A pool party turned to mayhem on Friday after a group of black teens were chased down and tackled by police for allegedly doing little more than show up, according to a video later publicized. With a multitude of racially charged instances sparking heavy debate across the country, the incident has caused raucous outcry throughout the social media sphere since video footage was posted on YouTube. But unlike other recent events, the pool party differed greatly in one glaring respect — with a population of just over 10 percent, black citizens in McKinney, Texas are anything but the majority.
According to one witness, tensions ignited when a white woman allegedly made racist statements about public housing to the group of black teens on Friday, causing one of the teens to start arguing with her. The situation escalated rapidly after the woman asked the girl how old she was and then allegedly began throwing punches.
"A fight between a mom and a girl broke out and when the cops showed up everyone ran, including the people who didn't do anything," claimed Brandon Brooks, 15, in his YouTube description after posting the video he had filmed on his cell phone. "So the cops just started putting everyone on the ground and in handcuffs for no reason."
Video footage of one of the responding officers, Eric Casebolt, showed him becoming apparently aggressive with the teens, dragging one of them, Dajerria Becton, 14, from her feet and throwing her face-down on the sidewalk. After she began screaming, a few of her friends surrounded both of them, yelling at the officer to stop. According to video footage, Casebolt then stood and pulled his sidearm from its holster, chasing the teens down the lawn before being pulled back by two of his fellow officers. He then kneeled on Becton's back before eventually releasing her to her parents.
Since video footage of the incident was released over the weekend, multiple witnesses have come forward, each claiming a slightly unique version of events that seem to fall largely in line with what Brooks initially reported on his YouTube page. But according to some of the local residents present that day, the teens were there to supposedly cause trouble. Wrote neighbor Benet Embry, who is black, on his Facebook page Monday:
A few THUGS spoiled a COMMUNITY event by fighting, jumping over fences into a PRIVATE pool, harassing and damaging property. Not EVERYTHING is about RACE. WE have other issues that NEED our attention other flights of made up make believe causes.
But the host of the pool party disagreed. In a video statement posted by Dallas photojournalist Elroy Johnson, 19-year-old Tatiana Rhodes, whose mother helped her plan a cookout for both her white and black classmates, had invited a group of her friends to the community pool where she resided. The trouble began, said Johnson, when a white pool-goer made remarks to the black teens about how they needed to "go back where they're from" in "Section 8 housing", calling them "black f-ers". When white teen Grace Stone, 14, began defending her friends, they attacked her verbally as well, she claimed in a comment to BuzzFeed News.
With a disproportionate divide between white and black citizens in McKinney, it's not surprising that at least one racially charged incident would crop up. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the Dallas/Fort Worth metro, which has an overall population of around 132,000, is nearly 75 percent white, with the black community registering at only around 10 to 11 percent. And although CNN Money described it as one of the best places to live in the United States last September, citing its low crime rate, there is an questionable undercurrent of subtle racism plaguing much of the city's own actions, according to a Monday report by The Atlantic.
A city lawsuit dug up by the publication showed that local government officials had attempted to block the development of low-income housing in wealthier regions of McKinney as recently as 2009. Explained The Atlantic:
East of Highway 75, according to the lawsuit, McKinney is 49 percent white; to its west, McKinney is 86 percent white. The plaintiffs alleged that the city and its housing authority were "willing to negotiate for and provide low-income housing units in east McKinney, but not west McKinney, which amounts to illegal racial steering."
According to the publication, the pool at which Friday's events transpired is located far west of the imaginary line dividing wealthy white communities from public activity, embedded deeply in the heart of Craig Ranch North, a planned community that boasts multiple private pools, playgrounds, and community centers. But despite the fact that 19-year-old Rhodes was a resident, fully within her rights to invite friends for a day at the pool, it didn't stop both police and the few white residents who allegedly started name-calling to fall back on their Section 8 fears to prop up an uglier argument.
"Everyone who was getting put on the ground [outside the party] was black, Mexican, Arabic," said Brooks, who is white, of the pool party guests in an interview with BuzzFeed News on Monday. "[The cops] didn’t even look at me — it was kind of like I was invisible."
Despite the backlash since the video was first picked up on Monday, the community has made a startling gesture of goodwill toward the police force, which many claimed had pushed its luck to the limit. A sign outside the pool's gates on Sunday read simply "Thank you McKinney Police for keeping us safe."
As protesters begin organizing demonstrations to counter Casebolt and the city's actions (or perhaps inaction), pockets of open-carry activists have already launched their own aggressive campaigns, with one woman posting in a local Facebook group, "Patriots: LOCK-N-LOAD and come counter protest to keep McKinney safe from lawless teens, race-baiters, and cop-haters!"
Segregation of community pools may have officially ended in the 1950s, but you'd never know it by what just happened in McKinney, where a group of teens, by far in the city's minority, were forced to face the past head-on.