UPDATED: NYPD Arrests Peaceful Protesters ‘Obstructing Car Traffic’
(Updated with Video on 10/21/2015) New York City Black Lives Matter activists took to the streets Monday night for Jeremy McDole, a 28-year-old disabled man who was shot & killed by four Wilmington Delaware police officers as he sat injured in his wheelchair last month.
New York City police officers took to the streets as well to violate the protesters’ Constitutional rights to petition the government for redress of grievances.
NYPD danced on the grave of the 4th Amendment too, arresting people for “Obstructing Vehicular Traffic” on a street they had closed to vehicular traffic.
People’s Monday has peacefully highlighted a different victim of police violence every week since the non-indictment of the NYPD cop who killed Eric Garner, a detective named Daniel Pantaleo, who was seen waving to the camera in the minutes after Garner had died.
Despite these protests against police violence being demonstrably peaceful for almost a year, the NYPD still interferes with them regularly as if the Constitution doesn’t exist.
And last night exemplified the ways they violate people’s rights and the laws to suppress this protected speech: targeting activists, making false arrests, filming peaceful protests and further intimidating arrested activists.
#JeremyMcDole Shot Dead by Wilmington Police in Video That Went Viral, Which YouTube Censored
Wilmington Police claim that they found a gun near McDole’s body after killing him, but no weapon is visible in the gruesome video of his execution, and his family insists that Jeremy, who was paralyzed from being shot when he was 18, never carried a weapon.
Initial reports were murky, based on a cousin who couldn’t even spell McDole’s name correctly.
YouTube then censored the video (embedded in a tweet at the bottom of this post, and in the story above, exclusively on PINAC, who first reported it.)
The 911 tape has since been released, but conflicts with the video in that the caller claims that McDole shot himself and was “lying on the ground” even though the video below clearly shows Jeremy sitting in his chair, where he sat for 10 years after being shot.
Demonstrators met in New York City’s Union Square
Union Square is a place activists frequent gather, and last night People’s Monday met there and read the facts of McDole’s killing without the presence of police.
Then, protesters snaked through the streets of Murray Hill, as can be seen in the vine above, also unmolested by police, spreading the word of McDole’s death and police violence without any major disruptions to traffic.
The demonstration then arrived at the 13th Precinct, bringing the facts of police violence where they need to be heard most.
Led by Brendan Timoney, the Commanding Officer of the 13th Precinct, the NYPD officers initially pushed the protesters onto the sidewalk across the street from the precinct.
However, the police quickly barricaded 21st St at 1st Avenue, preventing any vehicular traffic from driving down the block.
At this point, the NYPD allowed the protesters back onto the street as can be seen in the photographs above.
Demonstrators continued reading the facts of McDole’s case while mentioning other incidents of police abuse, specifically regarding the NYPD, occupying the roadway for approximately 30 minutes without any dispersal order or warning of arrest from police. They then proceeded down 21st Street toward 1st Avenue.
NYPD Falsely Arrests People “Obstructing Traffic” on a Closed Street Because They’re Protesting
But after less than a quarter of the block, long before it reached the barricade blocking all traffic at 1st Avenue, the NYPD snatched two activists from behind and arrested them, ostensibly for “Obstructing Vehicular Traffic.”
As can be seen clearly in the video above, the two protesters were not engaged in any unlawful activity, or anything that that the rest of the other approximately 40 protesters were not also engaged in.
All of the protesters were in the street at that moment, already making the singling out of these protesters suspicious – indicative of a tactic used to suppress protest, not to enforce any law.
In fact, both arrestees – Kim Ortiz and Arminta Jeffryes – have been targeted by NYPD in the past.
New York law makes it clear that one must actively obstruct vehicular traffic to violate the code for obstructing vehicular traffic, not just merely be engaged in an act that could hypothetically obstruct traffic if traffic were present.
Ortiz was arrested at a People’s Monday protest last summer, also, ostensibly for “Obstructing Vehicular Traffic,” when she was in fact crossing a crosswalk with seconds left on the countdown clock, as can be seen in the photograph below. The charges were later dismissed.
Similarly, Jeffryes was one of three protesters arrested in a demonstration marking the one-year anniversary of the Eric Garner killing, which were seen as targeted arrests to suppress the protest.
Jeffryes was also charged with “Obstructing Vehicular Traffic.”
By arresting two protesters who the NYPD view as leaders, the NYPD unlawfully attempted to end the protest and silence discussion about state violence against people of color, again.
NYPD Sued for Violating the Constitutional Rights of Occupy Wall Street Protesters Too
Indeed, a recent federal lawsuit filed by the civil rights firm, Stecklow and Thompson, representing some 200 Occupy Wall Street protesters, claims the NYPD has a policy of violating protesters rights, misusing charges including obstructing traffic.
Compounding their unlawful behavior, after Ortiz and Jeffryes were arrested, non-Technical Assistance Response Unit members of the NYPD began recording the peaceful protesters, apparently with their personal cell phones.
The NYPD is specifically barred from recording the activities of peaceful protesters unless they are believed to be engaged in a crime or about to engage in a crime, an opinion upheld by the landmark Handschu Decree.
If the officer was not using his cell phone for police duty, he was violating the NYPD patrol guide, rule 203-6. If the NYPD claims that they are not storing this photo/video, it would seem they are obliged to investigate this officer for violating the patrol guide.
The last NYPD strike against the protesters’ rights last night was the most covert and perhaps most troubling.
NYPD Takes Arrested Protesters “Where No One Will Find Them”
After they were arrested, numerous people, including myself, watched the NYPD walk Ortiz and Jeffryes into the 13th Precinct. The NYPD’s new protest-specific Strategic Response Group (SRG) arrived, and the protest procured food and water and settled in to provide jail support.
No one entered or left the front of the precinct.
However, I received a phone call from Ortiz’s lawyer, Will Aronin, alerting me to the fact that they were inexplicably transferred to the 5th precinct in Chinatown and would be released shortly.
Jail support mobilized toward the 5th Precinct, but did not arrive in time for their release.
This appears to be part of a disturbing new trend in which the NYPD (possibly always under jurisdiction of the new protest-specific SRG) transfers protesters to distant precincts without alerting jail support.
The NYPD then maintains a heavy police presence at the initial precinct, leading jail support to believe that they are still being held there. Indeed, Ortiz told DNAInfo that, “One officer told us (the transfer) was because they didn’t want us to be able to rejoin the protest.”
This scenario played out in the arrest of copwatcher Jose LaSalle after he was arrested at a protest on the anniversary of Mike Brown’s police killing in Ferguson. LaSalle says that his arresting officer, SRG Supervisor Deputy Inspector Andrew Lombardo, told him, “I”m going to take you somewhere no one can find you.”
The trend is troubling, like the rest of the NYPD’s behavior last night, for its chilling effect on protesters’ protected right to free speech.
The mere idea of being secretly transferred to a location where you are not sure people know you have been taken or will be able to find you is palpably intimidating.
Additionally, being released where you do not have jail support after your property has been confiscated and possibly not returned is discouraging and potentially dangerous.
Using this tactic against people arrested during First Amendment protected activity could clearly deter people from engaging in similar activity going forward.
By doing so, the NYPD is effectively suppressing the rights they are sworn to protect.
Video of the police execution of Jeremy McDole:
*Five facts about the police execution of Jeremy McDole (*According to PINAC News, facts number 2 and 3 require confirmation and a followup story on the #JeremyMcDole shooting is forthcoming.)