Black Lives Matter protesters were left stunned Tuesday evening (July 28) when New York City police officers, several in plain clothes, abruptly poured out of an unmarked minivan and dragged a trans femme demonstrator inside.
In an incident likened to a “kidnapping” by some protesters, 18-year-old Nikki Stone was jockeyed by officers into a plain white vehicle. Stone is, according to those who knew them, homeless.
The New York City Police Department said in a Twitter statement that Stone was singled out and taken into custody for “damaging police cameras during five separate criminal incidents in and around City Hall Park”.
The statement alluded to Stone’s alleged involvement in the earlier Occupy City Hall protests, a 24-hour emplacement where 100 people sought to pressure city officials to cut police funding.
Police added that officers in the warrant squad, a unit of the force that tracks down those facing open arrest warrants, were simply following standard procedure.
Yet those advocating for an overhaul of police administrations were quick to dispute the official version of events.
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
Homeless trans femme Black Lives Matter protester pulled into unmarked minivan by police.
Activists filmed the incident on their mobile phones, with footage quickly going viral and becoming a wholesale example of the increasingly violent scenes playing out in a country struggling to grapple with its racist histories.
The department claimed that when the minivan rolled up, officers “were assaulted with rocks and bottles.” However, none of the footage filmed by those on the ground appeared to indicate this and protesters vehemently dispute this narrative.
“None of that happened whatsoever,” Clara Kraebber, a 20-year-old Oxford student, told Gothamist. “We literally turned the corner and were met with a line of police who attacked us without warning.”
“We were skateboarding and eating pizza,” said another witness.
“We didn’t see where they came from. All of a sudden they grabbed Nikki. It was like a kidnapping.”
Another angle of plainclothes officers pushing a protester into a minivan on 2nd Ave near 25th earlier tonight. “We were skateboarding and eating pizza,” said one witness. “We didn’t see where they came from. All of a sudden they grabbed Nicki. It was like a kidnapping.” pic.twitter.com/rzymNjlVVo
— Jake Offenhartz (@jangelooff) July 29, 2020
The NYPD kidnapping an organizer of the peaceful 24 hour march today and throwing them in unmarked van from Abolition Park on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/coyvPkoDAm
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) July 28, 2020
Footage showed protesters, some on skateboards and bicycles, skimming down the street before panning to Stone being roughly grappled by an officer.
As protesters gathered to watch in disbelief, uniformed officers flooded the scene, cordoning protesters with their bicycles while Stone was pulled into the minivan.
“Get back, get back!” one bellowed, as he charged towards protesters on foot.
Further footage showed the tense aftermath of the arrest. Remaining officers and protesters squared off, while one cop appeared to brandish a spray canister and a large baton.
Stone was released from custody the following day. Police said Stone will face charges of criminal mischief related to the five incidents and will be receiving a desk appearance ticket, the Washington Post reported.
Here’s my full video of what happened on 25th & 2nd in NYC! Keep in mind this was a peaceful protest that was headed to Madison Sq Park for a meditation & an unmarked van snatched a protester & NYPD started attacking us! #BLM pic.twitter.com/USUGgIDDIH
— Lauren (@feistymexarican) July 28, 2020
The arrest took place at Second Avenue and East 25th Street in the Kips Bay area of Manhattan, authorities said.
The incident quickly drew unnerving parallels to the pinched scenes of Portland, where the sight of federal agents dressed in camouflage and tactical gear throwing blood-covered protesters into unmarked vans have sparked a new wave of protests.
‘There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.’
As police practices come under intensifying scrutiny, the incident became a lightning rod for criticism from various lawmakers and city officials.
“Our civil liberties are on brink,” Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
“This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.”
New York City Council member Brad Lander said: “With anxiety about what’s happening in Portland, the NYPD deploying unmarked vans with plainclothes cops to make street arrests of protestors [sic] feels more like provocation than public safety.”
The ongoing bind in New York, where Black Lives Matter protesters in various forms have simmered for weeks, reflect the emerging fault lines in law enforcement under the Trump administration.
The US president has brandished a brute law-and-order approach to tamp down the civil turmoil, that many say has instead stoked tensions even higher.
People have packed the streets and avenues of Manhattan to protest against aggressive and racially discriminatory police tactics, flared by the slaying of Black man George Floyd at the knee of a white officer.
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