#BaltimoreUprising Solidarity

Last night, NYPD took off the proverbial gloves and came down on a peaceful protest with an iron fist that made Ray Kelly’s policing feel like being treated with kid gloves.

The Baltimore Uprising solidarity march convened in Union Square, reminiscent of the large gathering after the non-indictments of the cops who killed Mike Brown and Eric Garner, except the vibe was actually much less tense.

It felt more like a street fair with people mingling than the palpable anger that could be felt after the non-indictments.

Everything changed the moment we left Union Square.

Taking the streets headed West on 17th St, cops ordered everyone onto the sidewalk, but before we could make it even half a block, cops sealed off the street and were making mass arrests.

As protesters tried to back out the other direction, the NYPD broke them up into several groups.

We obviously wanted to stay together, but by detaining small groups and forcing them to leave in different directions, the NYPD effectively broke us up.

I joined a group headed South. We were able to stay ahead of the police and thus shut down Broadway and then Canal Street.

But as soon as we hit the West Side Highway, cops flew in from all direction, sealed in the march, began shoving and making more brutal arrests.

 

They forced the protesters to climb the concrete barrier to get onto the temporary “sidewalk” along the construction site of this part of the highway to leave, and from this point on, they had zero tolerance for protesters being in the street or even crossing against the light, while they blocked traffic and parked in sidewalks themselves.

When we returned to Canal, another brief attempt was made to take the street, but the NYPD responded swiftly and tactically, in a way I’d never seen.

There were originally only about 10 officers asking us to get on the sidewalk, so it did not feel like they were about to make a mass arrest, but then dozens of cops literally ran in from all directions, around corners, sealed off the street again, and arrested almost the entire group I was with.

It seems most other groups faired the same. I biked around the city trying to join up with others that were reportedly still intact, but found small groups, mostly corralled onto sidewalks.

  Heavily armed cops guarded all major arterials (and banks).  

 

Eventually, I caught up with the last large group still moving. They were relegated to the sidewalks, but high energy and positive. I caught up with them in the 20s on Broadway, where the wide sidewalks and long blocks were conducive to waiting for the light and crossing as a group.

However, after we passed through Union Square and headed south on University Place, it became hard to cross together and stay on the sidewalk as one group, and the NYPD’s behavior got more egregious than I had seen all night.

They had a  truck blaring warnings not to be in the roadway or cross against the light, which the protesters obeyed, waiting for the lights, staying together, and getting everyone through on a single light cycle.

 However, there were inevitably stragglers who were caught in the intersection as the signal turned solid red.

They tended to be people on their phones or chatting with their friends, and they were never blocking any traffic, but the NYPD treated them like they had just smashed  a window.

I watched White Shirts chase down tackle people from behind who were merely inadvertently crossing against the light.

This was obviously stressful and draining, so before going more than 10 blocks, the group debriefed and called it a night.

The police response was shocking to say the least.

The last time protesters were gathered in these numbers, they were afforded the opportunity express their grievances.

The NYPD very publicly said they were going to be hands-off with the protesters and even criticized the excessive shows of force in other departments around the country:

Many people, including myself, partially credited their hands-off tactics to the protests in NYC being considered the most peaceful around the country happening at that time.

This time, the NYPD seemed to assume the worst from us, which was completely unwarranted.

The organizers of this march were the same who organized the Millions March NYC, which remained peaceful despite massive numbers and long hours, and the flier for this march literally said it was going to be “the most peaceful protest in the history of NYC.”

Still, it seems that simply because we said we were in solidarity with Baltimore, where there has been some property damage in response to the police killing a young man of color in their custody, nearly fully severing his spine, the NYPD assumed we would break laws to warrant violent arrests, and preemptively made those violent arrests.

We were presumed guilty of violent actions even without proof of any violent intent, even with abundant proof of the opposite intent.

It felt like we are just not allowed to protest anymore, in any way, at all. Except in pens with permits. Maybe.

It goes without saying the NYPD’s behavior was a huge violation of our First Amendment Rights. I believe the City owes the people of New York an explanation for the NYPD’s outrageous behavior.

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