Labor Day is typically a joyous time for me and the Caribbean community of New York City. This year, it turned chaotic for many, including for myself and a close colleague.
As always, I enjoyed marching with family and friends in the West Indian-American Day Carnival Parade down Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. Upon the conclusion of the parade route, members of the group I was marching with, which included Kirsten John Foy, director of community relations for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, sought to return to the Brooklyn Museum to attend a luncheon reception marking the close of the carnival.
Upon showing our credentials, we were given permission by a supervising officer near the library at Grand Army Plaza to enter a barricaded area, which was meant for elected officials and dignitaries, and make our way back to the museum. After walking several hundred yards and passing through an initial police checkpoint without any issues, we encountered three police officers standing on the sidewalk who informed us that this was a restricted area to civilians. I identified myself as a council member to the officers and explained that we were trying to get to the
The officers were immediately resistant. I showed the officers my council badge, and Foy explained that we were given permission by a higher ranking officer to be in the barricaded area. The officers still refused to acknowledge my credentials, as well as those of Foy, who was also trying to show his credentials at this time. They told me to have the officers who had given us permission relay their approval to them.
I attempted to reach two higher ranking officers which were just on the other side of the barricaded area, at which point I was pushed for the first time. I stepped back, asked not to be pushed, and said that I would be calling a local police chief to explain the situation. I was then pushed again. When I got on the phone with the chief, the group, which had swelled to 10-15 officers, formed a human barricade of sorts - and began physically pushing us more. Neither Foy nor I ever pushed them back; we only continued to try to dialogue with them about who we were and why we were there.
It was at this point, as video has now shown, that Foy was kicked in the back of the knee, pushed to the ground and handcuffed by officers. Shortly after, when I turned around briefly, I too was grabbed by the arm and placed in handcuffs. We were then led in separate directions, initially to the 78th Precinct headquarters. Then, after the intervention of several officials, we were taken to the Union Temple of Brooklyn, which is across from the library. After being held there for 40 to 60 minutes, we were released with no charges.
So what comes next? If I were not an elected official, I would have been taken to central booking and charged, no questions asked. That fact makes clear to me how serious the situation is for our young black and Latino men who suffer from this police culture every single day. While the actions of the select number of police officers involved here do not represent the entire NYPD, they do reflect a stop-and-frisk policy that unfairly targets people based on race and appearance.
Not only is this unproductive, it has not been proved to be effective in curbing violence in our communities. The increasing violence in my district alone is proof positive to me of this failure.
My intention is to make the Police Department better, not to attack it. That is why we are seeking reprimand and discipline of the officers in question, as well as policy change that includes the end to stop and frisk and other practices that disproportionately impact young black and Latino men. That is how something truly positive can come of this event.