UPDATE 6/17/20: The city of San Leandro has released body camera footage of the police encounter involving Emerald Black. In the video, it appears Ms. Black stated she had a miscarriage earlier the same day, prior to being detained, contradicting the sequence of events set forth in the complaint. The city of San Leandro stated, “The City Council and staff extend their sincere condolences to Ms. Black and her family on the loss of her unborn child.”
A Black woman who made national news after filing a lawsuit that said police officers stomped on her stomach while she was pregnant and caused her to miscarry is speaking out for the first time.
Emerald Black was on her way home from a doctor’s appointment on June 9, 2019, when she and her fiancé were pulled over in San Leandro, California, for having expired registration tags. The lawsuit, filed May 25, alleges that Black was sitting in the passenger seat when officers instructed her to exit the car. After she told them she was pregnant and asked to remain in the car, the officers “yanked” Black from her seat, “stomped on her stomach, piled on top of her, and arrested her,” according to the complaint.
She miscarried several days later. Black is suing the city and the unnamed officers for battery and use of excessive force, among other claims. In an emailed statement to Prism, Black reflected on the experience and how it has altered her perception of law enforcement.
“I still have a lot of emotional distress and paranoia whenever I see the police,” she said. “I suffered serious depression from the incident but have since improved. It was an overall traumatizing experience and I try to block it out.”
Black said she wants the public to know that police violence targets not only Black men, but Black women as well.
“We have the right to stand up for ourselves and to speak up for ourselves,” she said. “And we have to because otherwise it will continue to occur. I was scared initially to speak up for myself, and a lot of victims of police brutality go through that. However, I knew that I could not let them get away with what they did. It’s frightening, so support the families and victims, because it’s not easy to speak out.”
The city of San Leandro told the Mercury News that Black’s complaint is “without merit,” but Black’s attorney, Patrick Buelna, says that statement is only meant to absolve the city of wrongdoing.
“When Oscar Grant was shot in his back, when Rodney King was beat and called racial slurs, when George Floyd was suffocated, count on the cities and counties to deny the merit of the claims,” Buelna said. “We have the medical records that show Ms. Black was pregnant when she encountered the police, we have the citations for ‘resisting arrest’ and then the drop off all charges. We kept the receipts.”
The officers involved in the incident have not yet been identified, and it’s unclear whether there is body camera footage of the incident. Black was never charged with a crime.
“I understand that nearly all Bay Area agencies have body cameras, and if they are innocent of the allegations they are the first to publish it,” Buelna said. “When they are guilty, they withhold the video evidence. That is our experience.”
Black has a message for Black women and other women of color who have experienced violence at the hands of law enforcement: “Speak up,” she says. “Our lives matter. Black lives matter. Do not be afraid to talk. We know it’s wrong and we have to do something, not just for ourselves, but for our brother[s] and sisters that have been hurt.”
After the incident, Black was able to get pregnant again and recently welcomed her first child. A “Justice for Emerald Black” Change.org petition has received more than 2.4 million signatures.