Outrage has sparked in New York City over the ways that the NYPD has been enforcing social distancing. One video of a man being tased especially stands in contrast to other images of white people defying social distancing orders without violence.
According to New York Post, the tasing incident occurred on Saturday around 5:30 p.m. in the East Village. Police say Shakiem Brunsom and Ashley Serrano refused to move along and obey social distancing orders, then they resisted attempts by the cops to handcuff them.
A small group of onlookers gathered a few feet away during the altercation, which apparently angered one cop identified as Officer Francisco Garcia.
The viral clip shows a taser-wielding Garcia yelling as he breaks away from the altercation to address the bystanders. “Move the f*ck back right now!” he yells. “What you flexing for? Don’t flex!”
Garcia then sways his taser in the direction of onlookers and proceeds to grab one person from the crowd, identified by cops as 33-year-old Donni Wright. Garcia wrestles him to the ground, repeatedly punching him and slapping him on the head, as another cop eventually helps handcuffs him. The whole time, Garcia’s knee is pinning Wright’s head to the ground. Wright was hit with charges that included assaulting an officer, menacing and resisting arrest. The NYPD argues that Garcia suffered an unspecific injury in the brawl and felt threatened when Wright allegedly got into a fighting stance.
Serrano, 22, and Brunsom, 31, were also charged with resisting arrest, with Brunsom also being charged with pot possession and Serrano being hit with criminal possession of a weapon charge for a stun gun she was allegedly carrying.
“It started out as a social distancing enforcement,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea in a joint Sunday press briefing with Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I am aware of the video that’s out there.”
Garcia was placed on modified duty pending a probe by the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
Meanwhile, Shea tried to downplay the incident as an anomaly in the midst of an otherwise peaceful weekend. He stressed that New Yorkers came out from quarantining on a beautiful weekend and generally stuck to the department’s directives on social distancing.
“I would just reiterate that we had tens of thousands of interactions with people all across the city yesterday, most of them without having to issue any type of enforcement activity, whether it’s a summons or arrest,” Shea said Sunday.
Despite the commissioner’s words, 43 summonses were issued Saturday in city parks and eight outside of the green-spaces, according to New York Post. Shea said, “the majority” of the summonses were because people failed to maintain social-distancing. “New Yorkers are exhibiting extreme patience for the last few months,” he said. “We’re going to ask for a little more of it.”
Even if summonses were passed out, it was clear through viral photos that white park-goers weren’t experiencing the same violence that the East Village incident created. In fact, some photos even showed huge crowds of white park-goers lounging around in peace, clearly defying social distancing orders.
Back in April, Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams called for the release of demographic data showing the racial makeup of those arrested or cited for violating social distancing orders. Clearly, with recent videos, the need for such data is apparent.
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