ICE's Questioning of Black Jogger in Boston Sparks Outcry

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Video footage of ICE's questioning of a Black jogger in Boston has sparked outrage among many, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and U.S. Rep. Ayana Pressley. Bena Apreala, a 29-year-old real estate agent, told NBC Boston that he started recording the incident when he was stopped by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents when he was jogging on the VFW Parkway in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. 

“The police officer started walking towards me, and he said, 'Hey, stop,' and without identifying himself, he started asking me for identification, asking me where I was from, asking me who I was, what my business was around the area," Apreala told NBC Boston.

Apreala told the news outlet that he didn’t recognize who they were until he saw their ICE badges. In the video, he appeared calm and held his ground when one of the agents asked if he had any tattoos on his left and right arm.

“Am I free to go? Do I have to show you?” he said in the video. “If I’m free to go, then I’m not showing you anything. Thank you. Have a great day, guys.” 

During a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor Walsh condemned ICE’s handling of the situation and said he was asking the city’s police department to find out more information about the incident.

“Let me be clear: racial profiling and stops like these are wrong, unjustified and will not be tolerated,” Mayor Walsh said on Twitter Wednesday. 

“For him and others who might have lived through an experience like this, I’m demanding that ICE stop this cruel practice of inciting fear in the lives of our residents, particularly our Black and Brown residents, and undocumented immigrants.”

On Twitter, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., called for an “immediate investigation,” and asked for details about ICE’s encounter with Apreala and requested data on ICE stops in the Boston area.

"We must understand what they were doing and rationale behind their employment,” said Pressley.

City Council member Matt O’Malley, who represents the West Roxybury area, said he plans to follow up with Apreala and to address the issue immediately with federal reps, called the stop “unlawful” and “unacceptable” and tweeted on Tuesday that “racial profiling should not happen here or anywhere else.” 

Apreala described the experience as frightening and left him nervous to the news station. 

On Wednesday, the ACLU of Massachusetts announced that it was representing Apreala and said it was investigating.

"This incident raises serious constitutional questions and is disturbing on a human level," said Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Mass.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Enforcement and Removal Operations, a division of ICE, confirmed with NBC that they were looking for a previously deported Haitian national with multiple criminal convictions that may have been residing in the area. 

According to the spokesperson, Apreala matched the subject’s description and approached him “identifying themselves as Police/ICE.” 

They agency also said that after questioning him, the officers determined that Apreala was not the person they were looking for and told him that he was free to go. 

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