A video posted on the Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley Facebook page shows an Allentown, Pennsylvania, police officer pinning his knee against a Black man’s head while restraining him. The 39-second video was taken on the afternoon of Saturday, July 11 outside of St. Luke’s Hospital’s Sacred Heart campus. Three officers are restraining the man, with one officer shifting his body to place his knee, according to news reports, on the man’s neck. Police reportedly were outside the hospital for an unrelated matter when they saw the man “vomiting and staggering in the street, eventually stopping in the driveway of the emergency room,” according to Allentown Police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr.
Police said the man was “non-compliant,” leading them to restrain him. As officers attempted to restrain the man, the officers and the man reportedly fell to the ground. Granitz added that the man spat on the officers, prompting the need for hospital staff to place a spit shield on him. The incident, recorded from a vehicle passing by, sparked local protests, and led police to launch an investigation. Justan Parker, a representative of Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley, compared the incident to the arrest of George Floyd.
In the video, an officer who is yet to be identified can be seen shifting his weight and pressing it into the man’s face.
When the officer shifts from using his arm and elbow to his knee during the restraint, the man cries out. Bystanders can be heard shouting that he “can’t breathe.” Just this month, the Allentown Police Department released a use-of-force policy that explicitly bans choke holds and neck restraints except in cases where police are preventing “imminent death or serious bodily injury” to a citizen or themselves.
Though the chief did not address why one of the officers knelt on the man’s neck, he did say that the man was treated and released from the hospital. Allentown police are conducting an internal investigation of the use of force. Also, the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing, and has indicated that it plans to share more this week.
Protesters walked down Allentown’s main downtown streets calling out familiar chants including “Hands up, don’t shoot, “Defund the police,” and “Black Lives Matter.”