New Yorkers recount police brutality against protesters during first Attorney General hearing

A protester argues with a NYPD officer during a march against the death of George Floyd.

Dozens of civilians spoke out about incidents of police violence at the George Floyd protests during Attorney General Letitia James’ first online hearing on Wednesday.

“I saw what could only be described as a brutal attack by the police on civilians they swore to protect,” said Kelly Gerber, a nurse from Clinton Hill who joined a May 29 protest outside Barclays Center where cops charged at protesters. 

The protest, Gerber described, marched north from the Barclays Center towards the 88th precinct on Classon and Lafayette avenues, where it met a large group of cops dressed in riot gear. Some protesters jumped on top of a police van and unsuccessfully tried to break its windows.

A few minutes later, when the protest had become peaceful once again, officers decided that the crowd need to move and a standoff with protesters ensued. Without warning, officers rushed towards the crowd of protesters, shouting commands and shoving protesters with their shields. 

Gerber, who was among protesters at the front of the pack during the standoff, recalled that officers gave no warning before they charged. Many protesters fell to the ground, Gerber was shoved off of her bike and cut her leg, and she witnessed officers hit fellow protesters so hard with their shields that they left cuts and bruises, she said.  One unarmed man, Gerber recalled, was chased by an officer with pepper spray even after distancing himself from the crowd. 

Gerber was one of more than 300 speakers who had signed up as of June 16 to speak at Attorney General James’ live Zoom hearing. Many signed up on Wednesday morning. 

The hearings are part of an investigation launched by James last month and includes special advisors Barry Friedman, founding director of the Policing Project at NYU Law School, and former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. James is holding a second round of virtual hearings on Thursday to give all speakers the chance the share their testimony. 

Demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis took off on May 28, when more than 100 protesters gathered at Union Square and marched to City Hall, blocking traffic along the way.

Officers arrested at least 40 protesters that night after tensions between demonstrators and the police grew so high that one demonstrator allegedly threw a drum at an officer and another tried to take an officer’s bicycle with police responding by pepper-spraying the crowd.

During the first hearing — which lasted over five hours — protesters shared stories of unprovoked police beatings and arrests.

Elected officials such joined the hearing at around 4 pm to retell their own experiences. State Senator Zellnor Myrie recalled being pepper-sprayed and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said he witnessed police striking protesters with batons and throwing them off bicycles without provocation.

The second day of testimony began at 11 am on June 18.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.