Videos have been surfacing across social media of New York City police continue to enact violence against Black people during the lockdown when this same community is disproportionately devastated by the coronavirus.
In one graphic instance, criminal defense and civil rights attorney Rebecca Kavanagh reposted a video of three officers pinning down a Black man while one of the officers repeatedly punches him.
“Cell phone video shot last night in Brooklyn, shows an NYPD officer punching a Black teenager in the head as he is lying on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back,” Kavanagh captions the video. “The cop then takes the person filming into custody.”
She further explained in a series of tweets, “The incident happened in East New York and the cops are from the 75th precinct. It is not clear what led to the teenager being arrested, but you can hear many people saying he did nothing wrong.”
In the clip, one of the cops approaches the group observing the incident at a distance and he orders them to go back inside because he says they’re “not wearing masks.”
“I guess they didn’t have any of the 7.5 million that are supposed to be available to hand out,” says Kavanagh in reference to the police.
Kavanagh further explained, “The video stops abruptly when one cop tells the person filming he has an I-card. Having an I-card means you are wanted for questioning in relation to a police matter. Often it means someone has filed a complaint against you, but it could be that you [sic] wanted as a witness.”
Kavanagh went on to say that an I-card is not a “warrant” and there is a “question whether this person does in fact have one and what it is for.”
New York City Council Candidate, Anthony Beckford, who originally posted the video, described it as “Bias policing by the @NYPDnews @NYPD75Pct of Black Youth regarding #SocialDistancing. This does not happen to white people who violate social distancing. They are using the #pandemic as a weapon for further brutality.”
Beckford then called on NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea to “bring your rabid animals to heel!”
In another incident, congressional candidate and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Greater NY Chivona Renée Newsome, posted a video of fellow activist Hawk Newsome getting arrested. In the clip, a police officer (who’s not wearing a mask) tells Hawk that he’s giving him a “lawful order to disperse” to which Hawk responds, “We’re standing six feet away.” The officer and Hawk then go back and forth with Hawk calling the NYPD out for the incident where Officer Francisco Garcia was caught on camera beating a Black man over a social distancing incident in the East Village. “I’m just out here making sure my people are safe,” Hawk says.
Eventually, Hawk tries to walk away from the officer while yelling to the onlooking crowd, “This is our community, they are outsiders!” Apparently, this didn’t make the group of cops around him happy because they swarmed in on him to handcuff him.
In her Instagram post of the incident Chivona Newsome provided context:
“A family in Melrose Houses in the Bronx was mourning the loss of their aunt today when police officers stormed out of their squad car and jumped their 15 year old son. The child’s father, mother and uncle came to his aid and the cops respond by pepper spraying their entire family.”
“BLMNY Chairman Hawk Newsome was peacefully recording the incident after to make sure the police didn’t brutalize anyone else. While he practiced social distancing they inched closer and the police proceeded to aggressively surround him, smack his phone out of his hands and arrest him. While white folks are being given refreshments in the park by police during COVID-19, black people are being harassed and brutalized in their communities.”
According to Chivona, Hawk has since been released from custody.
Various photos have gone viral on social media of mostly white crowds lounging at parks, particularly the Christopher Street Pier on the West side of Manhattan.
Forty-three 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.
However, even if summonses were handed out, it was clear through photos that white park-goers weren’t experiencing the same violence that Black communities were experiencing.
Activist Scott La Rock, Jr. posted another brutal video on his Instagram page where plain clothed officers pepper spray a crowd of people, reportedly in The Bronx. Towards the end of the video an officer even attacks a woman and pins her to the ground with the help of other cops.
“Another Scene, Another Situation Of Excessiver [sic] Force By @nypd Pepper spraying a family and fighting women,” Scott La Rock, Jr. captioned his Instagram post. “These are the men @nycmayor @nygovcuomo see fit to ‘protect and serve’ in our communities…We can’t take that anymore.”
Meanwhile, Black communities continue to be gravely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to an April New York Times report, preliminary death rate for Black people in the city was about 20 people per 100,000 whereas the rate for white people was 10 per 100,000. Black folks represent 28 percent of the deaths but make up 22 percent of the population. The rate is highest for Hispanic people with 22 people per 100,000. Data maps show that parts of Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens have wide cases of the coronavirus, which coincides with heavily Black and Hispanic areas.
Although New York governor Andrew Cuomo promised more testing and studies in low-income and people of color communities, the surveillance and continued violence from the police are making matters worse.
According to CBS New York, the NYPD says they’ll be reevaluated social distancing enforcement policies after the violent East Village arrest went viral over the weekend. “We’ll look at what went well, what areas do we see crowding,” Commissioner Shea said. “We’ll make adjustments both in deployment as well as in the messaging.”
Meanwhile, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is demanding the NYPD release data, breaking down who’s being summoned and arrested by zip code and race. “I want to see the data. You can’t have inequities in enforcement and over-policing,” Williams said.
Commissioner Shea said he would make the information public.