Flatbush Councilman Jumaane Williams was detained during a heated confrontation with cops at the West Indian Parade on Monday afternoon — and the incident immediately provoked charges that the cops over-reacted because of Williams’s skin color.
The black councilman, a Democrat, and Kirsten John-Foy, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio’s director of community affairs, were walking down an empty, cordoned off sidewalk as they made their way to a luncheon at the Brooklyn Museum at 1:30 pm when several officers stopped the pair and demanded to know why they were inside a “frozen zone.”
Cops may have been on edge because of an unrelated shooting about an hour earlier further up the parade route.
Stefan Ringle, a spokesman for Williams who witnessed the arrest, said that a high-ranking police official had given the councilman and John-Foy permission to pass through the barricaded area earlier in the day. But when the duo neared a police checkpoint, three patrolmen began interrogating Williams and John-Foy — even as the freshman legislator tried to show the ID badge that all councilmembers receive.
“He explained who he was, but the police officer was not listening and began speaking to him in higher tones,” Ringel told the Daily News. “The speech got a bit disrespectful.”
But cops say that Ringel has it all wrong: the officers merely detained Williams and John-Foy for their own safety.
Under this rendition of the story, the NYPD says that while the officers were questioning Williams and John-Foy, several men nearby got into a brawl with police, with one hitting an NYPD captain.
As the brawl escalated, the officers handcuffed Williams and John-Foy and took them out of harm’s way, a police spokesman claimed.
“In order to separate them from the crowd, [Williams and John-Foy] were brought across the street and detained until their identities were established,” the NYPD spokesman said, although he would not provide any information about the brawl that prompted this decision.
Ringel said that the cops never accosted Williams, but John-Foy was knocked to the ground before being taken across the street.
Neither man was charged and both were released from custody within 30 minutes. And later, both received a personal apology from Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who promised to launch an investigation, an NYPD spokesman said.
Williams said very little about the arrest on Monday, which he called “an easily avoidable incident involving a select number of police officers.” He promised to provide more details at a press conference set for today at 10:30 am at City Hall.
Cops were on heightened alert on Monday afternoon after a man fired off a gun at the start of the parade near the corner of Eastern Parkway and Schenectady Avenue at noon. The gunman was apprehended after a brief chase, cops said.
Yet some believe that the police detained Williams and John-Foy without cause.
Assemblyman Hakeem Jefferies (D-Fort Greene) called the incident an “unjustified arrest.”
“Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly should make sure all responsible officers are strongly disciplined,” Jefferies said.
DeBlasio agreed, claiming that he wants the officers involved to be investigated for police misconduct.
“I am very concerned that the officers escalated this situation needlessly, even as two public servants were trying to show identification,” he said.
Williams, who is currently chair of the Council’s oversight and investigation committee, was looking forward to attending the annual parade, tweeting on Monday morning, “To all my West Indian family: “Mash up di Parkway!!!”
His is also a strong opponent of the NYPD’s stop, question and frisk procedures, which he says unduly target minorities.
“[Stop-and-frisk] is racial profiling and it does nothing to reduce crime,” he said.
— with Dan MacLeod
©2011 Community News Group
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