Shakim Muhafiz, Sports Editor
For 22-year-old Morehouse student Messiah Young and 20-year-old Spelman student Taniyah Pilgrim, a seemingly uneventful ride looking for a late-night meal ended with police brutality Saturday in Atlanta.
It is one of many cities in which large groups of people have protested police brutality in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer. At a June 1 press conference on the Morehouse College campus, Young, Pilgrim and their attorneys explained that the students were filming a police officer tackling a protester on the first night of the city’s curfew when suddenly police turned on them shortly after 9 p.m.
Young and Pilgrim were emotional and appeared to be hurt physically and mentally as they recalled what happened near Centennial Park. Both students’ eyes were red and teary.
Videotapes on local news stations show that Pilgrim was forcibly pulled out of the car, put on the ground and handcuffed, but no charges were filed against her.
“I’m very shaken up,” Pilgrim said. “I just can’t stop thinking about if cameras weren’t there … I can’t stop thinking about what would’ve happened. It keeps crossing my mind.”
Young is seen in the video being Tased and suffering a seizure after his car windows were shattered by police. During the press conference, his attorney stated that Young’s right arm had been broken, 26 stitches were needed to close his wounds, and that an officer had punched him in the back multiple times. He was arrested for fleeing although officers pulled him out of the car.
“At the end of the day, it is a blessing that I am alive,” said Young, who wore a cast on his right arm. “This is a long fight. This isn’t just about me, this isn’t just about us, this is an entire generation that has to deal with brutality, injustice, and wrongdoing for nothing.”
Pilgrim remains especially upset with a policeman she identified as “Officer A. Jones” because he told her that she and Young were going to be shot. She called the officer “disgusting” for making the students feel like their lives were at risk.
Morehouse President David Thomas, Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell and Young’s father all spoke briefly to support the students.
Two of the officers involved were fired from the Atlanta Police Department. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution identified them as investigators Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, both of whom are Black. Three other officers were placed on desk duty while an investigation occurs.
Young’s legal team, led by criminal defense attorney Gary Spencer, wants the charges against his client to be dropped and expunged from his record. Pilgrim’s attorney, L. Chris Stewart, said that litigation will result from Saturday’s incident.
Although Stewart believes firing the officers was justified, he also believes it was not sufficient. He emphasized that a cultural change needs to occur within the Atlanta Police Department.
“There has to be a policing change,” Stewart said. “Why is that so hard?”