‘I was only trying to protect my father’
• 11-y-o in viral video is very protective of family, parents say • His greatest Christmas wish is to have mom home
“My greatest Christmas wish is for mom to come home,” are the heartfelt words of 11-year-old Fytzroi Robinson.
And his mother, Tameka Henry, is doing everything in her power to make that a reality.
The child came to national attention two weeks ago after a video went viral of him being pepper sprayed then pinned to the ground by a police officer with his knee and fist in Oracabessa, St Mary. The incident unfolded after his father, Fitzroy Robinson, was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation.
“I just want her to come back to me. I want us to have Christmas dinner,” said the boy, his shy demeanour and loss of words a stark contrast to his emphatic and boisterous actions in the footage.
“That would be my Christmas wish,” he shared with The Sunday Gleaner last week.
Henry has been working on a cruise ship since April, and young Fytzroi and his six-year-old sister, Quirina Robinson, have been living without their mother’s touch since then. It is a reality that their parents say weighs heavily on the children each time one of them leaves.
Each year, for upwards of eight months, the Robinson family has to restructure their lives, particularly as it relates to their children, to facilitate their mother’s job.
Father Robinson, who works at a hotel near his home in St Mary, must balance caring for the children and sometimes late shifts at work.
Since April, Henry has travelled to countries such as France, Italy, Germany and Greece to help make money for the family, while Robinson does everything within his power to maintain order at home.
While she enjoys her job, Henry finds it quite difficult to leave her children behind.
“When you are far away from your kids, there is a downfall. I get sad. The situation that occurred last week hurt me so much. And to know that I am so far away and I cannot do anything about it, just makes it worse,” the distraught mom told The Sunday Gleaner via telephone on Friday.
“It has been a while, but I am coming home very soon. I wanted to surprise my kids, but I am trying my very best to make it home for Christmas. I miss them so much,” she said, noting that video calls do not suffice, especially since she is challenged by the differences in time zones.
At each stop, she sends photographs to let her family know where in the world she is.
Seeing the video of her firstborn enduring such abuse at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect was heartbreaking, she said.
“It pains me to know what transpired last week because at the end of the day, he is a child, and I’m sure these officers who were standing there have families of their own. I would want to know what was in his mind to treat my child like that,” she said, describing Fytzroi as a sweet, protective child.
NO CAR SEAT
Recounting what transpired that fateful Friday afternoon on November 24, the senior Robinson told The Sunday Gleaner that he has learned many lessons from the experience and will act accordingly going forward.
According to him, the incident stemmed from a lack of clarity regarding child seats in the new traffic laws. He said he was pulled over by the police officers as he and his two children made their way home.
Robinson said the cops threatened to issue a traffic ticket for not having car seats for his children in the vehicle. That is when a verbal altercation unfolded between him and the police and then things spiralled.
“I said, ‘No, man. The Government said no to that law a long time’,” he said he told them, adding that he welcomed the ticket and informed the officer that he would contest it in court.
Robinson admitted that he called one of the officers an idiot, which seemed to enrage him. He was then directed to return to his vehicle but was slow to move, and that’s when the cops attempted to arrest him, resulting in a tussle, he said.
It was at that point that his son ran from the vehicle, held on to the officer’s vest, and struck him in what the boy thought was an attempt to rescue his father.
The incident drew a public spectacle, as persons converged on the scene and started to record what was transpiring.
In a now-widely circulated video that drew public outrage, one cop was seen pinning the 11-year-old boy to the ground with his knee and fist, after pepper spraying him.
The boy was heard begging for water, which was denied, and relating his family ordeal.
Last week, Fytzroi, who did not sustain any permanent injuries, told The Sunday Gleaner that he was only trying to protect his father.
According to the elder Robinson, his son is a soft-spoken individual, who gets good grades in school but, like most students, has challenges with mathematics.
Fytzroi, who hopes to become a pilot, is staunchly protective of his family, particularly his mother and younger sister, his father shared.
‘IMPORTANCE OF BODY-WORN CAMERAS’
The police have since charged the senior Robinson with disorderly conduct. So far, he said, he has been in dialogue with Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) and the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) about the legal implications.
Mickel Jackson, executive director of JFJ, said the human rights group will provide support for possible legal action should the family choose to go that route.
Jackson told The Sunday Gleaner that Fytzroi’s case is among a few that have reached the group’s attention.
“Most of the cases we have had over the years involve children being abused in state care. So we have had plenty at juvenile detention facilities. We have had fewer complaints about children indicating police abuse,” said Jackson, pointing to instances of ‘rough-ups’ in some areas that have heavy police and military presence.
“In most of these instances, we find that it becomes the word of the officers versus these children and it brings home the importance of body-worn cameras and protocols being adhered to. The cameras must be turned on, footage logged and accounted for should an investigation arise,” she said, noting that in recent years, there have been at least five instances during states of emergency where children have been physically harmed by the security forces.
Last weekend, Hamish Campbell, assistant commissioner of INDECOM, described the incident depicted in the viral video as a “disturbing level of aggression” and use of pepper spray on a juvenile and called for all relevant stakeholders, including the police, to investigate.
In a statement yesterday INDECOM said it has received copies of the station diary entries, which assisted in the identification of the concerned officers.
INDECOM’s family liaison officer is also offering support to the family, as well as the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA).
Expressing concern about the incident, Laurette Adams-Thomas, chief executive officer of CPFSA, emphasised the necessity for non-violent resolutions from law enforcement, particularly in interactions involving children.
“Children can become bewildered and reactive in high-tension situations. The use of extreme force in such instances is counterproductive. In this case, the child was scared of losing his only caretaker and reacted out of fear for his father’s safety. We urge the police and all members of law enforcement to discern when it is appropriate to utilise de-escalation techniques, which would have been appropriate in this instance,” she said last week.
Highlighting the importance of understanding the child’s perspective, Adams-Thomas added: “The police must distinguish between a frightened young primary school student responding to a potentially traumatic situation and deliberate acts of misconduct. When dealing with children in situations like these, it is crucial to redirect their emotions and provide reassurance rather than resorting to force.”
She said the CPFSA remains committed to working collaboratively with law enforcement and other stakeholders to ensure the well-being and protection of children in Jamaica.
She also reminded and encouraged persons to report any form of child abuse using 211, the agency’s 24-hour child abuse reporting hotline.
Child abuse reports may also be made through WhatsApp/text at 876-878-2882, email email@example.com, or by visiting any CPFSA parish office or its social media pages (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) @cpfsajm.