GALVESTON, Texas - Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Galveston on Sunday, demanding justice for Donald Neely. Last month, Neely was arrested by two Galveston Police officers on horseback and escorted through several blocks tied to a rope. His controversial arrest sparked outrage amongst civil rights activists across the country.
Attorney Ben Crump and Bishop James Dixon, vice president of NAACP Houston, lead the crowd to chant for justice. During the rally, Crump demanded that Galveston PD release the body cam video of Neely’s arrest.
Crump said law enforcement’s response that the two officers were good people with good character should be backed up by video evidence.
Protestors at the rally chanted “don’t say no more, just show the video” as they marched through the same area where Neely—a mentally ill and homeless African American man-- was arrested in August for misdemeanor trespassing.
Neely has apparently been arrested multiple times before that incident.
The disturbing image captured by bystanders went viral. Many criticized the officers saying their decision to lead a handcuffed Neely by rope was embarrassing and uncalled for.
“It automatically brings you back to slavery and the way you were treated during that time-- the way black people were treated during that time,” said Willie Patterson.
“My boys have autism and they may not respond to police. We support law enforcement 100 percent. And I'm pretty sure those two law enforcement officers are very good people and model citizens because they wear that badge. But that was bad judgement,” said Francine Robinson.
Neely’s attorney, Melissa Morris, said officers did not have to mistreat him to arrest him. She said the dynamic of the situation could’ve been different if one of the officers got off the horse and walked with Neely.
“What if one of those officers said, ‘This is the way I have to transport you. But to show you that I’m not disrespecting you, that I wouldn't treat you any worse than I would want to be treated, I’m going to walk with you,’” Morris said.
Roughly 40 officers were deployed to keep protestors safe and protected. The city of Galveston said body cam footage will eventually be released.
“I’ve given my word that the minute the investigation is wrapped up, and we can legally release the video, we will do it almost immediately. We're not trying to hide anything, but we do want to make sure that the investigations are complete and that benefits not only Mr. Neely, but also the police officers as well. And we need to make sure we do this right,” said Brian Maxwell, city manager of Galveston.
The Galveston Police Department released a statement in response to the incident.
“I respect those who participated in the walk today and value their fundamental right to free speech and peaceful assembly. We grow as a community by listening to each other.
I understand why the image of Mr. Neely’s arrest upset many people. This photo conjured up strong emotions and can be seen as offensive or shocking, especially given the historical connotation.
This is the method of transportation our mounted patrol officers learned in their training. None-the-less, we want our practices to always reflect the core values of our department and our community. This is why as the police chief and as an agency we are committed to learning from this and continuing our efforts to ensure the department has the best practices and policies in place.
I commissioned two independent reviews of the arrest, conducted by the Texas Rangers and the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office. The Texas Rangers completed their review on August 16th and found the officers had not violated the law. We await the administrative review from the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office.
The Galveston Police Department strives to serve with respect and integrity through continuous improvement.”