DENNIS HENDERSON AT CEA MEETING
Community members and leaders met with Pittsburgh police administrators and public officials on July 1, just days after a Pittsburgh school teacher was arrested and a New Pittsburgh Courier photographer was handcuffed outside of a community meeting, to discuss the incident and better relations between the police and the community.
“I think (the incident) may be a blessing in disguise, because this problem (of police harassment) is constant in the urban community,” said Rossano Stewart, the Courier photographer who was handcuffed. “Now that it’s been brought to the forefront, I think something will be done and better relations will ensue between the community and the police.”
On June 26, Dennis Henderson, a teacher at the Manchester Academy Charter School, and Stewart were leaving a Community Empowerment Association Inc. meeting held at the organization’s Kelly Street building when they were allegedly almost hit by, then harassed and handcuffed, by Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Officer Jonathan Gromek.
Stewart said he and Henderson were standing alongside Henderson’s vehicle on Kelly Street after the meeting, talking and exchanging business cards, when the officer traveled towards them at a rapid speed, almost hitting them. It is unsure if the officer heard a comment or saw their expressions, but Stewart said when the officer got to the corner, he made a U-turn, drove up to them and asked, “Do you have a problem with the way I’m driving?” Then said, “If you have a problem, you can file a report.”
Stewart said when Henderson began asking the officer for his name and badge number, the officer threatened them with a citation for obstructing traffic and then placed them under arrest and handcuffed them. He said the officer was verbally aggressive and even swept Henderson’s legs from under him to get him on the ground.
While the men were on the ground, a crowd started to form, Gromek reportedly called for back up and 10 to 15 police cars, along with dogs arrived at the scene. Stewart was later let go, but Henderson was arrested for disorderly conduct and released the next day. He has a court date scheduled for July 10.
“I admire the community coming out and stepping up,” said Stewart. He said that although he is thankful that acting Pittsburgh Police Chief Regina McDonald and Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant, who were at the meeting, apologized, he will “not quite be satisfied” until charges against Henderson are dropped. He doesn’t think he will ever receive a formal apology from Gromek.
The meeting, which was closed to media, was not only attended by McDonald and Bryant, but also Pittsburgh Councilmen Rev. Ricky Burgess, Bill Peduto, Theresa Kail-Smith, along with Rashad Byrdsong, Esther Bush and some of the other residents who witnessed the event.
CUFFED—Pittsburgh school teacher Dennis Henderson, yellow shirt, and New Pittsburgh Courier photographer Rossano Stewart, front, sit in handcuffs after being harassed by a Pittsburgh police officer for, what many are saying, is “Talking While Black.” (Photo by Elwin Green/Facebook)