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Williams: Cops wouldn’t have cuffed me if I was white

Williams displays the badge that he flashed police before being handcuffed and detained at Monday’s West Indian Day Parade.
Photo by Tom Tracy

Flatbush Councilman Jumaane Williams is lashing out at cops who handcuffed and detained him during the West Indian Parade on Monday, claiming that they are lying about the incident, and that it wouldn’t have happened if he was white.

“[The police] should cease and desist with the lies,” Williams (D–Flatbush) said on Tuesday morning, his first public comments since the parade incident. “They should just say that they committed an error and were going to correct it. They should not insult our intelligence. Just because we’re black doesn’t mean we’re dumb.”

Williams and Kirsten John-Foy, who is an aide to Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, were walking down an empty, cordoned-off sidewalk as they made their way to a luncheon at the Brooklyn Museum at 1:30 pm on Monday when several officers stopped the pair and demanded to know why they were inside a “frozen zone.”

The duo claimed they flashed their identification and said that an NYPD supervisor gave them permission to enter the blocked-off area, but the officers wouldn’t hear it.

One officer knocked John-Foy to the sidewalk and both were handcuffed before they were taken to the Union Temple, a synagogue across the street on Eastern Parkway, where they were held until their identities were confirmed.

“I was backing up and moving away with my ID in my hand, but that wasn’t enough for them,” John-Foy remembered. “One cop grabbed me by the back of the neck and tried to push me to the ground, but when that didn’t work he did some kind of judo leg sweep, bringing me down. It’s a surreal experience until your spitting grass out of your mouth. That makes it very real.”

Police verified that the two had been detained, but cops say that they only handcuffed and moved them when a brawl broke out nearby where a police captain was punched.

Williams and John-Foy contend that the cops soon released them.

In the hours after the incident, some — including Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene) — said that the confrontation smacked of racial profiling, and on Tuesday, Williams racheted up that rhetoric even though some of the officers involved were black.

“If I were a white elected official, this whole thing would not have happened,” said Williams, who called for sweeping policy changes on how the police deal with city minorities.

He also contended that cop’s version of the events was a “bald-faced lie.”

“I defy the police to show one shred of evidence that a fight broke out at that moment,” he said. “You cannot punch a police captain in the face and not get arrested.”

Yet cops say they have the evidence: Captain Charles Girvan, the executive officer of the 68th Precinct in Bay Ridge, was struck on the right side of the face by an unknown assailant at the same time Williams was arrested, although an NYPD spokesman would not say just where the attack took place. Nor would he say if there were any arrests.

“No one said Councilmember Williams witnessed or was aware of the captain being punched, but the fact remains that it did happen,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said in a statement.

Despite the NYPD’s assertion that Williams’s detention was necessary, the councilman claims that he and John-Foy were targeted because they were black.

Many agreed with Williams.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jefferies (D–Fort Greene) called the incident an “unjustified arrest.”

“Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly should make sure all responsible officers are strongly disciplined,” Jefferies said.

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