A photo of two mounted Texas police leading a handcuffed black man by a rope through the streets of Galveston, Texas went viral this week, provoking anger and accusations of racism.
"It is hard to understand why these officers felt this young man required a leash, as he was handcuffed and walking between two mounted officers," said Adrienne Bell, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Texas' 14th district.
We have verified with law enforcement officials in Galveston, that the photograph taken in Galveston is real. It is hard to understand why these officers felt this young man required a leash, as he was handcuffed and walking between two mounted officers. pic.twitter.com/bEFZnn4qmH— Adrienne Bell (@AdrBell) August 5, 2019
The victim of the racist display, Donald Neely, 48, has mental illness, his sister Christin Neely said in a Facebook post.
"Imagine scrolling [Facebook] and seeing said loved one being escorted to jail on foot by 2 officers on horses, hands cuffed behind his back with a rope attached," she said. "In 2019???? He was treated like an animal paraded through the streets by two incompetent assholes!"
Neely received an apology for the officers' behavior from Galveston Police Chief Vernon L. Hale III.
"First and foremost, I must apologize to Mr. Neely for this unnecessary embarrassment," Hale said in a statement posted to Facebook. "Although this is a trained technique and best practice in some scenarios, I believe our officers showed poor judgment in this instance and could have waited for a transport unit at the location of arrest."
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But that apology wasn't enough for many Texas-based advocates for racial justice.
Houston NAACP chapter president James Douglas said in an email to the Chronicle that the officers acted as if they believed it were still the early days of the American republic.
"This is 2019 and not 1819," sad Douglas. "I am happy to know that Chief Vernon [Hale] issued an apology and indicated that the act showed poor judgement, but it also shows poor training. Even though the chief indicated that the technique would be discontinued he failed to address the lack of respect demonstrated by the officers in the episode."
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, a Texas Democrat, said in a tweet that Neely's treatment was indicative of a broader problem in American society that needed to be faced head on.
"This moment demands accountability, justice, and [honesty]," said O'Rourke, "because we need to call this out for what it is: racism at work."
Leon Phillips, the president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice, told The New York Times that Neely's treatment was a reminder of the oppression still faced by African Americans in the U.S.
"If it was a white man, he wouldn't have been treated that way," said Phillips. "I guarantee there's nothing in their rules that you can put a leash on a guy while you ride down the street on a horse."