In Their Own Words: Dozens of Protesters Detail Violent Encounters with NYPD
A City Council hearing offered demonstrators a first official opportunity to counter Mayor de Blasio’s contentions that the police showed “restraint” over nights of sometimes brutal mass arrests.
Mayor Bill de Blasio used the word “restraint” 37 times last week to describe the NYPD’s response to largely peaceful protests — and scattered looting — that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Yet before, during and following a six-day curfew, night after night concluded with police advances and mass arrests against throngs on the streets — nearly 2,500 people between May 28 and June 7. More than half were detained and issued summonses for violating the citywide curfew, according to the NYPD.
The police watchdog Civilian Complaint Review Board has so far received more than 750 complaints against the NYPD, the body said at a virtual board meeting Wednesday.
And at least 350 cops — and what NYPD officials called a low estimate of 132 protesters — were injured during the 11 days of protests, the police department said.
Behind those numbers are protesters with stories from those long days and nights of demonstrations. On Tuesday, members of the public got their first opportunity to officially challenge the narrative of the mayor and the police department on the events of the past two weeks, at an online City Council oversight hearing on the NYPD.
About 180 people signed up to speak. Over the course of more than five hours — without the NYPD present, though officials were invited to stay online — protesters described experiencing or witnessing unprovoked violence at the hands of cops, complete with clubbings and pepper-sprayings.
Here are some demonstrators’ accounts of alleged police actions — captured on video and otherwise — across protests from May 29 to June 4 in Brooklyn, Manhattan and The Bronx.
May 29, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
“[We were] marching down Classon Avenue, when NYPD began abruptly attempting to drive police vans through the crowd to break it up. An officer in one of these vans at Classon and Quincy rolled down the window and sprayed the crowd indiscriminately with pepper spray from inside. When I failed to move out of the way of another of these vans, an NYPD officer suddenly charged at me, screamed at me to ‘f-----g move,’ and shoved me to the ground so hard my shoe fell off.”
May 29, Near Barclays Center, Brooklyn
While we were walking on Lafayette, two police cars drove up behind us …. two-to-three cops came out of each vehicle and ran at us with their batons, punching and shoving us. To my right, three officers did the same thing to my other friends. They started to punch and push me and the white friend aside so they could continue to beat my black and brown friends with their batons. One black friend fell and twisted their ankle and fell to the ground and the officer continued to beat them.”
May 30, The Bowery, Manhattan
“[I was] ripped from my bike, pushed to the pavement, punched in the face until I was zip-tied….The bloody man next to me was losing consciousness and a prison nurse said it’s a concussion, the police ignored her. Ten minutes later, he passed out and began shaking. He was in a seizure, pissed himself, body convulsing.”
May 30, Union Square, Manhattan
“I’m a transgender New Yorker … the same officer who had been shoving me, grabbed his baton with both hands … and forward charged me, hit me in the chest. I fell backward onto the ground and my head hit the cement…. As I was leaning to get up from the ground, that officer planted his foot onto my crotch.”
May 31, Brooklyn Bridge
“I myself got struck by a baton about 12 times, about half of those were while I was on the sidewalk … one of the cops struck me with a baton, screaming at me, did I want more of that?”
June 1, Midtown Manhattan — First Day of Curfew (Starting 11 p.m.)
Andrea Sofia Parejo
At 8:30 p.m., “the protesters … were on the sidewalk and following the NYPD instructions. But officers still poured out onto the street and started charging at protesters while swinging their batons. I got hit in the face with one baton. No instructions were given to me by the officer that hit me…. In terms of PPE, the only officer I saw using a face shield on this day was the one who pepper-sprayed my husband and I for asking for the badge number of the assailant. We were standing at least six feet away from the sergeant on the scene. We tried to approach him with my split lip and chipped tooth and he pepper-sprayed us.”
June 2, West Side Highway, Manhattan (Curfew Moved to 8 p.m.)
