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During a peaceful protest against police brutality in New York City on Tuesday evening, four plainclothes police officers jumped out of an unmarked grey Kia minivan, snatched an 18-year-old transgender protester off the street, wrestled her to the ground, and threw her into the vehicle before speeding away.
The incident, captured on video by multiple protesters and shared on social media, immediately drew comparisons to the actions of federal agents in Portland, where protesters have also been pulled into unmarked cars.
Many social media users initially suggested that the incident was evidence that federal agents have been deployed to New York, but the New York Police Department subsequently confirmed the plainclothes officers were part of its Warrant Squad.
The NYPD added that the woman, who her friends say is named Nicki, was wanted for “damaging police cameras during five separate criminal incidents in and around City Hall Park.”
The NYPD also claimed that the officers were attacked by rocks and bottles during the arrest, but there was no evidence of that happening in any of the videos that have been shared on social media.
The NYPD told VICE News the 18-year-old, whose surname is Stoneman, has been charged with “criminal mischief and making graffiti for 5 incidents ranging from June through July.” It added that 11 other people were arrested during the incident and charged with obstructing governmental administration related offenses as well as criminal mischief.
But protesters at the scene disputed the claims they attacked the police officers and said it was the NYPD who were the aggressors.
"None of that happened whatsoever," Clara Kraebber, a 20-year-old Oxford student, told the Gothamist. “We literally turned the corner and were met with a line of police who attacked us without warning.”
She added that officers used pepper spray “seemingly at random” against the group as the arrest was in progress. “They were trying to make it painful to be there.”
The incident happened on the corner of Second Avenue and East 25th Street in the Kips Bay section of Manhattan, just as around 200 protesters were making their way toward Madison Square as part of a protest being held in response to the clearing of the Occupy City Hall encampment last week.
New York lawmakers and city officials are now demanding answers to why a protester was bundled into an unmarked car in broad daylight.
Rep. Jerry Nadler called the video “terrifying” adding that the arrest “should be unacceptable to everyone who respects the constitutional rights this country was founded on. There must be an immediate explanation for this anonymous use of force.”
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said he was “deeply concerned” by the videos, adding, “We need answers immediately.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called the arrest “incredibly disturbing” while Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said he was “concerned” about the incident shown in the videos and was trying to get answers.
Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn said that with the “anxiety about what’s happening in Portland, the NYPD deploying unmarked vans with plainclothes cops to make street arrests of protesters feels more like provocation than public safety.”
Credit: Twitter/Michelle Lhooq