HIV/AIDS and #BlackLivesMatter activists in NYC are demanding an investigation by the New York State Attorney General of an incident in Greenwich Village on June 2.
#BLM protesters, many of them queer and/or AIDS activists, were beaten and arrested by police during a face-off in The Village.
This happened in a week where cops nationwide were coming under scrutiny for aggressive and sometimes violent treatment of mostly young protesters who flooded the streets this country in the wake of the May 25 death in Minneapolis of George Floyd.
According to The Body,
The New York City incident was preceded by a rally of about 1,000 people, mostly LGBTQ, in front of the Village’s iconic Stonewall Inn in recognition of police and civilian violence against Black transgender people. Specifically, the rally, organized by several queer and trans groups including Black Trans Media and Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, was meant to memorialize Nina Pop, a Black Missouri transgender woman, and Tony McDade, a Black Florida transgender man, who were killed in May.
According to accounts told to TheBody by four people who were arrested, after the rally, the crowd splintered into various marches through the streets of downtown Manhattan. According to ACT UP member Jason Rosenberg (whose HIV-positive uncle was written about in TheBody recently after dying of COVID-19), he was in a group that worked its way down the West Side Highway (parallel to the Hudson River) into Lower Manhattan, but when some marchers broke into and began looting a Starbucks, he and fellow ACT UP members Jake Powell and Bri’anna Moore decided to split.
“That was not what we signed up for,” says Rosenberg.
Aiming to head home—they were already out after the 8 p.m. curfew that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had called—they fell into step with a large group of mostly queer protesters making their way up to Union Square (in the middle of Manhattan’s 14th Street axis) from the Lower East Side. But past Union Square, at the intersection of 14th Street and Fifth Avenue, the group encountered what they say was a phalanx of New York Police Department cops, some of them having apparently piled atop protesters before arresting them.
Echoing the other accounts, Rosenberg says that the cops ambushed protesters, using their batons to either beat them or shove them violently to the crowd, then arrested them with plastic zip-cuffs.
“Then there was escalation.
I just remember several officers coming at us from every side, punching me, beating with their batons, kicking. I remember being hit on the head, but not who did it or how many times. I don’t remember what they or I were saying, but it went on for a few minutes.”
As a widely circulated photo shows, Rosenberg ended up on the ground with others, cuffed, with blood streaming down his face. Protesters chanted “Medic! Medic!” to tend to Rosenberg and others who were complaining of handcuffs cutting off circulation.
“The cops grabbed me, threw me to the sidewalk. [They say they were scraped and bruised but not seriously injured.] In about 10 minutes, about 30 of us were handcuffed and on the ground. The cuffs of the woman next to me were so tight that I could see her hand seizing. Everyone was screaming, ‘Take off the cuffs!’ to well over a hundred cops, but they said that none of them had brought scissors. One cop used a serrated pocketknife against the woman’s skin to try to cut the cuffs, but he eventually gave up and left her there.
There was also a young Black man who’d been arrested while saying he was just walking home and his cuffs were so tight that he was going in and out of consciousness, slumped over with his eyes rolling back. Some of the other protesters said they saw him vomiting blood, but the cops were saying he was faking it.”
That man alone, says Powell, was finally put into an ambulance.
At a time when most New Yorkers are wearing masks to prevent giving or getting COVID-19, added Powell, most of the cops in the melee were not—and did not seem to care that many cuffed protesters complained about their own masks having come off amid the skirmish.
According to Rosenberg, when his cuffs were finally removed in jail, he realized that his arm felt like it was swinging from his elbow. In jail the police referred to him as “the bloody one,” and one cop cracked,
“At least now you look badass.”
He posted the video below after being released. Then he went to the ER. After that, he posted:
“We finally made it home. Luckily the ER was wrong in saying I need surgery. A broken humerus with a brace, 9 staples, and some scrapes. Let’s start the healing and keep protesting from home. And just so everyone’s aware … we were peaceful. We linked our arms in civil disobedience, not resisting arrest. We were beaten. Fuck anyone who tries to say otherwise. Tony McDade you were not murdered in cold blood by the police in [vain]. #justicefortony”
Those involved say they have no intention of stopping their participation in protests against police brutality and for changes that include the dramatic defunding of the NYPD, passage of a long-dormant anti-chokehold bill, and repeal of a New York State law (50-a) that shields police officers’ disciplinary records from public view.
“The NYPD are an occupying force, and we need to stop it.
Seeing peaceful protesters being beaten by police officers have made it abundantly clear to me that policing is not about safety. Reducing policing will create safer communities than now, where we have a military occupying our city.”
“The mayor [de Blasio] needs to resign. You can’t be mayor of a city where you’re afraid of your own police department and they have so much power over you. We also need to defund them. Their $6 billion budget is way more than is spent on social services, health, the fire department.
It’s ridiculous how much money and power they have.”
(Photos, Jason Rosenberg, James Keivom; via The Body)