India Johnson, 26, and Yasmeen Winston, 25 told the Washington Post that they wanted to take their children, 13-month-old Sir Quincy and 6-month-old G’esus, to visit the World War II Memorial this summer. However, shortly after arriving at the monument, a Secret Service police vehicle stopped their car. The women said officers brandished guns and detained them outside the car while their children cried in the back seat.
According to the women, an officer told them Johnson’s car had been reported stolen. Johnson handed over proof of ownership to the officers and told them she hadn’t called it in as stolen. The women said they were handcuffed for around 45 minutes and weren’t read their Miranda rights. A bystander reportedly told them that while they were cuffed, officers searched the car without Johnson’s permission.
The women’s attorney, Timothy Maloney, sent a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray demanding an investigation into the incident. In the letter, Maloney discussed the widespread racial tensions felt in the U.S. following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more Black Americans, which led to ongoing protests against systemic racism and police violence.
“This incident took place near our national monuments across from the White House. It occurred after eight weeks of unprecedented national demonstrations about excessive police conduct, some of which took place right there on Constitution Avenue. Has the Secret Service learned nothing this summer?” he reportedly wrote.
“These were two young African American mothers with their babies sitting lawfully in a car with D.C. tags. Can the Secret Service honestly say it would have treated white out-of-town tourists and their babies, sitting there without District tags, the same way?” he allegedly asked in the letter.
Though Maloney told the Post that the Secret Service hadn’t been in touch, the agency told the publication that it had received a “query requesting the agency investigate an alleged interaction between Uniformed Division Officers and two members of the public.” It added that it was now “looking into the matter.”
The two women told the paper that they have found it difficult recovering from the incident. “I could have been another Breonna Taylor. I could have been another innocent woman who has no record and got shot,” Winston told the Post.
“We don’t get in trouble. Nothing like this has ever happened to us. I thought the police was here to serve and protect us, and now it’s really uncomfortable,” she added.