“In a split second, the advancing officer charged at me, forcibly knocked my phone out of my hands … hit me on the chest, first with his baton and then beat me in my arms and upper body. I don’t know how many officers attacked me as I was beaten by numerous batons and violently thrown to the ground by more than one man. I ended up with one officer kneeling on my legs, one officer sitting on my back and neck trying to cuff me.”
June 2, Upper East Side, Manhattan
“Thirty minutes after curfew they began picking people off one by one from the back of the crowd… the gentleman to the right of me was pulled by his backpack straps straight down … the gentleman to the left of me was pulled to the ground and three cops started beating him…. One kid was cornered and was rammed into at full force by a police officer and then beaten by three others. One gentleman who tried to speak out about what was happening was then cornered by police officers. Both of the gentlemen were arrested, beaten by at least three or four cops with batons, walked away with their heads bleeding profusely.”
June 2, Broadway in Lower Manhattan (11 p.m.)
“As the organizer told folks to go home, the police descended literally on the protesters and started to shove them to the ground, beat them with clubs and arrest those attempting to go to the subway station…. An undercover cop filmed the arrest of two young Latina girls and turned to us, four white people, and laughed, and told us that it would be a good experience for them and that they would meet their husbands in (jail). As I called a lawyer to report their arrests, the police beat me and threw a small woman I was with to the ground, and shoved and beat many other protesters with clubs…. They arrested anyone who was brown or black and left those of us who were white aside.”
Charlie Monlouís Anderle
“My arm was broken by the police….They were kicking my bike and I tried to pull it free of their kicks. I fell as they tackled me, battering me with their batons. As they pinned my arms, legs and head to the ground, my whole body went limp and my bladder released. I felt grateful that my backpack held my bike helmet and shielded my spine from their blows. They pulled my arms back, zip-tied my wrists, and tightly bound the straps of my backpack so that it swung upside-down behind me as they lifted me from the ground. I yelled, feeling a sharp pain in my right arm and I had the acute sensation that my right arm was detached from my body. I yelled out in shock. From this moment, for the next hour and a half, I repeatedly expressed pain in my right arm and begged for medical attention, to no avail.”
“I was pushed down to the ground and I was beat, bruised, I have shoulder injuries. There’s a nice mark there from where a baton hit straight on the shoulder.”
June 3, Midtown Manhattan
“As I arrived at the end of the block, three officers came from around the corner and tackled me off my bike, one using the baton on my leg…. Upon being zip-tied, I heard an officer yelling, ‘Make it extra tight.’ Zip ties were then tightened to the point where I couldn’t feel my hands. I heard an officer say, ‘Look at him shaking like a little bitch. Who’s shaking now?’... I left the police station with numbness in my right leg and both my hands, and various bruises and scrapes around my body. To this day, you can still see the scabbing in a zip-tie pattern on my wrist.”
“We were given a five-minute warning to disperse and what felt like seconds later, NYPD swarmed the street, batons out, violently tackled people to the ground. I watched at least five cops tackle a crying woman to the asphalt as she begged to be let go. I saw cops run to a man walking to the subway and then clothesline him as he tried to run to safety.”
“I was wearing these scrubs and I was thrown on the ground by a police officer, forcibly pinned down and arrested.”
“I witnessed people being hit in the head with wooden clubs … it was so inhumane. I saw people, people with their backs turned, being hit in the back of the head like seals and I used to work in the Arctic as a biologist. I have seen marine mammals being killed before, in person and with my own eyes, with more humanity than what was given to my black and brown and indigenous colleagues in The Bronx…. I saw women go into panic attacks because they thought that they were literally going to die.”
“I will never forget the officer who took his baton and bust[ed] me in my face. I had a split lip. I will never forget his face … I had to hold a black man as he took his beatings. Every time he got hit, I felt his hit. Every single hit I felt … I heard bones crack. I saw people getting their heads bashed in … we had nowhere to go. We were trapped … I was actually in the process of becoming NYPD…
“After what I experienced, I would never.”