On Saturday evening, a large group of New York City police officers charged protesters, diners and pedestrians in Manhattan’s West Village, arresting 12 people and raising questions about the aggressive response.
After breaking into a peaceful artistic protest in Washington Square Park, NYPD officers took the group to a nearby street at around 8pm, according to NBC New York. Protesters at the scene had made their way to the district police house in the neighborhood because officers had confiscated their music equipment.
Police said in a statement they “responded to a large messy group obstructing vehicular traffic in the vicinity of 10 Street and Hudson Street within the boundaries of the 6th Precinct.”
But the photos and videos of the crash appeared to show a different scene. The images captured from different angles appear to depict a small group of protesters on one side of the road and dozens of officers on the other.
After a message played by a loudspeaker saying: “Please note that pedestrians are not allowed to walk on the street or carriageway”, the police rushed towards the protesters on the opposite sidewalk, grabbing the people and arresting them. The videos show some people trying to escape, as the police pushed them inside the diners having an outdoor meal.
People who were not part of the small protest said they found themselves running away from the police.
Molly Dillon, a political adviser to New York state senator Alessandra Biaggi, told NBC News she was in the neighborhood when she saw “the huge amount of police officers.”
“Suddenly the police came running across the street to the people watching them,” Dillon said. “People weren’t on the street. People weren’t singing. People were stopped to watch the 100 or 200 NYPDs gathered around.”
“As soon as the police started running my friends and I ran down the sidewalk and into the restaurant wall behind us, near a table of diners who let us in,” he said.
Dillon added that he noticed that very few officers wore masks and there was no social distance.
Rebecca Fishbein, a reporter and author who was on the scene, said on Twitter that she was “walking around Hudson after a micro-wedding on the water, not there as a reporter.”
“I don’t recommend running away from the police in high heels” he wrote, adding that “no one was even on the street” when the police rushed on them.
“I’ve lived in New York for 31 years and this was the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.
The NYPD said “a group of about 150 protesters arrived in the 6th district and blocked traffic” and took the people into custody “after multiple warnings to clear the sidewalk”.
In total, police arrested 12 people, eight of whom received summonses for disorderly conduct, the NYPD said.
Brad Hoylman, a New York state senator for Manhattan, said his office was in contact with police about their use of force Saturday night.
“We are exhausted from watching video after video and hearing in person voters of unexplained escalation undermining already fragile trust,” wrote on Twitter.
Matteo Moschella contributed.