Alameda city official has 'shaken confidence' in police department after video of officers handcuffing black man for 'dancing in the street'

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020
Alameda city officials demand action after black man handcuffed for 'dancing in the street'
Alameda city officials are demanding action after cell phone video surfaced showing an unarmed black man handcuffed by police after reports he was "dancing in the street."

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- Alameda city officials are demanding action after cell phone video surfaced showing an unarmed black man handcuffed by police after reports he was "dancing in the street."

The ABC7 News I-Team first broke the story Friday.

In an exclusive interview, we spoke to 44-year-old Mali Watkins.

"I was just dancing," said Watkins, who practices martial arts every day in front of his home. "Then they came up behind me."

I-TEAM: Unarmed black man handcuffed by Alameda police for 'dancing in the street'

Cell phone video shows Watkins being detained by five Alameda police officers just before 9 a.m. Saturday, May 23.

The officer: "You're dancing in the street..."

Watkins: "So What? ... I'm dancing in the street"

The officer: "Hold on woman... you're not free to go..."

ABC7 obtained the video from a neighbor capturing it from a window across the street.

"They were trying to break me," said Watkins. "Literally, break my body... physically break me."

Alameda Vice Mayor John Knox-White heard about shortly after the video surfaced on social media. He describes his first impression from Alameda police.

"The first impression, the city manager and I got was...this was probably just one officer and things didn't go quite the way they wanted to," he said. "But when I received the cell phone video on Tuesday, it didn't match at all."

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As clearly shown in the footage, it wasn't just one officer handcuffing Watkins but five officers.

"I was pushed around by police for about an hour," Watkins said, describing the incident that happened just two days before the death of George Floyd.

"For me to hear what happened to this man, I immediately thought, one slip... it's Mali instead of Floyd," he said.

Following our story, Knox-White held a town hall Sunday to address police enforcement in Alameda. It was supposed to last 90 minutes, but went on for five hours.

The community criticizing the body camera footage showed no probable cause to arrest Watkins.

"At the point he walks away, he tried to exercise a right that we all have as Americans, but as a black person you don't have that right," said Alameda resident, AC Mance.

Channel Fletcher described her conversation with police the morning of May 23.

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"We tried as hard as we could to tell police to stop and they would not listen," she said.

Other residents like Janice Bell spoke out criticizing the lack of accountability for the officer's actions.

"You see what you see, and there's no denying what you see with your own eyes that it's unjust," she said.

The ABC7 I-Team reached out to police chief Paul Rolleri requesting an interview, but we have yet to hear back.

"This has shaken my confidence in the leadership that we have at the Alameda Police Department," said Vice Mayor Knox-White.

The outside investigation looking into the officers' actions is still pending.

Take a look at for a look at more stories by Dan Noyes and the ABC7 News I-Team.