Black youth’s arrest at Philadelphia Zoo sparks argument between zoo security staffers
The chaotic arrest of a black youth at the Philadelphia Zoo on Thursday was captured on video and posted to Facebook, where it has drawn more than 170,000 views and raised questions of how white people and police treat black people.
The video shows one of the zoo’s public safety officers, a black woman, shouting at another safety officer, a white woman who allegedly got Philadelphia police involved.
“This is what you did!” the black safety officer yelled at the white safety officer, as police held the youth face-down on the ground and tried to put him in handcuffs. “This is what you want. Is this what you want?”
“I only asked him to move!” the white safety officer shouted back. “I asked him to move.”
In the background, people could be heard saying, “What’d he do?” and “I’m sick of this.” Passing drivers stopped and honked.
Efforts to locate the youth, who was led away from the scene in handcuffs, or his family have been unsuccessful. It’s unclear how old he is and what charges, if any, he faces. Friday evening, a police spokesperson only said, “we are aware of the video and we are currently reviewing it.”
The video, which lasted about a minute and 30 seconds, doesn’t show what was happening before police approached the group.
Some people who commented on the video on Facebook said the youth and others regularly sold water at the plaza outside the zoo’s gates near 34th Street and Girard Avenue, where the arrest occurred. The woman who posted the video could not be reached Friday, but wrote that the youth were trying to raise money for their football team.
A zoo spokesperson, Dana Lombardo, said the group was not affiliated with “any legitimate local sports team” and was not selling water bottles at the time. She said zoo staff had asked the group to leave the plaza.
“There have been a number of incidents with this particular group, including soliciting money from zoo guests, throwing rocks at a zoo staff member just the previous day, and harassing another female public safety officer just before this incident occurred,” Lombardo said.
The group began to leave, she said, but made a “threatening remark” to one of the zoo’s safety officers, who then flagged down a Philadelphia police cruiser that was driving by.
The zoo did not detail what the alleged remark was or whether the arrested youth was behind it. The zoo also didn’t say whether the white safety officer in the video was the one who alerted police.