Queens leaders want cop cuffed for allegedly choking man during Rockaway Boardwalk arrest

Photo by Dean Moses

Community leaders gathered in front of Queens Borough Hall Monday afternoon to call for the arrest of NYPD Officer David Afanador, who was recorded in a now-viral video wrapping his arm around the neck of an unarmed Black man during an arrest on the Rockaway Boardwalk on Sunday.

Led by Reverend Kevin McCall, the demonstrators called on District Attorney Melinda Katz to prosecute Afanador — who has been suspended without pay — for his alleged use of the newly-illegal chokehold maneuver. Speakers included Sanford Rubenstein, a civil rights attorney, Chris Banks, a community activist, Terrence Floyd, the brother of the late George Floyd, and McCall, who gave Katz until Friday to take action.

New York state recently banned police officers from using the chokehold while making an arrest. The tactic has led the death of people in police custody, including Eric Garner in 2014. Afanador, who has been suspended from the force without pay, appeared to use the maneuver on Ricky Bellevue during the Sunday morning arrest.

Photo by Dean Moses

“We have faith in this district attorney’s office,” McCall said. “We’re calling for her to do the right thing and move swiftly and arrest officer David immediately.”

Under the new police reforms signed into law earlier this month, the use of the chokehold is considered a felony.

Photo by Dean Moses

“So why are we here?” McCall said from the steps of borough hall.

Less than 12 hours after Bellevue’s arrest, the NYPD released body cam footage from one of the officers involved in the incident.

While the initial investigation into the arrest led to Afanador’s suspension, the full investigation is ongoing.

Photo by Dean Moses

“Accountability in policing is essential. After a swift investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau, a police officer involved in a disturbing apparent chokehold incident in Queens has been suspended without pay,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Sunday. “While a full investigation is still underway, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary. We are committed to transparency as this process continues.”

Lawmakers who have fought for police reforms and a reduction of the NYPD’s $6 billion budget, were swift to condemn Afanador’s actions following the viral video.

“I’m disturbed to see another NYPD officer use an illegal chokehold to hold someone down,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “It was right to suspend the officer and open an investigation but this must be done in a transparent way and include the officer’s history. Excessive force is unacceptable and must be condemned. After many weeks of cries for justice, we must continue to address the systemic issues that affect equality and justice. I believe federal action is necessary which is why I strongly support the Justice in Policing Act and Congressman Jeffries’s bill – both bills that would ban chokeholds.”

In a joint statement, Congressman Gregory Meeks and City Councilman Donovan Richards called the arrest “excessive and life threatening.”

“The horrifying encounter captures exactly the behavior that we have marched into streets these recent weeks to reform,” the lawmakers said. “Though this man did not die during the encounter, he very well could have died as a result of the officer restricting his airflow. Law enforcement does not have the right to deny someone the ability to breathe. It is dangerous and, as we’ve too often seen, lethal use of force.”

For nearly a month, demonstrators around the world and in Queens have marched for justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black people who have died or suffered violence at the hand of the police.

Additional reporting by Dean Moses. This story first appeared on qns.com.