Officers with the US Postal Inspection Service raided a Sunset Park home and arrested a man on narcotics charges on Wednesday morning, setting off fears among locals that federal border patrol agents were detaining undocumented immigrants.
The cops — who say they obtained a warrant for the resident’s arrest after he allegedly transported narcotics through the mail — broke down the door of the 46th Street house at around 7 am, before interrogating the non-English speaking Chinese man, according to a local organizer.
Police swarming Sunset Park this morning & making violent arrests. Neighbors & community activists on the scene told me ICE agents showed up wearing federal postal service shirts & knocked down the front door of a house, unannounced with no warrant, & rushed in and made arrests pic.twitter.com/OWG10fFx99
— Chris Brooks (@chactivist) October 21, 2020
“They proceeded to go into the room and interrogate a Chinese man with no interpreter,” said Jorge Muñiz-Reyes with the local activist group Protect Sunset Park. “Some people from the neighborhood said, ‘You know what, whatever kind of police this is, whether it is US Postal Inspector or not, it’s doing something that needs to be checked.’”
ICE was not involved in the arrest, according to local officials.
The commotion drew neighbors and members of Sunset Park’s ICE watch — a group that patrols the neighborhood to protect locals from federal immigration agents — after fears over the purpose of the raid. Thinking the agents were with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, protesters gathered around the postal inspector agents as they left the home to demand that they identify themselves and show their warrant, activists said.
“Unfortunately, as the agents were leaving, they refused to show an arrest warrant, they refused to show any of the neighbors anything,” Muñiz-Reyes said.
The US Postal Inspector called the local police precinct for backup, and officers from the 72nd Precinct swarmed the scene. A video shows one officer grabbing a megaphone out of the hand of an ICE watch protester identified as Brian G, and a group of police violently handcuffing him.
Police say the protester will be released on Wednesday.
Locals slammed the US Postal Inspector for arriving to the heavily-immigrant community in unmarked cars and refusing to identify themselves or show a warrant — arguing that their tactics resemble ICE’s.
“These are patterns that we’ve seen already, and these patterns come from ICE agents,” said witness Aidee Canongo with the grassroots group Mexicanos Unidos. “This happened two weeks ago. They come at five, six, four in the morning terrorizing folks, people just getting up trying to go to work.”
Residents of Sunset Park have been on edge after locals recently reported several possible ICE arrests in Red Hook and Fort Greene. Last week, ICE agents posed as NYPD officers to arrest a man in Manhattan early in the morning.
Muñiz-Reyes urged the agents to increase transparency to assuage fears of locals.
“We know Trump’s agents lie all the time, we just want to see who these people are, what they’re looking for and they refused to do that. NYPD then arrested someone who was simply trying to ask those agents for the warrant.”
Local Councilman Carlos Menchaca said that federal agents are targeting New Yorkers because of the city’s sanctuary laws, which limit local authorities’ compliance with ICE.
“ICE yesterday … basically said that if New York City doesn’t remove their sanctuary laws, they’re going to keep escalating what we’re just seeing right now — that federal agencies will come in and do what they want to do without any sense of respect for law, decency, or morality,” he said.
Menchaca, state Senator Zelnor Myrie, and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez are drafting a letter to the federal government with a list of questions about the arrest, Menchaca said.
A spokesperson from the Postal Inspection Service later confirmed that the agency was responsible for the raid.
“Postal Inspectors are conducting an ongoing law enforcement operation with multiple agencies, executing search and arrest warrants issued by the Western District of Washington (state) in support of an Inspection Service investigation,” said Donna Harris. “No further details will be provided at this time.”