The NYPD continues to face major backlash amid protests against police brutality. Criticism for the department peaked again on Tuesday when a video went viral of cops throwing a protester into an unmarked van.
According to Gothamist, plainclothes officers grabbed the protester — who was identified as an 18-year-old trans woman named Nicki Stone — at 25th Street and Second Avenue. In the video of the incident, up to three officers attempt to pull Stone into the van while one officer yells “step back” at outraged bystanders. Another man in an orange shirt that reads “Warrant Squad” helps push the woman into a silver KIA minivan before driving off. “They grabbed Nicki like she was a rag doll…They had her arms on her neck and then they drove off,” one 32-year-old protester told Gothamist.
The clip of the incident quickly went viral with over 9 million views as of Wednesday morning. Many people slammed the NYPD, with one Twitter user @Naddleez writing, “Nypd is out here KIDNAPPING protesters off of the street.”
NYPD responded to the incident with a statement on Twitter, saying the woman was “wanted for damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents in & around City Hall Park. The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks & bottles.”
However, three witnesses disputed the NYPD’s allegations that people threw rocks and bottles at them.
“None of that happened whatsoever,” 20-year-old Oxford student Clara Kraebber told Gothamist. “We literally turned the corner and were met with a line of police who attacked us without warning.”
She continued that cops used pepper spray “seemingly at random” against the group as the arrest was happening. “They were trying to make it painful to be there.”
Witnesses said the incident occurred after about 200 people were leaving a small plaza on 26th Street where they had stopped for a skateboarding event, amid a planned 24-hour demonstration against the NYPD. Following Stone’s arrest, protesters continued marching to Madison Square Park where dozens of NYPD officers were posted up with riot shields and bikes. Clips shows cops arresting several more protesters for being in the street outside the park.
Protesters continued to Time Square by 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Stone was released from custody a little after midnight on Wednesday, according to an NYPD spokesperson. She was charged with multiple counts of vandalism and criminal mischief for five incidents in July and June. Cops say Stone spray painted graffiti at various locations in Manhattan and they accused her of painting over four NYPD surveillance cameras at the intersection of Chambers and Centre Street near the former site of the Occupy City Hall encampment.
Occupy City Hall was another demonstration that last for a month calling on New York City legislators to defund the NYPD’s nearly $6 billion budget by $1 billion. Eventually, Occupy City Hall turned int Abolition Park, as an off-shoot of the protests against police violence. When the city budget was passed, with nearly $1 billion in NYPD costs being shifted to other departments, protesters continued to stay posted in City Hall Park. According to Gothamist, they continued to call out problems with the budget while also setting up camp for resources, including a medical tent, book store, People’s Bodega, and a rolling supply of food.
However, on July 22, hundreds of NYPD cops swarmed the encampment, clearing out the month-long occupation. They ripped down tents and tarps used by protestors and the park’s homeless population, and several people were taken into custody, according to Gothamist.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the raid, saying the occupation “had become less and less about protest, more and more about homeless individuals who have gathered there.”
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea also said that one person was arrested for allegedly throwing a brick at a police officer, and six other people were given summonses for refusing to disperse. “I couldn’t be happier with how this one turned out,” Shea added. “I would categorize this as one for the win column and another step toward getting back to normalcy in New York.”
Despite Shea’s want for “normalcy,” protesters continue to demonstrate, including outside his home on Wednesday, according to reports and videos shared by Abolition Park on social media.