The New York City Police Department has come under scrutiny after videos showed officers pulling a protester into an unmarked van during a demonstration Tuesday in Manhattan against racism and police brutality.
The Gothamist, citing the protester’s friends, identified her as an 18-year-old transgender woman. Videos shared on social media show the demonstrator being restrained by several NYPD officers before being pulled into the van.
“They grabbed [her] like she was rag doll,” a protester and witness told The Gothamist. “They had her arms on her neck and then they drove off.”
This is deeply troubling. Plainclothes NYPD officers yanked a protester off the street — identified by her friends as an 18-year old homeless trans person. Where is she? #WhereIsNikki— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) July 29, 2020
Cc: @NYCMayor https://t.co/ZdpvbVPij7
The NYPD said in a statement that the woman had been arrested after “damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents” in and around City Hall Park.
It added that the arresting officers were “assaulted with rocks and bottles” as they took the woman into custody.
Protesters told journalist Michelle Lhooq, who was at the scene, that the woman had put stickers on police cameras during Occupy City Hall, a weeks-long protest occupation that was dismantled last week in a police raid.
Protesters said police used pepper spray and batons against them.
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 Warrant Squad uses unmarked vehicles to effectively locate wanted suspects.— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) July 29, 2020
Several city officials have since questioned the NYPD’s handling of the woman’s arrest.
Council member Carlina Rivera called for an independent review of the incident, and the city’s comptroller, Scott Stringer, said he was “deeply concerned” by videos of the encounter.
“With anxiety about what’s happening in Portland, the NYPD deploying unmarked vans with plainclothes cops to make street arrests of protestors feels more like provocation than public safety,” Councilman Brad Lander said, alluding to similar tactics used by federal officers against protesters in Oregon.
I’m deeply concerned by the videos circulating of a protester being thrown into an unmarked van.— Scott M. Stringer (@NYCComptroller) July 29, 2020
We need answers immediately. https://t.co/k8hUe4QLTC
I just spoke to the CO of the 13th who said "the NYPD's Detective Bureau Warrant Division identified a wanted person & carried out an arrest."— Carlina Rivera 利華娜 (@CarlinaRivera) July 29, 2020
Clearly we need an ind. review + an immediate explanation for why an unmarked van full of officers was anywhere near a peaceful protest. https://t.co/j4OKqp3MRv
Agree with @CarlinaRivera here: with anxiety about what’s happening in Portland, the NYPD deploying unmarked vans with plainclothes cops to make street arrests of protestors feels more like provocation than public safety. https://t.co/UDfiJOWWUW— Brad Lander (@bradlander) July 29, 2020
Rivera said early Wednesday that the protester had been released.
I’ve been working to get details on why a young woman was arrested & pulled into an unmarked van in my District.— Carlina Rivera 利華娜 (@CarlinaRivera) July 29, 2020
Right now, we know she’s been fingerprinted & awaiting her desk appearance ticket. We’ve shared this info w/advocates & believe she’ll be released in next hour or so.
Nikki is currently waiting to be released from the 1st Precinct w/ supporters there on-site.— Carlina Rivera 利華娜 (@CarlinaRivera) July 29, 2020
It’s clear that using an unmarked van and plainclothes officers to make an arrest for vandalism (in the middle of a peaceful protest) is a massive overstep. I'm exploring legislation.
We’ve just received confirmation that Nikki has been released. Thank you to all the advocates who have been bringing support and attention. Now it’s time to hear from @NYCMayor about how he will address this arrest and the future of unidentifiable policing in NYC.— Carlina Rivera 利華娜 (@CarlinaRivera) July 29, 2020
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.