Transit advocates call out NYPD for ‘using 6,000-pound SUVs as weapons’ at Brooklyn protest

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A still of an NYPD cruiser plowing through a crowd of demonstrators along Flatbush Avenue.

Safe streets advocates are slamming the New York City Police Department after footage from Brooklyn’s George Floyd demonstrations show a police cruiser plowing through a crowd of protesters on Saturday night.

What Mayor Bill de Blasio described as demonstrators surrounding the vehicle was inexcusable to advocacy groups like Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives, who each issued statements alleging police misconduct.

Video from the incident shows protesters behind barriers and in front of the vehicle on Flatbush Avenue. After objects such as traffic cones were hurled at the SUV, the officer behind the wheel hits the gas, plowing through people.

Although nobody was killed, the incident heightened tensions between protesters and police.

“We are deeply disturbed by videos showing NYPD officers driving SUVs into crowds of people during last night’s protest in Brooklyn. We demand a full investigation into these events, and for our mayor to hold those responsible accountable,” Families for Safe Streets Co-Founder Amy Cohen said. “Such brutal tactics, like using 6,000-pound SUVs as weapons against people, must be immediately rooted out of the NYPD by Mayor de Blasio and [Police] Commissioner [Dermot] Shea. These actions are unacceptable and run counter to the very concept of street safety and Vision Zero that the NYPD is supposed to uphold.”

Though de Blasio said the actions of the officers may not have been in good judgment, he believes the driver may have taken whatever action he could out of desperation.

“It’s inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers. That’s wrong on its face and that hasn’t happened in the history of protest in this city,” de Blasio said. “I’ve been watching protests for decades. People don’t do that. And so, it’s clear that a different element has come into play here who are trying to hurt police officers and trying to damage their vehicles. And if a police officer is in that situation, they have to get out of that situation.”

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris, however, argues that the power dynamic was not in the hand of demonstrators, but in the hands of cops who were using cars as a weapon.

“It is a shocking sight to see police, who are sworn to protect and serve us, using their vehicles as weapons against New Yorkers,” Harris said. “As people who have been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to traffic violence, we understand all too well the damage that multi-ton motorized vehicles can do. I have personally stood by the mayor as he pledged to confront traffic violence while holding a photo of my 12-year-old son who was killed in a crash. We demand accountability, and we expect him to stand by that promise now.”

Sunday morning, de Blasio said he would implement a review of all NYPD officers’ actions over the weekend in conjunction with the Corporation Counsel and the city’s Department of Investigation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered Attorney General Letitia James to investigate police conduct throughout the last several nights of rioting to ensure there was no foul play. He placed a 30-day deadline on the investigation.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.