The Met Police have been accused of ‘racial prejudice’ after a black man was arrested while drying his children’s clothes in a London launderette.
Witness Julian Marfo, 31, said the incident started because the man had been ‘speaking loudly on the phone’ while using the Red & White Laundrette, on Marchmont Street, near Russell Square, on November 24.
He then filmed around 15 police officers descending on the scene to arrest the man, with one even claiming he could ‘smell cannabis’ on the premises.
Mr Marfo, who had been in the launderette the whole time, said the man was then ‘bundled into a police van with his clothes’ and driven away ‘as if nothing had happened’.
He told Metro.co.uk how the incident started: ‘The man was talking loudly on the phone. Granted you’re in a public place, it can feel quite obnoxious, but there was no offence there.
‘I guess the owner had then just sort of had enough and decided to rudely confront him about it, telling him to shut up.
‘To the guy on the phone, it was an unprovoked, unnecessary comment, so he was frustrated. They then got into an argument for about 10 minutes. Another customer who was sitting there then decided to get involved.
‘It wasn’t even screaming. It was definitely shouting, but there was no sense that this was going to escalate to anything more.’
Mr Marfo says the launderette owner told the man to leave, but he refused, stating that he would wait until his clothes had finished drying.
He continued: ‘The owner then threatened to call the police. The man said, “fine call the police, what a ridiculous thing to call them over”.
‘I think he thought they’d come over, assess the situation, make them both shake hands or whatever and that would be the end of it. But that’s not what happened.’
Mr Marfo said the first police officers who arrived tried to get the launderette owner to refund the man so that he could leave the premises with his clothes.
But he said when the owner refused to do so, one officer then told the customer to leave immediately, adding that it was ‘entirely within my power to arrest you if you don’t comply’.
The officer then opened the drier and started removing the clothing, causing the man to ‘shift’ him out of the way and resulting in a scuffle between them.
Mr Marfo said: ‘Before you know it, two minutes later, 12 to 15 police have suddenly descended onto the launderette.
‘I don’t understand how they possibly could have got a response like that. It was ridiculous. Way out of proportion.
‘Next thing I see one police officer carrying his laundry into a police van before they arrested him and just took him away.’
He added: ‘That situation in itself is outrageous, but what really irks me is the professionalism of the police outside.
‘One officer who had just arrived made the assumption that the reason that the man was being arrested was because he smelt cannabis. I was sat in the launderette for half an hour, there was no smell of cannabis.
‘I thought it was incredibly discriminatory to make the assumption that drugs must be involved. There’s just been a gross miscarriage of justice all over the place with this situation.’
Mr Marfo got locked out of the launderette when he took his own clothes to his car, and then filmed the incident from the outside.
He claims another man remained inside the premises and filmed the arrest, but alleges that his camera was confiscated by police and returned the next day without its memory card.
Mr Marfo said no officers attempted to take his statement.
He said: ‘I would really like to know why that whole situation warranted such an excessive police presence. One of my parents worked in the Met Police, this isn’t a gripe with police in general.
‘It just sort of really reinforced the stigma for me that there are some officers out there who clearly just have a racial prejudice towards black males.
‘It’s disappointing and it’s even sadder to say that it’s not really even surprising in the current climate either. My faith in their ability to make impartial decisions that affect me is entirely compromised.
‘Any interaction with the police, I will always have in the back of mind, “Are you prejudiced? Are you racist?”. I should just see them as neutral defenders of the law.’
Metro.co.uk has been unable to get in touch with staff at the Red & White Laundrette.
The Met Police have been contacted for comment.
Published at Tue, 26 Nov 2019 07:30:00 +0000