“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 NYPD said in a July 28 Twitter post.
The video in question was uploaded on Tuesday evening by user @MichelleLhooq and, as of this article’s publication, has accrued more than 11.7 million views.
The footage begins with the woman being taken to the ground by individuals who are now known to be plainclothes officers affiliated with the NYPD. Other cops are seen threatening protesters with possible deadly force as they touch their holstered guns and demand demonstrators back away from the unmarked Kia minivan.
— michelle lh࿊࿊q (@MichelleLhooq) July 28, 2020
According to CBS New York, the abduction occurred amid a peaceful protest where demonstrators were providing food to homeless individuals.
Bicycle cops begin to swarm the scene after about 15 seconds and use their vehicles to create a barrier between the crowd and the unmarked minivan.
“The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks & bottles,” the NYPD claimed in its Twitter post. The department also provided further justification for its actions in a series of follow-up posts.
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) July 29, 2020
However, footage from the scene appeared to only show a single plastic water bottle rolling near an officer.
— Patients Surviving with Chronic Pain (@CPPCommunity3) July 29, 2020
The woman taken into custody has been confirmed as Nikki Stone, an 18-year-old transgender woman who is also homeless, reported CBS New York.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that he believes “it was the wrong time and the wrong place to effectuate that arrest.”
“A lot of us have been watching in pain what’s going on in Portland, Oregon,” he said, as reported by the outlet. “Anything that even slightly suggests that is, to me, troubling, and it’s the kind of thing we don’t want to see in this city.”
Netizens also slammed the NYPD for what many viewed as an escalation of tensions between the public and the officials who are supposed to protect them.
— Carlina Rivera 利華娜 (@CarlinaRivera) July 29, 2020
— Dreamboat 💖 Branny (@bransonreese) July 29, 2020
— Jamison Foser (@jamisonfoser) July 29, 2020
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) July 29, 2020
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has also demanded the NYPD take accountability for how such an act infringes on New York City citizens’ “civil liberties.”
“This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans,” she said in a tweet hours after the arrest. “To not protect our rights is to give them away. It is our responsibility to resist authoritarianism.”
Jezebel reported Wednesday that Stone has since been released from NYPD custody.
This criticism of the city’s police department comes just days after non-profit outlet ProPublica published a database of NYPD officers’ disciplinary records.
According to the database, nearly 4,000 active-duty cops in the 36,000-member force have had at least one civilian complaint leveled against them that has also been substantiated by New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. Furthermore, at least 303 active NYPD cops have five or more substantiated civilian complaints tied to their badges.