By: Maximillian Boudreaux
Two Atlanta students were pulled from their vehicle by police and tased by stun guns while stuck in traffic caused by the protest over George Floyd’s death according to a lawsuit filed last Thursday.
The federal lawsuit indicated that Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young, two young students at historically Black colleges in Atlanta, were assaulted by police and arrested. They also accused one officer of dangerously intensifying the issue by falsely claiming the pair had a gun.
“Accountability is what relieves pain and brings peace, and unfortunately there has been no accountability,” Mawuli Mel Davis, an attorney for Young, said.
Footage of the May 2020 incident has been circulating widely online. The video shows officers screaming at Pilgrim and Young, zapping them with Tasers and dragging them from the car. The students are heard crying and asking what they did wrong.
The students were heading home on May 30 during curfew declared hours earlier by Mayor Bottoms when an officer told Young, 23, to vacate the area, according to the suit. Young, who was unaware of the curfew, proceeded a few yards to follow the officer’s directions, but was trapped in traffic, the suit said.
He had been filming police harassing someone else on the side of the street, and the suit claims the officer retaliated by going after him and Pilgrim, 21.
Police swarmed the car, and one officer repeatedly yelled that they had a gun, though he no reason to believe that, according to the suit. The suit alleges that another officer pulled out and aimed his gun at Young and dragged him out of the car and slammed him on the ground.
Young was punched multiple times and suffered a deep cut on his arm that needed thirteen stitches, according to his attorneys.
Another officer said concern about a gun led him to hit Pilgrim with a stun gun, according to the suit.
“There was no gun. There was no weapon,” attorney L. Chris Stewart, who represents Pilgrim, said. “Yet he screamed multiple times from a distance, ‘He’s got a gun,’ which could have gotten these kids killed.”
The video of the incident was used at a news conference announcing the suit. Young looked away from the screen, and Pilgrim wiped tears from her eyes.
Mayor Bottoms and former Police Chief Erika Shields decided the two officers did in fact use excessive force and needed to be let go immediately. However, those decisions have since been overturned earlier this year. At least two other officers named in the suit are no longer with Atlanta police.
Six officers involved in the incident have charges filed against them by the prosecutors.
The victims said they have had trouble moving on with their lives.
“Every day, I’m reminded of something from that night,” Young said.
Pilgrim said she experiences anxiety and nightmares.
“It’s like life took a total turn for something that we didn’t ask to be involved with,” she said.
If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.