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NYPD officers wrestled a young mother to the ground and handcuffed her in front of her child for refusing to wear a face mask, according to bystander video of the incident.
The just over 2-minute long video, which was first posted on Facebook Wednesday, shows 22-year-old Kaleemah Rozier, who was wearing a mask around her neck, at the Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center subway station surrounded by 5 cops. As she walks up the stairs from the platform, holding her child’s hand, the cops follow her, and she starts yelling and swearing.
“Don’t touch me,” Rozier is heard saying in the video and slaps away the hand of an officer trying to lead her away. Almost immediately after, another officer grabs her from behind, wrestles her to the ground, and begins to arrest her. Another officer then starts guiding her child along, just a few feet.
“I cannot breathe,” she’s heard screaming seconds after she’s taken down to the ground. The on-the-ground struggle continues for about another minute before Rozier finally gets up again.
During the arrest, onlookers can be heard in the video asking the officers to reconsider and calling the arrest unnecessary. Witnesses told NY1 that Rozier explained to officers that she was having a bad day. She’s since been charged with resisting arrest, harassment, and disorderly conduct.
Prior to the start of the video, police say the officers approached Rozier and told her she could not continue walking through the station without the proper face covering. Police say she refused to adhere to the request, which left the officers no choice but to escort her out of the station.
“We are confident that the police officers in this incident acted appropriately and with respect,” DCPI told Vice News when asked about the incident. “This individual was arrested only after her behavior toward officers warranted police action.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, was critical of how the situation was handled.
“Face coverings are important to protect everybody — they’re not optional,” he tweeted Wednesday night. “But no one wants to see an interaction turn into this. We’ve made progress with de-escalation. This isn’t it.”
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo made wearing a mask in public mandatory, he left it to local governments to enforce the new requirement. He made it clear that no person would be jailed for not following the new statewide rule and suggested other methods of enforcement, such as fines and summonses.
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, critics have accused the NYPD of rigidly enforcing PPE rules in communities of color while ignoring their white counterparts. The NYPD told NY1 that they have arrested 125 New Yorkers for not wearing masks in public between March 16 and May 10. Black and Hispanics made up 66% and 24% of those arrests, respectively.
“Let’s remember, we are a minority-majority police department, fact,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told NY1. “We make fewer arrests than we ever have.”
Cover: Screenshot from bystander video