Sapphire Williams wasn’t planning on participating in a protest, let alone getting arrested.
Williams, 22, was going out to drinks with friends in downtown Rochester, NY, last Friday night when she noticed a swarm of police at a Black Lives Matters protest.
“Seeing how there was a very small presence of protesters compared to the police, it evoked something in me to ask the officers a rhetorical question of what got us to this point,” she said.
Williams, who recently graduated from Albany University, began speaking passionately to both the crowd and police officers — and then, to news cameras. As she was giving an interview to TWC News Rochester, five heavily geared officers rushed into the shot and arrested her.
“I was completely taken aback by the onrush of officers and this very SWAT-like gear coming towards me out of nowhere,” Williams told CNN. “I was extremely alarmed. I had no idea what they were going to do to me, if they were about to tackle me to the ground.”
Williams was in police custody until 7 a.m. the following day. The experience, she said, was “very traumatizing… almost humiliating” — stripped of jewelry and shoes, mugshots taken, metal detectors pressed on either side of her face.
She spent that night with dozens of other protesters, all from various backgrounds, all trying to piece together what happened.
“We were coming to grips with the severity of issues at hand, understanding we’re all affected — it’s not just the black community,” she said. “It was a sobering experience.”
But it was one that Williams said made her feel “100 times more empowered.”
“Instances like mine caught on camera make people become aware and more empathetic to issues black Americans face, and generally people of color and with a socioeconomic status who don’t have a voice,” she said.
Williams was charged with disorderly conduct. Her arraignment is set for July 26, according to Rochester City Court.