Cops Turn Peaceful Brooklyn Protests Violent on Thursday Night

Protesters at the corner of Penn and Wythe Streets moments before cops in riot gear charged the crowd.
Ben Verde

Thousands hit the streets of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens on Thursday for the eighth straight day of protests citywide following the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

In Brooklyn, cops again arrested peaceful protesters for violating Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 8 p.m. curfew, and several demonstrators were repeatedly hit with batons and thrown to the ground as the curfew entered its fourth night.

Shortly after 9 pm, protesters who’d come from a silent vigil at McCarren Park made their way to the corner of Penn and Wythe Streets in South Williamsburg, where cops in riot gear had formed a barrier. The crowd chanted “Let us march,” and sang the words to rapper Ludacris’ “Move Bitch Get Out The Way” to stone-faced officers.

After roughly two minutes, marchers turned around to find another route when cops charged from behind, picking off protesters at random to tackle to the ground and zip tie their wrists — all the while a message rang out over a megaphone that protesters were in violation of the mayor’s executive order.

“Tonight’s protest was another disgusting yet unsurprising act of unprovoked violence from the NYPD,” protester Alannah Olson, who was in the crowd when cops charged, told this reporter.

“The protest was entirely peaceful and NYPD’s escalation was completely unwarranted, and a disproportionate show of force,” protester Javier Camino said.

Protesters shouted “shame” as cops continued to arrest protesters, while videos of the scene drew condemnation online from politicians and activists alike.

“This is horrifying and inhumane,” comptroller Scott Stringer tweeted. “And tomorrow [the mayor] will pretend he hasn’t seen it.”

A similar situation played out in Prospect Heights, where, just past 10 p.m., cops were caught on video clubbing peaceful protesters near Washington Avenue and Fulton Street. The protesters — one of whom was seen by reporters being ripped off his bike by a commanding officer — had made their way from Barclays Center down Flatbush Avenue, as to avoid Cadman Plaza, where police aggressively corralled protesters on Wednesday night.

Authorities also appeared to be targeting protesters with bikes.

Not far from that scene, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams City Councilmember Brad Lander were seen negotiating with officers to let protesters make their way home in peace.

Earlier on Thursday, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea apologized on behalf of his department. After days of staunchly defending police officers’ actions, the top cop acknowledged that some of his officers may have shown racial bias and used excessive force over the course of the citywide demonstrations.

“We are human,” Shea said during a press conference at the House of The Lord Church on Atlantic Avenue. “I’m sorry.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio seemed to echo Shea’s sentiments in a pair of tweets Thursday night — first, condemning the arrest of a delivery worker in Manhattan and second, lamenting the Police Department’s treatment of press in recent nights.

“This is NOT acceptable and must stop. Food delivery is essential work and is EXEMPTED from the curfew,” the mayor said of the worker’s arrest. “Same goes for journalists covering protests and out doing their jobs. They are essential workers, too. We WILL protect their rights. The public depends on the information they provide. Will get NYPD to fix this immediately.”

Approximately 270 arrests were made citywide Thursday night, cops said — up from 180 on Wednesday, but slightly down from 280 on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

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