The arrest of a teenage woman wanted on criminal-mischief charges by the NYPD’s plainclothes warrant squad during a daytime protest through Kips Bay July 28 has provoked angry responses from some elected officials, who called it needlessly aggressive.
According to video and bystanders’ accounts of the incident, Nikki Stone, an 18-year-old transgender woman, was yanked off the street by several officers and hauled off into an unmarked minivan parked in the middle of the Second Ave. and East 25th St. intersection while uniformed NYPD cops on bicycles ran interference against protesters.
Monahan: Arrest OK
Although Chief of Department Terence Monahan said he would have liked the arrest to have been effectuated away from crowds, he defended the manner in which it was done.
He said the warrant team had Ms. Stone, who he said had no known address, under observation for 30 minutes waiting for her to leave the protest area but that she instead approached the officers and began cursing them out, and also alerted others to their presence.
The officers then drove off but she followed them, Chief Monahan said during an interview with WABC-TV forwarded by the NYPD. Soon after, the officers communicated to the nearby uniformed cops that they were going to move to arrest Ms. Stone.
“There was nothing else to be done. She approached them,” Chief Monahan said. “They were doing what they do...They had to make that arrest. At that point this is what we do—we lock people up who commit crimes in the city."
Mayor Among Critics
Some elected officials, including Mayor de Blasio, said the tactics echoed those by Federal agents in Portland, Oregon, where personnel from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been working in concert with state and local law enforcement, ostensibly to protect a Federal courthouse in that city. Following those arrests, allegations surfaced that the Federal agents were engaged in kidnapping sweeps.
President Trump has on several occasions hinted that he would be sending Federal agents to New York City to quell a spike in violent crime.
Within hours of Ms. Stone’s arrest, social media was alight with unsubstantiated allegations that Federal agents had begun sweeps of kidnappings in the city. One tweet appeared to have been replicated dozens of times by bot software; “Top story: 'NYC is taking after Portland—a trans femme protestor was pulled into an unmarked van at the Abolition Park protest—this was at 2nd Ave and 25th Street,’ ” it read.
Ms. Stone, who was issued a desk appearance ticket, faces five charges of criminal mischief and related counts for making graffiti in several different locations, including the Oculus, and for damaging four police surveillance cameras in and around City Hall Park, police said.
Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who represents the neighborhood, said in a Twitter thread the following day that the manner of the arrest necessitated an independent review and “an immediate explanation for why an unmarked van full of officers was anywhere near a peaceful protest.”
She said using an unmarked vehicle and plainclothes officers “to make an arrest for vandalism (in the middle of a peaceful protest) is a massive overstep.”
She said she was “exploring legislation” but did not detail what that might entail.
Councilman Brad Lander agreed with his Council colleague: “with anxiety about what’s happening in Portland, the NYPD deploying unmarked vans with plainclothes cops to make street arrests of protestors feels more like provocation than public safety,” he tweeted.
Mayor de Blasio also expressed dismay with how Ms. Stone was arrested.
“I think, again, that given this atmosphere that we're dealing within our country and the real concerns people have, it just didn't make sense,” he said during his July 29 media briefing. "It was the wrong time and the wrong place to effectuate that arrest.”
He then went on to say that there were no Federal agents involved, “nor would we be involved with Federal agents in anything like that.” The Mayor said he would be speaking with Commissioner Dermot Shea about the incident.
'Unfair to Demonize'
Chief Monahan said he “absolutely” understood how someone seeing the video without context could find it disturbing.
“You see something like that happening, you don’t know what’s going on. That’s why it’s important for us to get the facts out of what actually occurred and the full facts after a full investigation,” he told WABC. Still, he said, “People can’t rush to judgment on what happens."
Police unions, however, had no qualms about the manner of the arrest.
“Someone broke the law—on video—and they were arrested for it,” a tweet from a recently set up account representing the city’s five police unions read July 29. “That’s not an ‘abduction.’ ”
A subsequent tweet from the coalition chastised city politicians for speaking out against the arrest: “The politicians are joining in with protestors—who are destroying fire trucks, police cars & equipment, streets signs, traffic lights, & public buildings at great cost to taxpayers—in criticizing police officers.”
The NYPD has said damage to its equipment, including to more than 300 police vehicles, during the last few weeks' protests have so far amounted to about $1 million.
The president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, Paul DiGiacomo, also criticized elected officials for the manner by which they framed the arrest, calling it “by the book.”
“The politicians all seem to be trying to one-up each other and, in the process, they continue, unfairly, to demonize our police for no good reason,” he said in a statement. “The DEA stands by our Detectives in making this appropriate and lawful arrest. The subject committed a crime and there were warrants out for Stone’s arrest...A society that makes enemies of its police had better learn to make friends with its criminals.”
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