A police officer in Florida who was recorded on video hitting a nonviolent and unarmed Black woman in her face has managed to escape being fired — for now.
The footage was recorded Wednesday night at Miami International Airport, where the unidentified woman can be seen exchanging increasingly heated words with the officer over an unspecified topic. The brief clip showed the woman — who was not wearing a mask — taking umbrage to something the officer said before she got right in his face and mocked him as “acting like you white when you really Black.” She then taunted him, getting even closer and asking him, “what you gonna do?”
She got her answer almost instantaneously, with the officer seeming to smack her face very hard at extremely close range, knocking her to the ground and handcuffing her. That’s where the video stopped, likely leaving out precious context.
The cop said the woman head-butted him and implied that he was simply protecting himself, but the video of the incident doesn’t appear to show her making any contact with him even if she was less than an inch away from his face.
Watch the video below and see for yourself how it went down.
According to the Miami Herald, “One law enforcement source said the woman was complaining loudly about a missed or delayed flight. A ticket agent called police. The officer showed up, the source said, and tried to calm her but the confrontation escalated after she began shouting at him.”
The local police union defended the officer — identified as Antonio Clemente Rodriguez, a Black Puerto Rican — and suggested his actions were done by the book.
“Clearly she was the aggressor,” Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association President Steadman Stahl told the Herald. “She was being asked to leave. She’s being belligerent and she pushes her face right into his face.”
The Herald reported that Rodriguez was only “relieved of duty,” an unclear designation following an incident where an officer of the peace resorted to violence and struck a civilian woman in the face over a situation that had up until then remained nonviolent.
The incident was the latest in a series of apparent police brutality cases that have had a heightened amount of attention brought to them following a renewed spate of law enforcement killings of Black people. The resulting protest against racism and police violence have spurred a movement to defund the police as well as dueling police reform legislation from the House, the Senate and the White House.
There has especially been tension between law enforcement and the communities they police in Florida, where two other instances of alleged police brutality have taken place in the last week in addition to the incident Wednesday night at the airport.
The Herald reported that protests in Florida have seen Black cops called “sellouts” and “traitors,” a theme the woman in the airport video revisited when she questioned the officer’s Blackness.
On the flip side, the episode Wednesday at the airport could have turned deadly, as we’ve seen in many other similar instances of police encounters with Black people, women included.
This is America.