In the wake of nationwide protests over police brutality and systemic racism, Jay Pharoah has shared details of a racially charged, recent encounter with law enforcement.
In a video shared to Instagram on Friday, the comedian and former Saturday Night Live cast member recalled being stopped by L.A. Police Department officers and pinned to the ground with an officer’s knee pressing down on his neck this past spring. “Coincidentally, when the footage dropped for Ahmaud Arbery, a week prior to that, I was actually on a tour, I was exercising, as I was walking across the street, Corbin and Ventura, I see an an officer to the left of me,” he said in the video, which included alleged security footage of the incident. “I’m not thinking anything of it because I’m a law-abiding citizen.”
Though Pharoah said he had noise-canceling headphones on at the time, “I look to my left, I see the officer come in with guns blazing, I see him say, ‘Get on the ground, put your hands up, like you’re an airplane.'” The comedian said that he believed the officer was making a mistake but soon realized the officers had indeed meant him. Four officers can be seen in the video putting an individual, on the ground, in handcuffs.
“The officer took his knee, he put it on my neck. It wasn’t as long as George Floyd, but I know how that feels,” Pharoah said. When he asked what was going on, he said an officer responded, “‘You fit the description of a Black man in this area with gray sweatpants on and a gray shirt.'” After Pharoah told the officers to Google his name, the officers said they received a call that he was not the suspect in question.
Pharoah reflected, “I had never been in cuffs until that point, you know, I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’m from the burbs. Luckily, my parents, what they did is they tried to shelter me and my sister for years. So we never saw that. I never experienced, firsthand, racism in America until this year.”
He added, “Black lives always matter. My life matters. I’m still here to tell my story, but I could have easily been an Ahmaud Arbery or a George Floyd.” He then addressed black men specifically, urging them to educate themselves on laws and police rhetoric to defend their lives: “Be in the know,” he said.
A representative for the LAPD reached by The Hollywood Reporter said that they were aware of the video and “looking into it,” but had no further details.
With his video, Pharoah joined the ranks of Black stars who have, in recent weeks, detailed their past and recent encounters with the police with words and video, including Insecure star Kendrick Sampson and Late Night writer Amber Ruffin.
Watch the full video below.