Black Lives Matter Leads Protest At Ithaca City Court Hearing

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Black Lives Matter Ithaca was present in Ithaca City Court Friday to support a young man facing charges after an incident on the Ithaca Commons. It was the third time the group has organized a public demonstration since the April arrests.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Supporters of Cadji Ferguson after his court hearing, June 7, 2019. Ferguson declined a plea agreement that would require him to admit guilt. (WSKG/Celia Clarke)

Before the hearing a group of supporters gathered outside the city court building. Coffee and bagels were set out on a small table. Just before the hearing was scheduled to begin they quietly entered the City Court building together.

The courtroom was overflowing with supporters for the hearing for Cadji Ferguson, the young black man facing charges after an incident in April.

Ferguson declined a plea deal because he didn’t want to admit guilt. Ferguson has maintained he did nothing wrong, he was trying to protect his friend, Rose de Groat, from sexual assault on the Ithaca Commons by an older, white man neither know.

Both Ferguson and de Groat are black. They were arrested and charges with resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct. Since the initial arrest some charges against them have been changed.  The white man they say attacked them hasn’t been arrested or charged.

Ithaca Police have not returned a call requesting more information.

Rafael Aponte is with Black Lives Matter Ithaca. He spoke outside the court after the hearing. “Cadji is a hero,” Aponte said. “Cadji protected his friend from sexual assault, and this is what they’re now facing. So, unless all governing bodies do a better job of protecting women this is what happens.”

“The police did nothing to protect women that night,” Aponte added

Criticism of the police by residents spread after police body camera and security video of the arrest was released last month. At the time, Black Lives Matter Ithaca released a statement criticizing the treatment and arrests of Ferguson and de Groat.

Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten said charges are based on evidence he’s given at the time of arrests. “One of the individuals is alleged to have thrown punches at police officers and one of them is not alleged to have done that,” he said.  “One of them is alleged to have, essentially, caused a fight on the Commons and resisted when police officers tried to take him into custody.”

Mayor Svante Myrick ordered the Ithaca Police Department to investigate the police conduct.

Ferguson’s next court date is scheduled for August 2.