Ten minutes into the latest demonstration against Mayor Eric Adams to be held at Union Square, a protester Thursday night was cuffed and whisked into the back of an NYPD wagon.
Within seconds, chaos unfolded at the June 1 rally — sending some people running, and others racing to heckle the officers for wrestling their comrade to the ground. This came 24 hours after prominent transgender activist Qween Jean was cuffed at Washington Square Park for apparently using a megaphone without a permit.
For some of the participants in the recent protests, it appears that the NYPD has been quicker to quash the demonstrations before they grow in scale and duration, resulting in what they claim to be increased police aggression.
Thursday night’s protest, dubbed “We Reject Eric Adams,” is a weekly march that began before Mayor Adams was sworn into office and has continued every week since that time. According to the organizer, known as Relly Rebel, no arrests had been made during his weekly actions for about 18 months —but after Neely’s death on May 1, when he was choked on a subway train by Daniel Penny, Rebel says he started noticing a change.
“It [Neely’s death] was the breaking point. We can’t take the streets no more, we have to stay on the sidewalk, they don’t want us to use a bullhorn,” Rebel told amNewYork Metro. “They don’t want an uprising; they don’t want the world to see what is going on.”
Rebel pointed out that protesters have marched in the roadway and have used megaphones for years without being arrested. Now, he claims, that policy appears to have ended — and police are quick to shut the noise down.
amNewYork Metro attempted to reach out to both the NYPD and the mayor’s office in regard to these claims.
A spokesperson for the department responded: “The NYPD respects the Constitutional right to peacefully protest and endeavors to maintain public safety for all New Yorkers, at all times.”
The mayor’s office has yet to provide an on-record response of their own.
Regarding Thursday night’s arrest, the NYPD did not provide any information about the individual’s identity, or the charges faced, or whether those charges had been dropped.
But for Rebel, it seems that police have been exerting their authority more forcefully of late.
“We’ve been on the sidewalk playing by their rules and they still bring all these cops out here,” Rebel added, looking at a long line of officers who had assembled in anticipation of the protest.
Another protester who gave his name as Henry told amNewYork Metro that he has been joining the weekly demonstrations ever since the death of Jordan Neely and says that the NYPD now has a zero-tolerance policy for the gatherings.
“They tend to start with intimidation, and then they wait for an excuse to make at least two violent arrests at every march. There are usually more police than protestors,” Henry said. “They said you are legally in the roadway and then on the sidewalk they say you are obstructing pedestrian traffic. They get you either way.”
Even so, some have suggested the protesters themselves have crossed their own line in inviting clashes with cops.
During the Thursday night protest, some eyewitnesses told amNewYork Metro that they believed the demonstrators were attempting to agitate police, with an officer on the scene indicating that he had been spat upon. However, others felt that the uniformed response was excessive.