Philadelphia LGBTQ+ official demands police apology after being released without charge

Celena Morrison, the head of Philadelphia’s office of LGBT Affairs, has demanded an apology from police after she was arrested following a controversial traffic stop.

Video of the incident, which was circulated on social media, showed Morrison and her husband Darius McLean, an executive at a LGBTQ+ community centre who was travelling in a separate car, being arrested after she was pulled over by a state trooper last weekend. 

Morrison was heard screaming for her husband as the officer cuffed McLean, who was on the ground. He had pulled over to help his wife.

When she told the officer that she worked “for the mayor”, he responded: “Shut the f**k up.”

During a news conference on Thursday (7 March), the couple said they are considering filing a civil lawsuit following the incident. They claimed that the police had “disregarded [their] rights” and demanded an apology. 

“Darius and I did nothing wrong and did not deserve to be treated the way we were treated during the arrest,” Morrison said. “At a minimum, the Pennsylvania state police owe Darius and I an apology that is equally as public as the way they disregarded our rights on Interstate 76.”

Morrison said the trooper “held [her] husband’s life in his hands”, and she feared the “worst was about to happen”. She yelled out that she worked for the mayor, “hoping that would make him realise he was dealing with people he did not need to be afraid of”. 

She believes she was targeted because of the colour of her skin, saying: “I’ve never felt more helpless than in those moments. It’s disheartening that, as Black individuals, we are all too familiar with the use of the phrase, ‘Stop resisting’, as a green light for excessive force by law enforcement.”

McLean described the incident as scary but added that he “wouldn’t do anything differently” if put in the same situation again.

“There’s no way I was leaving my wife on the highway with a state trooper… when I saw she was being pulled over in the rain on the side of the interstate,” he said. 

Both have been released without charge and the police are conducting an investigation, with the trooper placed on restricted duty, meaning he won’t be on patrol until inquiries have been concluded. 

The police claimed Morrison was pulled over for driving on an expired and suspended registration, among other alleged vehicle violations. McLean was said to have been “verbally combative”, so the trooper arrested him. During the arrest, Morrison is alleged to have tried to intervene, so she was arrested too, they added. 

However, lawyers for the couple cast doubt on the police account of the incident. There are plans to file a civil lawsuit, Riley Ross said.

“We want transparency, we want all the facts to come out. We have to get into the root of why things like this keep happening,” Ross added.

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