“Our civil liberties are on the brink,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.”
Wednesday, July 29
Plainclothes officers from the New York City Police Department on Tuesday snatched an 18-year-old protester off the streets, threw her into an unmarked minivan, and sped away without explanation, a disturbing incident that immediately drew comparisons to the authoritarian tactics recently used by federal agents in Portland, Oregon.
One video shows several officers dressed in shorts and T-shirts rushing out of an unmarked Kia minivan, grabbing a demonstrator from the middle of the street, and forcing her into the van as NYPD officers with bikes formed a barrier around the vehicle. The protester was later identified by friends as an 18-year-old trans woman named Nicki.
“Suddenly there was an unmarked grey van that moved out in front of us that had been waiting for us,” one witness told Gothamist. “Four guys jumped out and a line of police bicycles came out from down the block—we hadn’t seen them. They pushed us back. They grabbed Nicki like she was a rag doll.”
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
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
“Our civil liberties are on the brink,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted in response to the incident. “This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans. To not protect our rights is to give them away. It is our responsibility to resist authoritarianism.”
In a statement posted to Twitter late Tuesday after the officers’ actions sparked widespread condemnation, the NYPD claimed the “woman taken into custody in an unmarked van was wanted for damaging police cameras during five separate criminal incidents in and around City Hall Park.”
“When officers from the Warrant Squad took the woman into custody in a gray NYPD minivan this evening, they were assaulted with rocks and bottles,” the NYPD said, an account witnesses dismissed as completely false. “The Warrant Squad uses unmarked vehicles to effectively locate wanted suspects.”
Clara Kraebber, a 20-year-old Oxford student who witnessed the incident, told Gothamist that “none of that happened whatsoever,” referring to the NYPD’s claim that demonstrators threw rocks and bottles at the officers. Kraebber said officers indiscriminately pepper sprayed demonstrators as the cops shoved Nicki into the unmarked van.
“We literally turned the corner and were met with a line of police who attacked us without warning,” said Kraebber.
this is…kidnapping https://t.co/iT7SDb5RWx
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 28, 2020
The New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York state affiliate of the ACLU, called the NYPD’s behavior “horrifying and indefensible” and said it is investigating.
“We’re looking into the incident that happened tonight, but one thing is for certain: violently forcing protesters into an unmarked van are the actions of a police force that think they can act with impunity,” the group said. “We won’t allow this in our city.”
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We Are Tracking What Happens to Police After They Use Force on Protestors
These 68 videos show clear apparent instances of police officers escalating violence during protests. Most departments refused to share details about investigations and discipline or even officers’ names. Here’s what we learned about each case.
As protests erupted around the country in late May in response to the killing in police custody of George Floyd, police departments seemed to respond with more violence. In the ensuing weeks, hundreds of videos of police interactions with protesters surfaced on Twitter and other social media sites, often drawing outrage and, in some cases, swift disciplinary and legal action.
ProPublica wanted to find out what happens after these moments are caught on tape. We culled hundreds of videos to find those with the clearest examples of officers apparently using a disproportionate level of force against protesters and reached out to 40 law enforcement agencies about the 68 incidents below. For each incident, we inquired about any disciplinary action, investigations and whether the department would disclose the officer or officers involved. While some departments provided details or relevant public records, others leaned on state laws to withhold information. Here’s what we learned about each case. Do you have information about one of these cases? Tell us about it.