A woman who sat in a Philadelphia jail on the day she was supposed to receive a prestigious award from the University of Pennsylvania is now suing the city for wrongful arrest.
“She was being honored at Penn for her service to the community. A friend had to accept the award while her family worked to get her out of jail,” said NBC10’s Lu Ann Cahn who talked exclusively to Khadijah White and obtained the video that cleared her of any wrongdoing.
White, who has her Ph.D. from Penn, was arrested last March at city hall during a hearing for the homeless. She was outside the building with 60 to 70 other protesters, who White says were all being very civil. A scuffle broke out between police and protesters and “one of them pulled my finger so hard they broke it,” White said. "And so I was screaming to them, 'You're breaking my finger, you're breaking my finger,' and they wouldn't let go."
Police reports claimed White was cussing and trying to get other protesters to break the police line. She was charged with resisting arrest, harassment and disorderly conduct.
She sat in jail for 23 hours, long enough to miss the Woman of Color Award she was receiving from Penn.
“I was a graduate recipient of the award. . . which is supposed to recognize leadership and service on the campus,” White said.
Her family ended up spending the night trying to figure out how to get her out of jail instead of going with her to the ceremony.
“And it was scary. My mom cried in the courtroom,” White said. “It was not the experience that I was looking forward to.”
Ironically, the video that police shot of the scene is what eventually cleared White of all charges.
“I think that whoever was higher up looked at the police reports and then looked at the video and said, these two things don’t go together. There was clear, clear misrepresentation of what happened in the police reports and I think they said, ‘We can’t move forward on this trial, it’s not right,’” White said.
“To be hurt and harmed and treated this way was one of the scariest things I’ve experienced.”
White says the experience damaged her reputation right at a time when she was job hunting. “I think it’s important to remind officers that we’re citizens and that we’re allowed to be here. Part of it is just saying, ‘Please don’t do this. Please remember not to do this. Please don’t hurt the people you’re supposed to protect.”
The Philadelphia police department did not comment for our story. The Director of Public safety, who is named in the lawsuit, says the city cannot comment because of the litigation.