Demonstrators clashed with cops at a massive protest outside the Barclays Center on Friday night, held in response to the videotaped killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Over three thousand protesters gathered outside the Atlantic Avenue arena, despite a stay-at-home order, to decry Floyd’s death — which resulted from white officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight continuous minutes.
Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder and manslaughter on Friday, but that didn’t stop Brooklynites from gathering in protest of police brutality.
“The injustice towards people of color by the police has been going on for way too long,” protester Ziyana Johnson told Brooklyn Paper. “We protest and we protest and we’re never heard.”
Multiple demonstrators were beaten, maced, and arrested by officers — including Flatbush Assemblywoman Diana Richardson and Crown Heights State Sen. Zellnor Myrie, both of whom were pepper-sprayed during the commotion.
“This is uncalled for,” Richardson, who had teary bloodshot eyes, told a WNYC reporter. “I would never come out here to be in a position to be like this — I’m actually out here to ensure that the peace is keeping.”
Other protesters hurled water bottles and other debris at cops and climbed the green berm covering the entrance to the Barclays Center subway station, prompting officers to give chase and pull them off.
An officer was filmed shoving a young girl to the ground seemingly unprovoked and calling her a “f—–g bitch.”
The girl — who reportedly suffered a seizure — later tweeted a video from a hospital bed insisting that she displayed no aggression towards the officer, who was walking in her direction before he violently shoved her out of the way.
“He was walking in my direction, told me to move, and because I didn’t move out of his way in time he threw me out of the way.”
The demonstration remained mostly peaceful until roughly 8 pm, with protesters remaining in front of the Barclays Center, chanting “black lives matter,” and “I can’t breathe” while holding signs.
After roughly two hours, the protest split, with one group marching to Fort Greene Park and another through Boerum Hill. Near Fort Greene’s 88th Precinct, protestors torched an unoccupied police van, and destroyed several other police vehicles, videos from the scene show.
Crowds later descended on Park Slope where cops unleashed clouds of mace after more objects were thrown towards them.
Hours before the protest during a press availability at City Hall, Mayor Bill de Blasio affirmed that his police department respected the protesters’ right to assemble — but called on the demonstrators to remain peaceful.
“Our police officers have been given a very clear instruction, as always — respect peaceful protest,” the mayor said. “[But] even if you’re expressing that pain, that anger, that sense that something’s wrong and must be fixed – please remember how important it is to protest peacefully.”
Cops are removing protestors from the green pic.twitter.com/ArO5jmuVYU
— Ben Verde (@verde_nyc) May 29, 2020
Videos scattered on social media show multiple acts of force taken against protesters, with officers recorded punching, beating with billy clubs, and grazing one protester with the passenger door of a car as they drove by.
Some reports surfaced claiming that certain police precincts have become overrun, but video from the scene contradicted those claims.
The NYPD intended on using city buses to transport those arrested — before the Transit Workers Union stepped in and prevented their drivers from collaborating with the police.
“TWU local 100 bus operators do not work for the NYPD,” the union said on Twitter. “We transport the working families of NYC, all TWU operators should refuse to transport arrested protestors.”
Update (11:03 pm): Mayor de Blasio is meeting with Police Commissioner Dermot Shea near the Atlantic Center, according to City Hall.
“We have a long night ahead of us in Brooklyn,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter. “Our sole focus is de-escalating this situation and getting people home safe. We don’t ever want to see another night like this.”
Update (Saturday, 11 am): Mayor de Blasio announced an independent review of the protest during a somber Saturday morning press conference, with more details set to be announced later in the day.
“I want to know exactly what happened, why it happened, and what can be done better,” the mayor said. “I want there to be accountability.”
The mayor acknowledged the uses of force by cops — but defended his department staunchly.
“Any protester that tries to take the humanity away from a police officer and devalue them just because they are a public servant is no better than the racists who devalue people of color and particularly black men in America,” he said.
Out of the over 200 arrested, one was for attempted murder according to Commissioner Shea, who said that an individual threw a Molotov cocktail into an occupied police car.
Cops also recovered a firearm and brass knuckles, Shea said on Saturday, and multiple officers remain hospitalized with injuries.
“It is by the grace of God that we don’t have dead officers today,” he said.
Meanwhile, more protests are being planned for Saturday across the city.
Update (Saturday, 9:35 pm): Several individuals are facing federal charges for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails at or into police cars during Friday evening’s protests, according to law enforcement sources.
Additional reporting by Robert Pozarycki, Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech and Meaghan McGoldrick