Video shows state trooper in altercation with prominent Philadelphia LGBTQ+ leaders

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Video footage uploaded to Facebook shows an altercation between a state trooper and two prominent Philadelphia LGBTQ+ leaders. Celena Morrison, executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, was pulled over by a state trooper on the Vine Street Expressway on the morning of March 2 and later detained by police.

Morrison’s sister told PGN that Morrison was pulled over “for not having their lights on while tailgating,” which a video of the encounter that Morrison recorded confirms. Darius McClean, Morrison’s husband and acting COO of William Way LGBT Community Center, was present during the incident and was also detained.

“My sister started recording when the officer became aggressive,” said Morrison’s sister, who uploaded the video to her Facebook. It shows a portion of the traffic stop encounter. It is unclear what occurred before Morrison started recording.

Morrison’s sister said that McLean was following his wife’s car in a separate vehicle at the time of the stop and pulled over behind her during the traffic stop.

Morrison told her sister the officer “pulled him out of the car” then Morrison got out of her own vehicle to explain that McLean is her husband. 

“She started recording when the officer pulled his taser,” Morrison’s sister explained.

In the video, which is described in greater detail below, Morrison accuses the officer of punching her and drawing his gun on her. In the video, the officer says that both McLean and Morrison are “under arrest for resisting.”

Philadelphia Police confirmed that Morrison and McLean were taken to Philadelphia Police Headquarters at 400 N. Broad St. Morrison’s sister says the pair was processed, charged with disorderly conduct, and detained until approximately 9 p.m. on March 2.

“My concern is over her safety since she is transgender,” Morrison’s sister told PGN. She is especially concerned with “the way the police officer charged at her for recording,” which can be seen on the footage.

One commenter replied to the video on Facebook, “This is OUTRAGEOUS. This has to go straight to the governor’s office.”

What the video shows
The video begins with Morrison repeatedly stating, “That’s my husband,” to the officer who is seen kneeling on McLean’s back as McLean lays on the asphalt in fetal position in the rain. The officer tells him to put his hands behind his back.

McLean says, “I don’t know why you’re doing this,” then frantically attempts to reassure Morrison by telling her, “It’s OK. It’s OK.”

Morrison repeatedly states to the officer, “I work for the mayor!”

McLean appears to attempt to shield his face with one arm in fear as the officer cuffs his other hand. The officer hits McLean’s hand with a closed fist before pointing to Morrison. The officer yells, “Stay the fuck back!” while moving McLean’s hands to his back to finish cuffing.

McLean pleads for the officer to stop then says, “It’s because I’m Black.” The officer appears to respond, saying, “It’s not because you’re Black. It’s because you rolled up on me.”

The officer then lets go of McLean and approaches Morrison, saying, “Turn around,” before lunging toward Morrison with a grabbing motion.

The camera is jostled at this time and points at the sky for the remainder of the footage. The officer yells, “Give me your hands or you’re getting tased!” while Morrison and McLean can be heard calling out in distress.

The officer says, “Stay right there!” to which McLean replies, “I am! I can’t go anywhere!” before trying to reassure Morrison again by saying, “Celena, it’s OK baby.” Morrison says she doesn’t know why this is happening and repeatedly states that they’ve done nothing wrong.

She then says, “He just punched me. He just punched me.”

The officer appears to stand over McLean and Morrison as Morrison asks what’s going on and McLean cries out for help. The officer calls to dispatch that he has two people detained.

McLean says to the officer calmly, “I’m just getting my glasses.” The officer screams in reply, “Leave that right there!”

McLean says more frantically, “I just need my glasses,” and the officer shouts, “Don’t reach for anything!” Morrison reassures McLean, “Just be still.”

The officer says, “Stay right there! You move, you’re getting taken down.”

McLean is prompted to stand but says he can’t. Morrison says she’ll call the mayor’s office once this is over.

When she stands, she asks the officer to pick up her phone. The officer says loudly, “This was a simple traffic stop because you didn’t have your lights on — you didn’t have your lights on and you were tailgating.”

McLean attempts to defend himself, “I wasn’t tailgating!” and the officer repeats, “Simple traffic stop,” to Morrison. The officer appears to tell McLean, “And I don’t know who you are, so I don’t need you rolling up on me.”

“You were about to tase me. You pulled your gun on me,” Morrison says.

“Because you were fighting with me,” says the officer, which Morrison is heard denying. The officer says that both McLean and Morrison are “under arrest for resisting.”

A response from Philadelphia and national leaders:
Mayor Cherelle Parker released a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that reads:

“​​Earlier today, a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper executed a car stop on the Vine Street Expressway in Philadelphia, reportedly for a Motor Vehicle Code violation. Celena Morrison, the City’s executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, was in the vehicle that was stopped.”

“A video circulating on social media that depicts a portion of the incident is very concerning to me, and I will have no further comment until the investigation has been completed.”

State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta addressed the incident in his speech at the Human Rights Campaign Greater Philadelphia dinner on Saturday evening. He emphasized the need for a thorough investigation.

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign — a national organization that advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community — also underlined the need for a thorough investigation, underlining to PGN that important details often get missed in these kinds of situations. She retweeted the mayor, calling the incident “disturbing.”

In her speech, she said, “When Philadelphia’s very own executive director of the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, Celena Morrison, cannot even ride around the streets of Philadelphia without being harassed by law enforcement, we are in a state of emergency.”

Tyrell Brown, executive director of galaei, accepted an award on behalf of the organization they lead and informed the crowd during their speech that Morrison and McLean had just been released from police custody.

Brown told PGN that leaders from across the LGBTQ+ community and allies were working to “ensure that there is transparency and safety for these two very valued community members.”

They said that this situation demonstrates that an official title will not protect people from mistreatment — but that all people within the queer community need and deserve access to safety and support mechanisms without any barriers.

“The seconds that we miss could be the determination between life and death,” they said, highlighting the importance of working together to ensure that all members of the queer community can access resources that help promote safety and equity — “the same kind of decency and the same kind of reverence and respect that any other community deserves and has afforded to them.”

The Pennsylvania State Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Philadelphia Police Department directed PGN to their public affairs office, which did not appear to be open on March 2. An officer told PGN, “I have no comment at this time.”

This is a developing story.

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