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Friday 21 September 2018
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Arrested after trying to help white customer

TT-born restaurant owner sues NYPD

Dr Clyde Pemberton. PHOTO COURTESY NY DAILY NEWS

A close relative of Trinidad-born restaurant owner Dr Clyde Pemberton, who was arrested and jailed in the US after he tried to assist a white customer at his Harlem restaurant, said the incident has convinced her not to migrate to the United States.

Dr Rita Pemberton, former head of the Department of History at UWI, and sister-in-law of the restaurant owner, described the incident as “very surprising and very disgusting.”

The retired lecturer who is married to the psychiatrist’s older brother Dr Carlisle Pemberton, retired professor of Agricultural Economics, said the treatment meted out to her brother-in-law has convinced her not to go to the US.

“With all the shortcomings we have in TT, I am staying right here. I’ll be poor but that’s okay.”

Clyde Pemberton, a retired psychiatrist and the owner of MIST Harlem – a popular restaurant located in the heart of Harlem – along with two of his employees sued the New York Police Department last week in the Manhattan federal court for false arrest and violation of his civil rights. His lawyers said the incident suggested racial bias.

According to a report in Monday’s New York Times, on June 1, 2017, at around 10.30 pm, Clyde Pemberton was holding a business meeting at his restaurant when he saw two women leaving the bathroom, dragging a third woman who appeared to be unconscious across the room. The article stated that the women, who were all white, knocked over a pole supporting a rope blocking off a section of the restaurant to customers.

The lawsuit stated that Clyde Pemberton, 68, walked over to the women to ask what was the problem and suggested that the unconscious woman be placed in a chair. Without warning, one woman punched him in the chest and referred to him using a racial slur.

A second woman is then reported to have struck Clyde Pemberton’s worker, Christian Baptiste, in the head with her purse. The lawsuit stated that employees called 911 as the women continued to yell, push and kick workers. Shortly after, according to the lawsuit, police officers – who were all white – arrived at the restaurant and a supervisor spoke with only one of the women before ordering his officers to arrest Clyde Pemberton, Baptiste, 42, and another worker, Thomas Debnam. They were charged with unlawful imprisonment. The charges against the men were dismissed in November.

Clyde Pemberton, in the lawsuit, said he explained to the police that he was the owner of the restaurant and a physician, but they never asked him what had happened, and that their supervisor had been hostile.

After spending six hours in custody, the men were given a desk appearance and released.

Their lawyers claim: “The NYPD arrested Dr Pemberton, Mr Baptiste, and Mr Debnam not because of their conduct, but because they were there and they are black. Neither their side of the story nor their freedom mattered to the police.”

They incurred $15,000 in legal fees to defend themselves. Pemberton, a green card holder who frequently visits Trinidad, said he has run into issues while traveling in and out of the country after the arrest and even after the charge was dismissed. He said Immigration and Customs Enforcement continued to stop him in airports. He added that since the arrest, the police have done random checks of his establishment, and have increased their presence there, costing him business.

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