NYPD clashes with BLM protesters during Martin Luther King Jr. Day demonstrations

mlk day
Police officers stand next to detained demonstrators near Washington Square park the day after Election Day in Manhattan.
REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

The NYPD clashed with protesters outside City Hall during Martin Luther King Jr. Day demonstrations that began in Brooklyn on Jan. 19.

About 300 demonstrators gathered in the late afternoon at the entrance of Barclays Center for a march to honor the late leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

Demonstrators soon marched north across the Brooklyn Bridge and make their way to City Hall with dozens of NYPD officers trailing behind them. The march remained peaceful until about two hours in, when the growing number of protesters reached City Hall and NYPD officers in riot shields began blasting messages to the crowd of nearly 500 to disperse.

Video from NYC Protest Updates shows an aggressive confrontation between demonstrators and police, before officers pinned multiple protesters to the ground. 

Cops arrested a total of 29 protesters Monday night, and 11 uniformed officers sustained injuries, according to an NYPD spokesperson. Out of those arrested — 12 men and 17 women — 21 received summonses for disorderly conduct while seven were issued desk appearance tickets.

Police conduct during Black Lives Matter protests has come under scrutiny over the last year amid demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd in May of 2020.

During last year’s protests, NYPD officers repeatedly used excessive force against peaceful protesters prompting several investigations, including an internal one from the city, into the department’s behavior and disciplinary actions over the summer.

New York state’s top law enforcement agent, Attorney General Letitia James, filed a lawsuit against the NYPD and its leadership last week for failing to fix the department’s longstanding history of abuse by not “properly training, supervising, and disciplining officers to prevent misconduct.” 

Tuesday morning, de Blasio touched on police reform stating this year the NYPD will redouble its efforts to gain “trust and understanding and mutual respect at the community level”  in order to improve public safety.   

“There’s a lot of ways to do that,” Hizzoner said. “Neighborhood policing tells us that the number one way is just to communicate, a lot of person to person communication locally, and that’s been really clear, strong element over the year’s that has helped us a lot.” 

In response to the violent turn of Monday night’s protest, de Blasio told reporters he had only “seen a few videos” of the “small protest” and was therefore unable to comment on police conduct.

“It was in close proximity to City Hall, and that was obviously a concern after what happened at the Capitol just 12 days ago,” said de Blasio, referencing the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters. “But the bottom line is a host of changes are happening right now at the NYPD.” 

The mayor then urged New Yorkers interested in police discipline to visit the NYPD’s new “discipline matrix,” a lengthy document on the city’s website outlining new penalty guidelines for officers found guilty of misconduct. 

James, on the other hand, didn’t hold back in condemning how the NYPD responded to the MLK Day protests.

“Once again, we are seeing and hearing accounts of NYPD officers infringing on the rights of New Yorkers. The images of officers using excessive force against peaceful protesters is alarming and cause for deep concern,” James said in a statement Tuesday. “Less than a week after I filed a lawsuit against the NYPD over these very exact issues, we saw officers exhibit the same behavior. As we laid out in our lawsuit, this is a longstanding pattern that must stop. These New Yorkers were marching in the spirit of Dr. King, who taught us that peaceful protest is the most powerful force in the fight for freedom, equality, and justice for all.”

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.