During a peaceful protest against police brutality in New York City on Tuesday evening, four plainclothes police officers were caught on video jumping out of an unmarked grey Kia minivan in broad daylight, snatching an 18-year-old transgender protester off the street, wrestling her to the ground, and throwing her into the vehicle before speeding away from the intersection.
The incident, captured on video by multiple protesters and shared on social media, immediately drew condemnations from lawmakers who compared the NYPD’s tactics to the actions of federal agents in Portland, where protesters have also been kidnapped and thrown into unmarked minivans.
New York lawmakers and city officials are demanding answers as to why a protester was forced into an unmarked car in broad daylight during a peaceful protest.
Rep. Jerry Nadler called the video “terrifying” adding that the arrest “should be unacceptable to everyone who respects the constitutional rights this country was founded on. There must be an immediate explanation for this anonymous use of force.”
This video—of a protester in New York City being thrown in an unmarked van—is terrifying and should be unacceptable to everyone who respects the constitutional rights this country was founded on.
There must be an immediate explanation for this anonymous use of force. https://t.co/mwAYknRLnz
— Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) July 29, 2020
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said he was “deeply concerned” by the videos, adding, “We need answers immediately.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called the arrest “incredibly disturbing” while Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said he was “concerned” about the incident shown in the videos and was trying to get answers.
Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn said that with the “anxiety about what’s happening in Portland, the NYPD deploying unmarked vans with plainclothes cops to make street arrests of protesters feels more like provocation than public safety.”
The New York Police Department confirmed on Tuesday that the plainclothes officers seen in the video were part of its Warrant Squad.
NYC is taking after Portland – a trans femme protestor was pulled into an unmarked van at the Abolition Park protest – this was at 2nd Ave and 25th Street pic.twitter.com/1PDhSYuK9h
— michelle lh࿊࿊q (@MichelleLhooq) July 28, 2020
The NYPD later claimed that the woman, who her friends say is named Nicki, was wanted for “damaging police cameras during five separate criminal incidents in and around City Hall Park.”
nypd is out here KIDNAPPING protesters off of the street pic.twitter.com/LCCBj0Ipp8
— Natalie (@Naddleez) July 28, 2020
The NYPD also claimed that the officers were attacked by rocks and bottles during the arrest, but as VICE News notes, there was no evidence of that happening in any of the videos that have been shared on social media.
In regard to a video on social media that took place at 2 Ave & 25 St, a woman taken into custody in an unmarked van was wanted for damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents in & around City Hall Park. The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks & bottles. pic.twitter.com/2jGD3DT3eV
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) July 29, 2020
The NYPD told VICE News the 18-year-old, whose surname is Stoneman, has been charged with “criminal mischief and making graffiti for 5 incidents ranging from June through July.”
Demonstrators who participated in the peaceful protest disputed the NYPD’s claims that they attacked the police officers and said it was the NYPD who were the aggressors.
“None of that happened whatsoever,” Clara Kraebber, a 20-year-old Oxford student, told the Gothamist. “We literally turned the corner and were met with a line of police who attacked us without warning.”
She added that officers used pepper spray “seemingly at random” against the group as the arrest was in progress. “They were trying to make it painful to be there.”