Reporter’s notebook: NYPD cop whacked me at Ferguson protest

The Brooklyn angle: A shot reporter Noah Hurowitz snapped from atop a barrier on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, just before a police officer hit him with a baton and knocked him off.
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A police officer hit me in the stomach with a baton while I was covering last Tuesday night’s Ferguson protests.

On Nov. 24, a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting unarmed teen Michael Brown to death in August, sparking riots in the small Midwestern town and protests across the country, including some in New York that fanned out across the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The next evening, having heard protesters would be assembling in Manhattan’s Union Square, I headed far afield from my Carroll Gardens and Park Slope beat to see what would happen.

At 8 pm, an hour into one of the many marches that set out in different directions across the city, I was in a group of a thousand demonstrators as they attempted to swarm up the Williamsburg Bridge roadway from Delancey Street. A phalanx of police ran to wall off the two sides with barricades and I scrambled up onto a three-foot concrete median beside the bike path, following several other reporters to get a vantage point for a photo.

That was when an officer shouted “stay back!”

Less than a second later, before I could react to the command, he banged me in the gut with the his baton held lengthwise. I recoiled to avoid the weapon’s full force, but it had already knocked me off my perch.

“I’m press! I’m press!” I yelled as I fell backwards to the street.

I landed on both feet, but by the time I caught my balance the officer was gone.

The blow didn’t leave a mark, and it was not anywhere near the extreme end of the spectrum of NYPD protest experiences — I’ve heard of my peers spending the night in handcuffs for less, and protesters have famously been pepper-sprayed and beaten for doing nothing more than standing on a sidewalk with a sign — but it is worth noting.

I was not wearing an NYPD press pass, which officers can require to cross police lines and enter certain NYPD functions, but I wasn’t crossing any police lines, either. I was also not carrying a sign or wearing, say, a bandana over my face, or doing anything to indicate that I was a protester.

I was not entirely surprised, but I believe most people expect law enforcement agents to give commands before they follow them up with force. The violation of that expectation, seen for example in the police shooting of Akai Gurley in a dark East New York stairwell on Nov. 20, was what motivated several of the protesters I interviewed to take to the streets.

The baton hit was the only violence I saw all night.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Rufus Leaking from BH says:
"I was not wearing an NYPD press pass, which officers can require to cross police lines and enter certain NYPD functions"

I'm Press I'm Press Take my word for it!

Ahhhhh poooor baby!
Nov. 26, 2014, 4:27 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Rufus, Rufus, Rufus..

It is shamefully dishonest of you to end the quote there. If you read the whole sentence, your whole argument is shown to reek of ignorance.

Why don't you get a job instead of making poor arguments online?
Nov. 26, 2014, 4:54 pm
JAY from NYC says:
so reporter let me explain who this works in the adult world, What you do is file a complaint and hold the Officer accountable.
That is YOUR job as a citizen, if you don't do it, then you can't really complain, its like people who don't vote sitting around complaining about the government.
Nov. 26, 2014, 7:16 pm
ty from pps says:
Jay -- You do know that this article is far more effective than any 'misconduct report' anyone could *try* to file.
Nov. 26, 2014, 8:51 pm
Oliver from Brooklyn says:
Hey Noah,

You're lucky you didn't get summarily executed with a bullet to the head. Glad you're alive. Keep up the good fight man.
Nov. 27, 2014, 1:01 am
Nathan Tempey (Brooklyn Paper) says:

Point taken, but Noah would not get very far without the officer's name and badge number. Also, Noah is a reporter. He is not complaining. He is doing his job.
Nov. 28, 2014, 8:09 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Sounds like somebody skipped their ethics class - or don't they teach ethics anymore?
Nov. 29, 2014, 8:58 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
Not wearing your press pass and yelling 'I'm a reporter" - well - you may have well been yelling I'm a bird.
Nov. 29, 2014, 11:41 am
Lilja 4-ever says:
Nov. 30, 2014, 12:14 pm

Comments closed.

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