SUNSET PARK – Brooklynites marched 14 blocks yesterday to demand justice for Jamel Floyd, an inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center, who died of a heart attack after correctional officers pepper-sprayed him in his cell Wednesday morning.
The protest began at St. Michael’s Church on 43rd Street near Third Avenue. Once everyone was gathered, they trekked over to the Metropolitan Detention Center, located on 29th Street, chanting Justice for Jamel Floyd– a last name all too familiar with the world after the death of George Floyd.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Jamel Floyd, 35, was being “disruptive” in his cell at around 10 a.m on Wednesday, June 3. Once staff members arrived at his cell, they saw him “barricaded inside his cell and breaking the cell door window with a metal object.”
“He became increasingly disruptive and potentially harmful to himself and others,” the statement read. Staff members then pepper-sprayed Floyd and took him out of his cell. Once the medical staff responded to assess Floyd, as “per protocol,” they found that he was unresponsive. He was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead.
Floyd had been at MDC since October 30, 2019. According to his family at the protest yesterday, Floyd was asthmatic.
“My son died. They murdered my son. They covered it up. The last time I spoke to my son was Friday. He was ok. He was in good spirits,” Donna Mays, Floyd’s mother said. “They murdered him. They murdered him. They maced him… They messed with the wrong family.”
Wynta-Amor Rogers, a seven-year-old girl, grabbed the microphone and spoke her truth.
“You hear all those people knocking? You hear all those people knocking?” she yelled. “Thet want to be free! They want to be free! They want to be free! No justice, no peace. Say it louder!”
Council Member Brad Lander said enough is enough. Last winter, MDC had no heat and hot water. Now, a man is dead.
“The Bureau of Prisons’ pepper-sprayed a man to death, a horrific display of the inhumanity that we have protested at the Metropolitan Detention Center before and had to again yesterday,” Lander said. “Last winter we stood outside the Metropolitan Detention Center demanding heat and hot water for people locked inside in below-freezing temperatures. ”
“We could hear the people knocking against the walls then, just as we did last night standing outside with Jamel’s family,” Lander said, “demanding accountability and expressing our heartbreak and anger over his killing. Jamel Floyd’s life mattered.”
Congress Woman Nydia Velázquez said she has been talking about the mistreatment taking pace at MDC for years.
“I am writing the prison and the Office of Inspector General demanding they maintain all security video footage of Mr. Floyd’s unit for review, as well as his medical records. My office will be following up, but the reality is this: change at MDC Brooklyn is long overdue,” she said.
“It is particularly egregious that Jamel’s family learned the details of his death through the news media, rather than being notified directly by BOP. That additional injury speaks to the lack of compassion and the culture that has persisted for too long at MDC Brooklyn,” she said. “Whether it is a loss of heat in the dead of winter, inadequate protections against the spread of COVID-19, or this most recent incident, it has become evident this institution is too often unsafe.”
Assembly Member Felix Ortiz is calling for MDC to investigate Floyd’s death. In an email to Warden Herman Quay, he wrote: “I am outraged over the death of Jamel Floyd at your federal prison facility in my State Assembly district earlier this week.
“Jamel Floyd had underlying medical conditions, including asthma. Your corrections officers should have been aware of this condition before they took fatal action,” he said. “New York has been through a week of protest and looting on top of dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic.”
“All law enforcement agencies should be aware and sensitive to what’s going on in New York and across the nation. We cannot tolerate unnecessary violence or insensitivity by any entrusted with protecting or guarding human lives,” he continued. “Please let me know what you are doing to investigate Jamel Floyd’s death and how you are going to keep these tragic incidents from happening again.”
“My Sunset Park constituents need to know that we have a responsible federal institution in our community that respects all persons, regardless of status.”