A large group of New York police officers accused protesters, guests and pedestrians on Saturday night in Manhattan’s West Village, arresting 12 people and raising questions about the aggressive response.
After raiding a peaceful arts protest in Washington Square Park, NYPD officials stormed the group onto a nearby street around 8 p.m., according to NBC New York. The demonstrators at the scene of the crime approached the police station in the neighborhood because officers had confiscated their musical equipment.
Police said in a statement they were “responding to a large disorderly group blocking vehicle traffic near 10 Street and Hudson Street within the boundaries of 6 Precinct.”
However, photos and videos of the incident showed a different scene. Images taken from different angles appear to depict a small group of protesters on one side of the street and dozens of officers on the other.
After the message “Please note that pedestrians are not allowed to walk in the street or on the street” was played on a loudspeaker, the police ran towards the protesters on the opposite sidewalk, grabbed people and arrested them. Videos show some people trying to flee when police pushed them to meet guests eating a meal outdoors.
People who weren’t part of the small protest said they ran away from the police.
Molly Dillon, a policy advisor to New York Senator Alessandra Biaggi, told NBC News that she was in the neighborhood when she saw “the enormous number of police officers”.
“All of a sudden, the police came running across the street to the people who were watching them,” said Dillon. “People weren’t in the street. People weren’t singing. People were stopped to watch the 100 or 200 NYPDs that had gathered around the frolic.”
“As soon as the police started running my friends, I ran down the sidewalk and against the wall of the restaurant behind us next to a table with guests who had let us in,” she said.
Dillon added that she noticed that very few officers wore masks and that there was no social distancing.
Rebecca Fishbein, a journalist and writer who was there, said on Twitter that she “walked down the Hudson after a micro-wedding on the water, not as a reporter.”
“Do not recommend running away from the cops on your heels,” she wrote, adding that “no one was on the street” when police stormed them.
“I lived in New York for 31 years and that was the most light-hearted thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.
The NYPD said in a statement that “a group of about 150 protesters came into the 6th district and blocked traffic” and that they detained people “after several pavement warnings”.
In total, the police arrested 12 people, eight of whom were summoned for disorderly behavior, the NYPD said.
Brad Hoylman, a New York State Senator for Manhattan, said his office contacted police Saturday night to use violence.
“We’re exhausted from watching video after video and hearing from constituents in person about inexplicable escalations that undermine an already fragile trust,” he wrote on Twitter.
Matteo Moschella contributed.