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Man Arrested At Kansas City Protest Says Police 'Kneed Me To My Face' Even Though He Was Not Resisting

Malik Cervantes, 23, had taken part in a peaceful protest at Mill Creek Park when police deployed tear gas, causing him and other protesters to take off running.
Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3
Malik Cervantes, 23, had taken part in a peaceful protest at Mill Creek Park when police deployed tear gas, causing him and other protesters to take off running.

Malik Cervantes was among more than 100 people arrested over several days of Kansas City protests in response to the killing of George Floyd. His experience with the KCPD was harrowing.

A mother who described her anguish on Twitter after police chased down her son and arrested him at the protest in Kansas City Monday night says he was beaten for stepping off the curb.

Nafeesa Fajri tells KCUR that her 23-year-old son, Malik Cervantes, had taken part in a peaceful protest at Mill Creek Park when police deployed tear gas, causing him and other protesters to take off running.

Cervantes was eventually subdued by police at the Winstead’s restaurant just east of the park, where Fajri says she heard him screaming on his cellphone, “Momma, they got me, they kneed me to my face.”

After racing down to the Plaza and being mistakenly told by police that her son had been transported to Vernon County, she says she spent a harrowing hour tracking down his whereabouts. She finally found him at the Metro Patrol Division at 76th and Prospect.

His bail had been set at $1,000 and she found a bail bond company to put up the money and get him out.

“And as he’s released I just hugged my son because he could have been a lot worse,” Fajri says.

Fajri’s son was one of thousands of people who took part in demonstrations in Kansas City and around the country after George Floyd, a black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis when a police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Capt. David Jackson, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department, said he wasn't aware of the Cervantes case and couldn't comment.

"I will say that we have posted on our website and social media about the office of community complaints and the process for filing for an investigation," Jackson said in an email.

Jake Becchina, another police department spokesman, said without elaborating that Cervantes “was arrested for failing to obey a lawful order.”

Monday was the fourth straight night of protests in Kansas City. Cervantes had taken part in the protest on Sunday night as well, and Fajri says “something in my spirit” told her to call and check in on her son.

Cervantes, who is recovering from his encounter with the police, tells KCUR that, before the tear gassing, he was in a line of people chatting with Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

“We got word from the mayor himself that we could be out there and stay out there as long as we want, as long as everything is peaceful,” Cervantes says.

But after the mayor left, “the cops started to get a little agitated with us,” he says.

“Everybody’s fired up, and they started snatching people out of the crowd for no reason at this point. So there’s not nice words going on. They’re angry, we’re angry. And they started tear gassing us.”

Cervantes says that other than being readily identifiable because he had exchanged words with the police, he doesn’t know why he was singled out for arrest.

He says police in a Dodge Durango pulled up in front of him in the Winstead's parking lot and one of them, with his hand on his holstered gun, ordered him to get down.

“And I’ve already seen this too many times,” Cervantes says. “I immediately go down to the ground, hands up.”

Cervantes says several policemen jumped on his back and one of them kneed him in the head at least twice, telling him to stop resisting.

“And like I’m out of breath, I’ve been running. You already got you knee on me, then hit me a couple of times. I’m not resisting at all.”

Fajri says she was panic-stricken when she learned her son had been detained but is thankful he’s alive. And she says the physical beating he endured is nothing compared to the emotional damage she and her four children have sustained.

“I don’t think people really get it,” says Fajri, a payroll administrator at KVC Health Systems. “That’s why my (Twitter) thread was so detailed, because I don’t think they really know what it does to you. It puts you in a form of PTSD.

“My daughter lives at home, she’s 18, she’s going to TCU on a basketball scholarship and she’s a graduate of Lincoln (College Preparatory Academy). And the worries that we have every day now, that if he goes down there he may not return home.”

Cervantes, a home contractor and the oldest of Fajri’s four children, says he was charged with stepping off the sidewalk. His case is scheduled to be heard in October. A condition of his bond is that if he returns to the Plaza and is arrested again, his bond will be revoked.

He says he won’t let that deter him.

“I really don’t want to let them scare me off,” Cervantes says. “I gave myself half a day of rest but, yes, I plan to go back. I’ll probably leave a little early just so I’m not arrested, but they’re still going to hear my voice.”

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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