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Mayor Adams Says NYPD Did a ‘Commendable Job’ Violently Arresting and Punching Pro-Palestinian Protesters in Bay Ridge

The mayor and the NYPD are also repeating the "outside agitator" narrative, plus more links to start your week.

Members of the NYPD arrest Pro-Palestinian protesters with the Within Our Lifetime protest group outside of the Brooklyn Museum in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US, February 10, 2024 (Stephanie Keith / Hell Gate)

Once again, the NYPD has responded to a pro-Palestinian demonstration with violence, and once again, the department is attempting to portray demonstrators as outsiders who don't belong in New York City.

For years, the organization Within Our Lifetime has held a rally and a march in Bay Ridge in mid-May to commemorate Nakba Day. But this year, WOL co-founder Nerdeen Kiswani told Hell Gate that there was a "marked difference" in how the NYPD policed the protest. Usually, she said, they're monitored by officers from the local 68th Precinct. But Saturday's rally featured officers from the Strategic Response Group, as well as others pulled from all over the city, including an aggressive group of white-shirted senior police officials—familiar sights at pro-Palestinian events since October 7.

"Right from the very beginning, they were shoving and pushing people to get onto the sidewalks. Again, a departure from how they usually police these things," Kiswani said. "Typically we're able to take up the roadway."

Kiswani described the SRG officers as "predators on the hunt," following demonstrators and then abruptly creating human barricades. "The SRG cops clad in their yellow uniforms would link their bikes together across an entire intersection, like on the sidewalk and the street so that you cannot move forward even even on the sidewalk. And then they're demanding people to get on the sidewalk in conditions that they create, which make it physically impossible to even attempt to do that," Kiswani said. This is a police tactic known as "kettling," which the NYPD recently agreed to stop using to settle lawsuits related to how the department policed the 2020 protests (though technically, they don't have to abide by the settlement just yet).

"They were chasing us, grabbing people at random, whether they were on the sidewalk or roadway, body slamming people which I personally witnessed, pummeling them after they were already on the ground until they bled," Kiswani said. "And throughout they were mocking us, making gestures towards us."

One video taken by journalist Katie Smith shows an NYPD senior officer wearing a white shirt, repeatedly punching a protester who is already lying on the ground—someone that Kiswani told Hell Gate is a Jewish member of Within Our Lifetime. 

"They've been a drummer at all our actions for years," Kiswani said. Another video of the NYPD attack on the WOL member shows the drummer dropping his drum and clutching his drum sticks as he's beaten.

In a different video, an NYPD official in a white shirt punches a man in the back of the head, seemingly without provocation.

At least 41 people were arrested at the rally, according to NYPD tweets. (Hell Gate asked the NYPD's press shop for the number of arrests and a list of charges, but on Monday morning received an email stating that "the list is still being compiled," and the Mayor's Office has not responded to our questions.) In a statement, City Councilmember Justin Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, home to the biggest Palestinian community in the entire city, said, "I saw no evidence of actions by protestors today that warranted such an aggressive response from NYPD." State Senator Andrew Gounardes, who also represents the neighborhood, tweeted that the videos were "incredibly concerning."

One official who is not concerned: Mayor Eric Adams, who made a series of media appearances on Monday morning assuring New Yorkers that the NYPD "did a commendable job under difficult circumstances." He said the NYPD is reviewing the footage of the officer punching the person on the ground, and called it an "isolated incident." Adams also claimed that the protesters were "from outside the city and outside the Bay Ridge area." The NYPD is making similar statements from its social media accounts. None of the police videos include footage of the officers punching protesters:

It's the same assertion Adams and the NYPD made when cops broke up the student-led protests at Columbia University and CUNY's City College, and pointed to a common bike lock as evidence of "outside agitators." The NYPD was later forced to admit that most of the people they arrested were students.

Kiswani called the mayor's comments "ridiculous."

"You don’t have to be from Bay Ridge to care about Palestine," Kiswani said. "We've been asking people from communities everywhere to stand against the genocide of our people. We've been having rallies with tens of thousands of people from all over the city that have been peaceful. However, now that the police show up as outside agitators with riot gear and taunts towards our community, they instigate violence and chaos instead of letting us get our message across peacefully as we've always been able to do." 

Asked why she believes the NYPD is violently policing pro-Palestinian rallies, Kiswani brought up the Washington Post story from last week, which detailed a meeting between Mayor Adams and a group of billionaires who asked him to use the NYPD to break up the campus protests. "I think that pretty much explains it," Kiswani said. "Eric Adams is a Zionist."

On Monday morning, Adams called the WaPo report "antisemitic in its core."

Update: The NYPD says two people at the demonstration were arrested, charged, and arraigned, one for felony assault and resisting arrest, and another for misdemeanor assault, reckless endangerment, and resisting arrest.

Fifteen other protesters were issued desk appearance tickets for offenses ranging from disorderly conduct to resisting arrest to "obstructing governmental administration."

And 24 others received criminal summonses for disorderly conduct.

And some other stories for your Monday, courtesy of "outside agitators":

And finally, Josh Hart is a New Yorker.

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