A Grammy-award winning musician let his trumpet do the talking Wednesday after he sued a Manhattan hotel where a white woman was accused of attacking his son, a Black teenager she accused of stealing her cell phone.
Keyon Harrold played a stirring rendition of “This Land is Your Land” before speaking of the pain he felt late last year when the woman accosted his son in the lobby of SoHo’s Arlo Hotel and accused him of pinching her property.
It turned out that Miya Ponsetto had left her iPhone in an Uber. The driver returned it to her a short time later.
But by then the damage had been done. Harrold had captured the violent, day-after-Christmas clash on camera, posted the video, and the woman later derided as “SoHo Karen” became the latest in a long line of rowdy racial profilers.
“A child, 14 years old, was being treated like a piece of nothing,” said Harrold during a news conference at City Hall Park. “My son was targeted as a Black young man, and that needs to stop right now. I want my son to have a better chance to have an opportunity to be himself. I want us to normalize being free in America.”
A short time earlier, Harrold’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against the hotel, Ponsetto and Chad Nathan, the hotel manager, who, according to the lawyers, “aided and abetted” the racial profiling by demanding the boy surrender the phone he was carrying.
“The episode was yet another instance of African Americans being harmed by baseless accusations while going about their daily life,” said the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. “In this case racial profiling spiraled into a violent and frightening assault against an innocent African-American child.”
The lawsuit says Ponsetto “chased” Keyon Jr. “down the lobby,” “tackled” the teen by “dropping him to the ground,” and then “began to grab at his pants and rummage through his pockets in an attempt to steal his phone.”
The father called the police.
The lawsuit alleges violations of New York City and New York State human rights laws. It also alleges assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and negligent hiring.
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Representatives of the Arlo Hotel and its parent company, Quadrum Hospitality Group, which was also named in the lawsuit, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
The boy’s parents said he suffered “physical and emotional pain,” embarrassment and “an increased sense of vulnerability.”
“Thank God that this strong black father was there, and stood up for his child,” said the family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump. “Imagine if he had resisted what might have happened if the NYPD showed up and saw a Black man defending himself against a white woman. What would have happened?”
Ponsetto, 22, a California resident, was in New York visiting her dad for the Christmas holiday when she got physical with the teen. She could not be reached on Wednesday, and her criminal lawyer declined to comment.
Ponsetto was arrested Jan. 7 in connection with the New York case outside her family’s home in Piru, California after a brief car chase. According to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, she tried to slam the door of her SUV on one deputy’s leg.
She was flown to New York City and charged with attempted robbery, grand larceny, acting in a manner injurious to a child and two counts of attempted assault.
She was freed on supervised release.