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Activists meet with Syracuse police chief following arrest of man who recorded the police

Tom Magnarelli
A Black Lives Matter protest outside the Onondaga County Justice Center on Friday.

The Syracuse Police Department is conducting an internal investigation into the arrest of a man who was recording video of police officers. The incident of an officer arresting the man and swearing at him prompted protests from Black Lives Matter.

Watch the video here.

Maurice Crawley, 52, was charged with obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest after he recorded officers making a separate arrest from across the street.

Black Lives Matter organizer Herve Comeau said Crawley was thrown to the ground and threatened. Comeau said Crawley was within his legal rights to be filming and monitoring police activity. Comeau said Crawley's goal was to keep the police nonviolent and hold them accountable. Comeau said a pattern of police brutality against African Americans is happening all across the country.

“We don’t think that this would have happened in a wealthier neighborhood and we don’t think this would have happened to a white person and we need this to stop,” Comeau said.

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler met with Comeau and other activists. Comeau said Fowler has seen the video and called it troubling and problematic.

Comeau said the African American community has been talking about police brutality for a long time. Now, with social media and digital videos, Comeau said the public is starting to believe them more.

“People complain, they aren’t listened to, they aren’t seen, and sometimes we get lucky that in our worst possible moments someone is out there with a camera videotaping the actions of these police officers," Comeau said. "But what happens when a camera isn’t there?”

Clifford Ryan was with Crawley just before the arrest, protesting gun violence. Ryan said what the officer did was wrong and unprofessional.

"He committed a crime when he assaulted Maurice," Ryan said. "I was deeply troubled by what happened to my partner, as far as that is concerned. I would ask that justice be served."

This incident comes on top of a large Black Lives Matter march through downtown Syracuse earlier this month. It also follows a Father’s Day shooting in Syracuse during which a man was shot and killed and a police officer fired her gun. That case still being investigated.

Black Lives Matter protesters are calling for the Syracuse police officer to be fired and charges brought against him.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.