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A New York Police Department officer tackled a skateboarder in Manhattan's Columbus Circle on Sunday, placing him in what appears to be a chokehold — a maneuver banned by the NYPD patrol guide — and then pepper-sprayed him in the face. The NYPD told VICE News that the incident is now under internal review.
The skateboarder, Queens College student Yibin Mu, posted a video of the incident on Youtube, and provided his own account of the encounter.
According to Mu, he was skateboarding in Columbus Circle when he saw an NYPD officer walking towards him.
"I got off my board to ask him if skating was allowed since I saw him approaching me," Mu wrote. "[The officer] immediately tried to grab my board which I saw as 'You're never getting this back.' I withdrew and then he used force on me."
The video does not capture the initial interaction between the officer and Mu, it begins just as the officer begins a take down.
"Without warning, the police officer used one hand to grab my forearm and the other hand to grab the back of my neck. He then put me in a chokehold and this is what happened next," Mu wrote in the introduction tot the video. "I was non-aggressive the entire time… I'm tired of abusive cops."
On his Facebook page, Mu later accused the the NYPD of "abuse of power" and having a "Gestapo mentality." Mu has not replied to repeated requests from VICE News for further comment.
An NYPD spokesperson told VICE News that the arresting officer observed Mu skateboarding in a restricted area and asked him to sit down so that the officer could write a summons. The spokesperson said Mu refused to comply with the officer's request.
"The officer asked the defendant to put his hands behind his back, he refused, there was a brief struggle, and the defendant was arrested for resisting arrest and violating park regulations," the spokesperson said.
When asked if the maneuver captured in the video constituted a chokehold, the NYPD would not comment. "Internal affairs will have to review the video," the spokesperson said, though he emphasized that "chokeholds are prohibited," by the NYPD patrol guide.
The maneuver in the video closely resembled the chokehold used on Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after being tackled and chocked by Officer Daniel Pantaleo in July, 2014.
Over the past year, the New York City Council has tried to pass legislation specifically criminalizing the use of chokeholds, a move that's been opposed by NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill De Blasio.
Police reform advocates said the video points to a larger trend.
"Just because chokeholds are banned doesn't mean these things are not happening," said Veronica Bayetti Flores, policy coordinator for Streetwise and Safe, and a member of the steering committee for Communities United for Police Reform. "It's clear that use of force is not required in this situation, but it's indicative of the general culture over at the NYPD, and how quickly officers resort to really forceful interactions for things that are routine, nonviolent, quality of life offenses."
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