Police aggressively arrested a group of protesters during an anti-eviction protest in Downtown Brooklyn on Friday — including an 80-year-old tenant activist, who cops cuffed and tossed into a windowless van as she was attempting to comply with orders to vacate the scene.
Officers from the Strategic Response Group collared the activists shortly before 1 pm after they entered a Court Street office building that houses a law firm responsible for representing landlords in eviction cases, despite activists complying when they were ordered to leave the building.
“They were definitely targeting housing activists,” said protester Mariano Muñoz, who managed to evade arrest. “It was really like Gestapo s—-.”
In all, cops arrested 19 protesters during the demonstration, according to police.
Muñoz says police gave no warning before moving to arrest protesters, who were complying with their orders to leave the third floor of the office building.
“They didn’t give us any warning before the arrests,” he said.
Octogenarian tenant activist Joyce Webster was among those arrested in the office building, according to protesters, who say elder woman was given little notice by police before her otherwise-peaceful protest ended in her arrest.
“All she wanted to do was leave, and they arrested her,” said Muñoz.
As the arrested protesters were escorted onto the street with zip-ties around their wrists, a small group of activists waiting outside began chanting at officers to let them go, and were met with shoves and batons, and more arrests.
“When we started chanting to let them go, they rushed the whole group of people that were there,” Eseteban Gíron, an organizer with the Crown Heights Tenant Union, told Brooklyn Paper while waiting outside the 84th Precinct for protesters to be released. “They just tackled a bunch of people.”
Video from the confrontation taken by City Council candidate Michael Hollingsworth circulated on social media shows Strategic Response Group officers shoving a group of protesters off the sidewalk.
Police beating up Tenants right now pic.twitter.com/1PnUJYk9RP
— Michael Hollingsworth (@mike4brooklyn) December 11, 2020
Gíron said the group of about 30 protesters was completely overwhelmed by over 100 police.
“The numbers were what seemed so excessive,” he said. “There were two helicopters, at least 10 paddy wagons.”
The video drew condemnation from progressive lawmakers, who labeled it a symptom of the department prioritizing private property over the wellbeing of people.
“This violence towards people who were trying to protect tenants from being evicted during a pandemic demonstrates that private property is prioritized over people’s lives and safety in our city,” north Brooklyn State Sen. Julia Salazar said on Twitter. “This could have been avoided if the previous eviction moratorium were maintained.”
The confrontation followed a protest at housing court and march through downtown Brooklyn against evictions, which have slowly started to resume in New York State amid the pandemic.
A number of similar actions have taken place in the neighborhood since the summer, including several protests outside Brooklyn housing court and a march to the New York Marshal’s office on Atlantic Avenue.