Hundreds of people rallied outside Passaic City Hall in New Jersey Tuesday night, demanding tougher discipline for a city police officer accused of uttering racist comments in a Facebook video.
City resident Jasmine Vidal and her boyfriend said they were sitting on their porch with a friend in February when the officer drove up in a patrol car. Vidal said they told the officer to get out of the car when he started speaking to them, and that's when he got angry, using foul language and making threats about calling immigration.
They recorded the encounter, in which the officer is heard asking Vidal's boyfriend, "You go to school? What are you, [expletive] special ed? You [expletive] an idiot. You might be an idiot because you mouthed off. That's why you're going to get this ticket."
The officer continues: "Don't worry, I'm going to knock on your [expletive] door, and I'm going to check your mom's ID, and all your [expletive] cousins and relatives, and when they give me a fake [expletive] name, I'm going to have immigration pick everybody up so they can go back to the [expletive] border or wherever the [expletive] they came from. And all the hard work they came to America, you [expletive] it up.
"I don't see you smiling. Where's that smile now?" the officer says, before taunting him: "Let's go, bro. You were talking all this [expletive], bro."
It's not clear what prompted the officers to stop by the home or how the encounter started and escalated, nor is it clear what kind of ticket the officer was threatening to issue. Passaic police would not comment on the incident or on the video, which only recently started to make rounds after it was posted to Facebook in February.
"They were telling him they'd call immigration, told him to unlock his phone," Vidal told NBC 4 New York. "We know our rights."
Passaic is a heavily Hispanic and Latino community, with over 70 percent of residents identifying as such, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and many of them are immigrants, according to protesters.
"We provide taxes, we work to build a better future," said one protest leader. "We're here to stay, we're here to provide for our families and we're not leaving."
Protest organizers Tuesday hoped the mayor would appear and address their concerns, but it did not happen.
Mayor Alex Blanco later said in a statement emailed to NBC 4 New York: "I am asking for calm and restraint so that the city's internal affairs office has the time necessary to gather all information and complete the review necessary to make smart and well thought-out decisions."
The officer has since been disciplined, but Passaic police would not confirm whether it was for the February incident.
Many residents who have watched and listened to the video now want him off the force.
"It's not right," said Esteban Zuniga.