JOHNSTOWN — A nearly eight-minute video recording of a Johnstown Police Department stop by a white officer on a vehicle occupied by two black men on North Perry Street last fall has gone viral.
The video — narrated by two black men — alleges racial profiling by city police.
According to city police Capt. Eric Johnson, the stop was made last November and the driver was given a state Vehicle & Traffic Law ticket for “obstructed view” for having an object hanging from his mirror. The ticket is pending in City Court.
Johnson declined Monday to name all three men, including the officer, in the video. The Leader-Herald is not disclosing the name of the officer who made the stop since police would not verify his name.
During the controversial video, the driver is identified as Mazell Anthony, who said the object in question was a “small replica of a buoy.”
“That was completely uncalled for,” Anthony said Tuesday of the police stop.
His passenger is identified in the video as “Michael.” The black men allege they are being profiled. They predict they are going to be stopped. The Facebook “live streamed” video has had over 6.5 million views.
Reached Tuesday, Gloversville resident Anthony claims the stop was racially-motivated. He said minorities in Fulton County face “simple” racism and it is “all around.”
The 26-year-old Troy native, who grew up in Schenectady, said the Nov. 13 incident was the culmination of several racist attacks he’s been the subject of since he came to Fulton County several years ago. He said he came here to go to college at Fulton-Montgomery Community College, but never got his degree. Meanwhile, he claims racism follows him everywhere in this area.
“I’m just fed up by everything,” Anthony says.
Part of him, he said, is happy that alleged racism is being exposed by the video.
Anthony said he has retained Schenectady attorney Daniel Smalls, who may file a civil action on his behalf against Johnstown police. He said the complaint may be for “pain and suffering” and “harassment.” Smalls could not be reached for comment.
Although Johnson says the officer was “stationary” prior to stopping Anthony’s vehicle, he said the Johnstown Police Department is now being unfairly branded as racist. He said the video is being reposted on a monthly basis and the local police department is being harassed across America as being racist. The last time it was reposted was Feb. 13.
“The [calls] are from all over the country,” Johnson said of calls local police receive.
He said some other communities’ police departments, such as in Johnstown, Colo. are also being unfairly targeted because some people don’t realize the video is from Johnstown, N.Y.
The video can be seen online at: https://www.facebook.com/NowThisNews/videos/624457545066974/???
Johnson declined to get into any detail as to whether the men in the video are known to local authorities. He said the men have never filed anything claiming discrimination by the Johnstown police.
“He didn’t file any complaint,” Johnson said of the driver.
He said the driver was more upset at the time about the “obstruction” ticket than anything.
During the video — titled “Black Men Accurately Predicted They’d Be Pulled Over by Police” — the men discuss how they may be pulled over and then are. There is some foul language, but otherwise the dialogue between the motorist and police appears civil.
The video begins with the men noticing a parked, marked city police car facing the residence they were at. Anthony, the driver, prepares to be stopped by checking his registration and going through in his mind that his lights work.
“They just want to pull us over,” one of the vehicle occupants says.
After they pull out of Byard Street and are heading north on North Perry Street, a voice states: “Oh yeah, just pulled us over for no reason.” That is at the four-minute mark of the video.
The approaching officer asks for IDs. After repeatedly being asked why they were being pulled over, the officer states: “You have stuff hanging in your mirror.”
During the rest of the video, voices accuse the officer of “scaring the baby” — Anthony’s three-year-old daughter — who is in the backseat. The officer also told one of the occupants their “jaw dropped” when they passed, for which they asked the officer if that was illegal.
A voice accuses the officer of falsely accusing someone of picking up or dropping off drugs.
Eventually, Anthony is cited, but that exchange is not on the video.
Anthony, who admits to having a criminal record that includes a drug conviction, said this week that he didn’t care to disclose any details about his “best friend” Mike, the 35-year-old passenger in the video.
He said the reason he started videotaping — and then Michael took over— was because the Johnstown officer was following his car up and down Byard and North Perry streets prior to the viral video.
Anthony said when he worked at a previous company in the area, he was the target of racism in various ways. Now, he said he works for himself — two businesses — a cleaning business and a music production business.
He said the white residents of Fulton County think any black people coming here are selling drugs.
“You have racism, it’s hidden out here,” Anthony said. “They assume they [black people] have the drugs.”
Anthony said he came to Fulton County six years ago and had a nice car, jewelry and a good life, but had to quit his job because of extreme racism he endured.
Johnstown Police Chief David Gilbo deferred to Johnson to comment on the viral video.
Johnson said the video was made aware to Gilbo and Mayor Vern Jackson and an internal investigation was done on the incident. It is unclear whether that investigation is over or whether it will be made public.
Jackson said Tuesday he’s seen the video. He declined public comment, he said “until I see what the police department comes up with in a report.”
Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown on Tuesday was asked if he believes the Johnstown Police Department is racist.
“I don’t have anything in my experience that would indicate racism,” Brown said. “They investigate crimes and act on information received.”
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]