Protesters calling for police reform clashed with officers as they marched down Flatbush Avenue to Grand Army Plaza on Tuesday, leading to multiple arrests and injuries on both sides.
Authorities arrested 42 people citywide, according to police, although it was not clear how many of those arrests occurred in Brooklyn. The demonstrators snarled traffic and a spokeswoman claimed protesters assaulted two officers in the melee, but police were nevertheless disproportionately forceful in their response to what was an otherwise peaceful rally, said one activist.
“It was obviously a display of violence against a peaceful protest,” said Keegan Stephan, a bicycle rights activist who documented the protest on social media. “Even if the allegations of an officer being assaulted are true, taking it out on an entire mass of people is an uncalled for and violent escalation.”
The march into Brooklyn was a splinter from a larger demonstration organized to revive the police reform protests of last fall, which roiled the city for weeks following the decision by grand juries in Missouri and Staten Island to not indict police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Tuesday’s protest came on the heels of the deaths of several more black men at the hands of police, including Walter Scott, who was shot in the back as he fled a traffic stop in South Carolina earlier this month.
At least one protester was transported to New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope after injuring her ribs in a scrum with police at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Sterling Place, Stephan said. Video taken at the scene and shared on Twitter shows an officer shoving the woman, causing her to fall and strike her ribs against a metal railing, resulting in bruising and possible fractured ribs, according to Stephan, who said he was with his friend at Methodist Hospital until her discharge at 1 am. He said he believes the officer was trying to injure, not apprehend, the woman.
“They didn’t try to arrest her, they were just pushing and grabbing and brutalizing,” he said.
Protesters assaulted two cops during the rally, and the officers were treated at local hospitals for knee, head, and back injuries, according to a police spokeswoman. Mayor DeBlasio, who police union leaders criticized last year for appearing to be soft on protesters, condemned violence against police.
“Any other person who might use the right to peaceful protest as cover to initiate violence, cause mayhem or incite disorder — whether against the police, the people, or property of our great city — should consider themselves on notice that New York City will not stand for it,” he said. “Anyone who decides foolishly to engage in such destructive acts can expect a swift arrest and aggressive prosecution. As I have said before, such activity is beneath the dignity of New York City.”
At least one member of the press was arrested in Brooklyn, a cameraman with a NYPD-issued press pass that was visible.
Video taken shortly before the photographer’s arrest shows the man well out of the center of the road, jogging away from police while filming the scene. Photographs on social media show police detaining another credentialed journalist on the Brooklyn Bridge.