Charges dropped against woman in North Versailles theater altercation that went viral
A judge on Thursday dismissed all charges against a Wilkinsburg woman arrested last year during an incident at a North Versailles movie theater.
Charges against Melanie Carter, 36, of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and defiant trespass were dismissed by Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge David Cashman. The charges stemmed from a February 2018 incident outside the Phoenix Theatres North Versailles Stadium 18 cinema.
Carter confronted a theater manager and North Versailles police officer Christopher Kelly, who was working a security detail at the theater, as they ejected four black girls, ages 12 to 14. Carter recorded the incident on a cell phone, and the video went viral.
“What happens when we defend ourselves, what happens when we defend black women and girls? We get thrown to the ground, knee in our chest,” Carter said. “We get our faces smashed to the concrete and arrested with trumped up charges. These acts of violence are egregious.”
Carter alleged the manager called them animals. In the video, the unidentified manager steps to the camera and says, “Because you’re behaving like an animal.”
Kelly told Carter to leave and, when Carter refused, he tried to place her under arrest. Carter resisted, according to the criminal complaint written by Kelly, and he forced Carter to the ground.
“I didn’t know if I was going to survive that attack,” Carter said Thursday. “But I knew that if I did, that it was my duty to say something about it.”
Carter, an activist and artist who goes by the stage name Blak Rapp Madusa, wants to use her platform to spread awareness.
“We have to stop this violence against black women and girls,” Carter said. “We have to re-humanize black women and girls. We have to protect black women and girls.”
Carter is being represented by the Abolitionist Law Center. Miracle Jones, spokeswoman for the Abolitionist Law Center, said the entire incident is indicative of a larger problem.
She said black girls in Allegheny County experience violence at a rate higher than the national average, she said, citing “Inequities Affecting Black Girls in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County,” a 2016 study from the University of Pittsburgh’s Center on Race and Social Problems.
“When we’re talking about making sure we’re protecting and defending and re-humanizing black girls, there is a huge, huge need to do so,” Jones said.
Nicky Jo Dawson, activist and founder of empowerment organization BLAQK OPS, said it is ridiculous to still have to be having this conversation in this day and age.
“It’s 2019, and we still have to fight for our right to be black – for our right to stand up for children who are being discriminated against,” she said. “Had Melanie been a white woman, we would not be here.”
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.