it is investigating the events that led up to the arrests as well as the Greater Manchester Army Cadet Force’s decision not to inform the boys’ mother about the arrests.
“We apologize for any distress this may have caused and are reviewing the manner in which the allegation was initially handled by staff. The local cadet force is now in regular touch with the family to ensure they receive a full update,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence told The Guardian.
An Army spokesperson also released a statement to the news source that the Army is investigating “allegations of racist remarks made by cadets.”
“Racism has no place in the Army Cadet Force or the wider armed forces, and we would encourage anyone who experiences it to report it,” the spokesperson said.