Day of peaceful protests ends with violent arrests in downtown Brooklyn

Black Lives Matter protest in Bay Ridge
Activists march down Third Avenue in Bay Ridge on Wednesday to rally against racism and police brutality before marching to the Barclays Center to continue protesting.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

Police arrested several protesters at Cadman Plaza on Wednesday after a day of overwhelmingly peaceful protests in Brooklyn turned violent when cops sought to clear demonstrators from the streets after the newly-instated 8 pm curfew

During the seventh night of demonstrations citywide, cops hauled peaceful protesters away en masse from the plaza near Borough Hall. In a live streamed video on social media, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams can be seen walking with protesters as they are pushed back by police in riot gear. 

“Why? Why? Why?” the city’s second highest elected official asks incredulously in the video, in which cops can be seen hitting protesters, whose hands are up, with batons and pinning them to the ground. “This is not looting! Nobody is looting here!”

Shortly after posting the video, Williams took to Twitter to slam the officers’ use of force — and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“The force used on nonviolent protesters was disgusting,” the public advocate said. “[The NYPD] was simply enforcing an ill advised curfew. What happened was completely avoidable. I’m so ashamed of [de Blasio].”

Approximately 180 arrests were made citywide on Wednesday according to the NYPD, a dip from the night before when the police reported 280 collars. 

The arrests followed several protests throughout the borough and the city that called for justice in the killings of unarmed Black men and women, such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Other demonstrators also made other demands, such as defunding of the NYPD.

One march started on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights at about 3 pm, and made its way down Bedford Avenue all the way to Williamsburg before people dispersed at Domino Park. 

“I have two black sons, a black daughter, I have to show them that they can change the world, that their voices mean something, that their lives mean something,” said Crown Heights resident Marva Henry, who showed up to the march with her two sons.

A temporary mural of the Statue of Liberty by Bay Ridge artist Alicia Degener watches as activists march down Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge.Photo by Paul Frangipane

One hour later, hundreds of Bay Ridge residents converged on the corner of Bay Ridge Avenue and Third Avenue for a march organized by three Muslim women. The peaceful protest made its way up Third Avenue towards Bay Ridge Parkway, before heading up to Fifth Avenue and about-facing all the way to the Barclays Center.

The group passed through Sunset Park, Greenwood Heights, and Park Slope before meeting up with hundreds more protesters at the Fort Greene arena. Chants along the way included “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” and “I can’t breathe.”

“We will not sit here and be idle and let America be run by hate,” an organizer told the crowd, which occasionally stopped to take a symbolic knee. Cars honked in support, and Bay Ridge residents took to their stoops to root protesters on. Along the way, neighbors distributed masks and bottled water to marchers in need.

On the way to the Barclays Center, activists pass by a church in Sunset Park.Photo by Paul Frangipane

The group continued to see support on its way to Barclays.

Once the group arrived at their destination, protesters linked arms to form a circle around Muslim protesters participating in prayer.

On the northern end of the borough, thousands of people gathered at Williamsburg’s McCarren Park for the second silent vigil this week. Attendees kneeled for eight minutes and 46 second of silence — the amount of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned George Floyd to the ground.

Next, organizers recited call-and-response chants encouraging attendees to call their local representatives to push for police reform. The group then rose and began marching down Union Street and through Bedford-Stuyvesant, chanting against the police and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Thousands of demonstrators sat for nearly nine minutes of silence at Williamsburg’d McCarren Park.Photo by Rose Adams

A similar demonstration also took place at Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick.

As the sun went down in Brooklyn, pockets of protesters remained outside past curfew, and cops in riot gear worked to clear scenes with heavy hands. Tensions escalated near Cadman Plaza when, after an otherwise peaceful standoff, cops ripped a woman from a crowd of protesters and threw her to the ground. Shortly after, more officers charged the scene as a commanding officer shouted orders to “clear the f—ing place now.”

There were also multiple reports of NYPD confiscating bikes from protesters — and at least one reporter who, in a Twitter thread Wednesday evening, recounted being “clubbed” by cops and having his wheels ripped away from him near Borough Hall.

“Cops would not give me a phone number or any means of redress,” Tablet Magazine reporter Armin Rosen tweeted. “Literally said ‘it’s not your bike anymore.’ No badge numbers, not sure the precinct though some had NYPD counter terror vests.”

Rosen went on to say that what he saw in Brooklyn Wednesday night “was the exact opposite” of his experience in Manhattan on Tuesday. “NYPD strategy last night was dispersal by attrition. Tonight was full-on kinetic,” he said.

Still, some protesters stayed the course, pushing past heavy rains before ultimately calling it a night — but vowing to be back on Thursday.

In a seemingly unrelated incident later on in the night, a suspect stabbed a police officer in the neck in Flatbush, and two other cops who responded to the scene were shot during an ensuing firefight. All three officers are expected to make a full recovery, and the suspect — who was also shot multiple times — is in critical condition at Kings County Hospital.

Additional reporting by Rose Adams, Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech, and Jessica Parks