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'It Was Like a Kidnapping': Viral Video Shows NYPD Officers Forcing Protester Into Unmarked Van
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49126"><span class="small">Allyson Chiu, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Wednesday, 29 July 2020 08:12

Chiu writes: "When an unmarked Kia minivan screeched to a stop near protesters marching in Manhattan on Tuesday evening, the demonstrators' surprise swiftly gave way to alarm."

An NYPD officer wears a full mask during a July 15 protest in Manhattan. (photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP)
An NYPD officer wears a full mask during a July 15 protest in Manhattan. (photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP)


'It Was Like a Kidnapping': Viral Video Shows NYPD Officers Forcing Protester Into Unmarked Van

By Allyson Chiu, The Washington Post

29 July 20

 

hen an unmarked Kia minivan screeched to a stop near protesters marching in Manhattan on Tuesday evening, the demonstrators’ surprise swiftly gave way to alarm. Several New York Police Department officers wearing T-shirts and shorts spilled out of the van and grabbed one of the protesters, dragging her toward the vehicle, according to videos filmed by bystanders.

The videos of the chaotic scene, which bore a marked similarity to the controversial tactics used by federal officers to detain demonstrators in Portland, Ore., quickly went viral. Protesters who witnessed the incident described it as a “kidnapping,” while a number of New York’s elected officials, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), decried the officers’ actions and demanded further explanations from the NYPD.

“Our civil liberties are on brink. This is not a drill,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.”

(This video contains explicit language.)

The police department confirmed in a statement on Twitter that its officers had used an unmarked van in the arrest, adding that the woman who was taken into custody was “wanted for damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents in & around City Hall Park.”

In an email to The Washington Post, authorities identified the protester as 18-year-old Nikki Stone, who has also been referred to online as Nicki. Police said Stone is facing charges of criminal mischief related to the five incidents.

“When officers from the Warrant Squad took the woman into custody in a gray NYPD minivan this evening, they were assaulted with rocks and bottles,” Tuesday’s statement said. “The Warrant Squad uses unmarked vehicles to effectively locate wanted suspects.”

But the protesters who were present on Tuesday evening disputed the NYPD’s version of events, insisting that they did not physically engage with the officers, even at the time of the arrest.

“None of that happened whatsoever,” Clara Kraebber, a 20-year-old Oxford student, told Gothamist. “We literally turned the corner and were met with a line of police who attacked us without warning.”

Kraebber said officers pepper sprayed the group “seemingly at random” during the arrest, adding, “They were trying to make it painful to be there.”

Another witness told Gothamist that the protesters had been “skateboarding and eating pizza” before the van’s unexpected arrival.

“We didn’t see where they came from,” the witness said. “All of a sudden they grabbed Nicki. It was like a kidnapping.”

Stone’s arrest was captured in multiple videos that circulated widely on social media Tuesday night.

In one clip, a group of protesters, some of whom are riding bikes and skateboards, are making their way down the street before the camera pans to one of the officers roughly grabbing Stone several feet away from the van.

As a handful of protesters approach, an officer repeatedly shouts, “Get back!” and charges on foot at those getting too close.

Within seconds, more police flood the area, using their bicycles to create a barrier between the van, where the officers are still struggling with Stone, and the crowd.

“What the f--- is wrong with you pigs?” a person screams in a video showing a different angle of the incident.

Additional videos of the aftermath showed protesters in a tense standoff against the remaining NYPD officers. One officer was filmed yelling at the demonstrators to step back while brandishing what appeared to be a large spray bottle and a baton.

Though the NYPD suggested that Tuesday’s arrest followed standard procedure and said no federal authorities had been involved, many noted that the scene closely resembled accounts from Portland this month, where protesters were grabbed off the street by agents dressed in military attire and loaded into unmarked minivans.

The actions of the federal agents in Portland, who were deployed as part of a show of federal power championed by President Trump, have heightened anxieties in cities such as New York and Chicago, which are still experiencing frequent protests and spates of violence. In recent weeks, Trump defended the Portland operation against critics who have decried the aggressive tactics used by the agents and has continued to threaten to send federal forces to other cities led by Democratic mayors.

On Tuesday, as videos of Stone being shoved by NYPD officers into the van racked up millions of views, several city officials expressed unease about the arrest, and at least one demanded an independent review of the incident. As of early Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) had not commented on the viral footage and the mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The Post.

“[W]ith anxiety about what’s happening in Portland, the NYPD deploying unmarked vans with plainclothes cops to make street arrests of protestors [sic] feels more like provocation than public safety,” New York City Council member Brad Lander (D) tweeted.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D) tweeted that the video was “incredibly disturbing” while Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, said he was “deeply concerned.”

“We need answers immediately,” Stringer added.

Meanwhile, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer urged the police to remember the importance of de-escalation.

“We can’t let what is happening in Portland happen here,” Brewer tweeted. “Part of police accountability is ordinary citizens knowing who is policing them. When you can’t identify a vehicle taking someone, it causes alarm. Police can’t de-escalate situations if they don’t identify themselves.”

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