Hundreds protest police’s use of force in viral Canarsie arrest

Fitzroy Gayle, center, is joined by Reverend Kevin McCall, his attorney Sanford Rubenstein and his mother at a protest Thursday night.
Photo by Zoe Freilich

Hundreds of protesters rallied outside Canarsie’s 69th Police Precinct on Thursday to demand answers after a viral video captured police officers tackling 20-year-old Fitzroy Gayle to the ground during an arrest for alleged marijuana possession.

“We had a rally outside of the precinct calling on the District Attorney of Brooklyn to investigate this heinous kidnapping and assault,” said Rev. Kevin McCall of the Crisis Action Center in Brownsville. 

Video captured and posted to Twitter Thursday morning showed a plainclothes officer holding Gayle at gunpoint before a swarm of police brutally tackle him to the ground. In the video, the young man can be heard screaming in terror. 

Police say Gayle was smoking marijuana inside 100% Playground on Glenwood Road and had resisted arrest but his defense attorney contends that his client had not committed any crimes and will plead not guilty to charges at a March 24 court appearance.

“We will be appearing on March 24, answering the charges and pleading not guilty and requesting the charges to be dismissed in the interest of justice,” said Sanford Rubenstein. “And we are going to convince the district attorney’s office that they should not prosecute.”

At Thursday’s protest, calls were made for the NYPD to fire the officers involved in the arrest. 

“We called for justice. No Justice, No Peace. Lock them up,” McCall said. “They need to be locked up for doing a criminal act which is kidnapping and assault live on video.”

The mother of Gayle told demonstrators the video of her son made her immediately think back to the 2014 police-related death of Eric Garner, whose mother will join protesters for a march on Saturday from 100% Playground to the 69th Precinct station house, McCall said.  

After his arrest, Gayle was held in the precinct for 12 hours until McCall said he went to the station himself and demanded his release. He was taken out of custody within the next hour. 

Rubenstein said his client sustained multiple injuries during the incident. 

“He suffered injuries to the head to the knee to the ankle the neck and the back when he was violently brought to the ground and stomped on,” he said.

The arrest comes after Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez enacted policies largely decriminalizing marijuana possession in Brooklyn, which he believes disproportionately impacts young men of color.