A viral video that emerged Tuesday shows several New York Police Department officers wearing T-shirts and shorts grabbing a protester and dragging her toward an unmarked vehicle, according to video footage filmed and posted to social media by bystanders.
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 pic.twitter.com/1PDhSYuK9h
— michelle lh࿊࿊q (@MichelleLhooq) July 28, 2020
nypd is out here KIDNAPPING protesters off of the street pic.twitter.com/LCCBj0Ipp8
— Natalie (@Naddleez) July 28, 2020
The NYPD responded to widespread criticism of the aggressive detainment of the woman by saying in tweets that the woman was wanted for “”damaging police cameras” and that “the arresting officers were assaulted with rocks & bottles.” In another tweeted statement Tuesday night the police confirmed that the arrest was conducted using an unmarked gray minivan, saying that the “Warrant Squad” uses unmarked vehicles to “effectively locate wanted suspects.”
The police statements following the event were disputed by bystanders who told Gothamist that they had not engaged in physical confrontation with the officers before Stone was suddenly grabbed.
“None of that happened whatsoever,” Clara Kraebber told Gothamist. “We literally turned the corner and were met with a line of police who attacked us without warning.”
Kraebber said officers pepper sprayed the group in what seemed like an effort to “make it painful to be there.”
The videos resembled scenes similar to those described in Portland, where unidentified federal officers reportedly whisked people off the streets into unmarked vehicles during the nighttime hours often after they had departed protests.
Protesters who witnessed the incident in New York on Tuesday night described it as a “kidnapping,” to Gothamist, while several New York elected officials, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), condemned the officers’ actions.
“Our civil liberties are on brink. This is not a drill,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.”
City comptroller Scott Stringer (D) who previously criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for not acting to prevent police violence during protests, demanded in a tweet Tuesday night, “We need answers immediately.”
Authorities told The Washington Post in an email that the protester was 18-year-old Nikki Stone. Police told the Post that Stone faces charges with criminal mischief related to five incidents around City Hall Park.
The actions of the federal agents in Portland, who were deployed as part of a show of force championed by President Donald Trump, have stoked fear in cities like New York and Chicago where protests have continued since the police killing of George Floyd in May.
Oregon’s attorney general Ellen Rosenblum, who had failed to secure a restraining order in Portland against federal agents who were pulling protesters into unmarked vans, warned in an interview with The New York Times Friday that clashes seen in Portland between protesters and federal agents who were dispatched to quell them, “could be happening in your city next.”
President Trump has been widely criticized for using federal agents as part of a campaign strategy for re-election, dispatching federal muscle in places that have made it clear that they do not want to repeat the violent scenes witnessed in Portland.
In interviews, Trump has stood by the dispatch of federal law enforcement in Portland, even seeming to mock elected officials who have pushed back on the move. In a phone interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity Thursday Trump called Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) “pathetic” and saying the mayor who was tear-gassed during a demonstration outside of a federal courthouse “made a fool out of himself” by deciding joining in a night if protest.
“At some point we’re going to have to do something much stronger than being invited in,” Trump told Hannity, after announcing his plans to dispatch up to 75,000 federal agents to American cities to address crime and protect federal buildings.