Former White House Staffer Says NYPD Detained Him For #MovingWhileBlack

Dashed Arrow William W. Ward / Creative Commons

A man moving into his fifth floor Manhattan Valley walk-up on Friday night says he was detained by police for "moving while black." Darren Martin, a Bronx native who worked in the White House under President Obama, says he was just a half-hour into his move when police pulled up outside the building at West 106th Street. They said someone called 911 about a burglary, and detained Martin the lobby, where many of his furniture and possessions were piled up.

Martin documented the encounter in a video and a series of tweets that have since attracted national attention:

Martin recently returned to New York for a job in the city's Department of Social Services, where he now works as Special Assistant to the Commissioner. On Twitter, he said that he had planned to move during the day, "recording all the pomp that comes along with such a move," but "life and work" forced him to move in at Friday night at 11 p.m. He told PIX 11, "I didn’t really think anyone was going to call the cops on me because I mean - I was moving into the building."

Martin says his ID was up in his apartment when officers arrived and detained him in the lobby. He says they would not let him go up to his apartment to get his ID; instead, three officers went up to the fifth floor and let themselves into his apartment. According to Martin, it took about 15 minutes for police to determine that he was moving in, not robbing the place.

“I like how you live in the hallway,” one of the officers quipped.

The NYPD says a 911 caller reported a person trying to open all the doors on the fifth floor of the building, as well as banging on the doors. Police say the caller said the supposed intruder was in possession of a weapon or large tool, and that the person was possibly on the roof.

Police arrived at the location shortly before 11:30 a.m., and the NYPD says the "911 job" was handled in approximately ten minutes. An NYPD spokesperson said that "upon arrival, officers conducted an investigation, speaking to persons present and determined there was not a burglary at the location. The job was marked non-crime committed."

In the video above, one of the officers is seen playing the readout of the 911 call over his radio for Martin. The officer then asks how many "likes" his social media post is getting.

Martin tells Gothamist that as of this morning, he had not received an apology from the city or NYPD. Martin's experience comes weeks after police arrested two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks, increasing national attention on the issue of racial profiling.

"You’ve got to live your life, but when you’re living your life, you’re cognizant of the fact that things you do that other people might do, non-people-of-color might do, could end up differently,” Martin tells the Washington Post. "At the end of the day when I take the suit off, I’m still a black man underneath. And it’s a daily reality."

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