Days after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit accusing the NYPD of repeated unlawful practices against demonstrators, more police violence reared over the holiday in New York City during a Black Lives Matter demonstration held to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
More than 30 protesters were arrested on Monday at City Hall Park during the federal holiday to honor the legacy of Dr. King’s teachings of equality and nonviolence. Marchers began at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, traveling over the Brooklyn Bridge towards City Hall on Monday evening.
Not surprisingly, protesters and police authorities held two differing accounts over what took place on Monday night.
“They definitely charged multiple times,” Egypt Staley, 22, of Washington Heights, told the New York Daily News Monday. “Some people were just being grabbed off the sidewalk. Some people were not even facing them.”
Another witness, 30-year-old Helen Guzman, said, “They were really violent. Cops were pushing, shoving folks, pummeling people, tackling them.”
Demonstrators also accused NYPD of using the tactic of kettling, or pinning protesters to one area in order to make arrests easier.
In response to the highly publicized arrests, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea gave a troubling interview with a local news outlet and condemned the protesters over injured officers and blamed demonstrators for disrupting the peace. He also accused them of destroying property.
“When you march from Brooklyn over a bridge, you try to shut down the traffic on the bridge. You’re bringing bottles. You’re bringing graffiti. You’re spray painting our city. This is our city. You’re spray painting to burn our city down,” Shea told NY1.
“This isn’t actions that are caused by police officers so that’s a news flash for the AG. This is actions caused by people that want to destroy our way of life and our city and we’re not going to let it happen,” he continued directly referencing the state attorney general’s suit.
James filed a landmark suit against the NYPD last week naming Mayor Bill de Blasio, Shea and NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan as complicit in overseeing the policies and practices which led to unlawful treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters. She is seeking a court-approved monitor to help wane the spread of abuse in the department which has routinely gone unchecked for decades.
“On such a day that we’re honoring Martin Luther King, [we have] demonstrations that consist of violence, throwing bottles, breaking property, calling for the death of officers [and] to burn the city down,” Shea said.
“I really can’t think of anything that is more [the] antithesis of what Martin Luther King stood for. I think it’s a disgrace. And it’s time that everyone calls this out.”
“It’s getting to the point where we have to ask how long we are going to allow the greatest city in the world to be strangled by 40 to 50 to 100 people who don’t like our way of life?” Shea said.
The lashing out by Shea — who before becoming commissioner guided his detectives to profile “360 black and Hispanic men” and blindly swab each of them in a desperate attempt to match DNA in a rape case that ended with the controversial conviction of a Black man who has maintained his innocence — confirms what many already knew regarding the way Black Lives Matter demonstrations are attacked in America.
It was impossible not to juxtapose Monday night’s police violence with the domestic terrorist violence that took place earlier this month at the Capitol where white supremacists brazenly walked into the hallowed federal building with the intent to do irreparable harm. While Shea said 10 officers were injured during the demonstration, there are countless peaceful protesters who have suffered mental and physical anguish at the hands of the police, not counting the 30 people arrested on Monday.