Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday said it was “inappropriate” for a City Council member to bear arms at a protest rally, referring to Brooklyn lawmaker Inna Vernikov, who was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a firearm for an incident that took place on Thursday.
Vernikov, a Republican representing parts of southern Brooklyn, turned herself into police early Friday morning after she was spotted in social media posts at a pro-Palestine protest, organized by Brooklyn College students, with a pistol in her waistband. The lawmaker, known for her pro-Israel stance, reportedly surrendered her gun and her concealed carry permit upon her arrest and was subsequently released with a desk-appearance-ticket.
Students organized the Thursday demonstration to protest the Israeli bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip that came just days after the militant group Hamas launched a brutal surprise attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7. The conflict has left thousands dead on both sides.
Vernikov, who is Jewish and fiercely pro-Israel, showed up to the rally as a counter-protester.
While Vernikov does have a concealed-carry permit, it is illegal under recently passed state law for anyone to carry guns in so-called “sensitive locations,” which include protests and college campuses. The protest occurred just outside of the Brooklyn College campus.
Adams, who has spoken often about his efforts to curb gun violence in the five boroughs, condemned Vernikov’s flouting of the law at the protest.
“We were very clear on the councilwoman carrying a gun, that was inappropriate,” the mayor told reporters. “The police department responded and took necessary action because everybody must follow the law. And particularly, to publicly display a gun at a protest of any nature was inappropriate.”
Hizzoner also defended his chief adviser, Ingrid Lewis-Martin, for meeting with Vernikov over tea on Monday morning.
Vernikov posted a picture of the private meeting to X, the site formerly known as Twitter, Monday afternoon.
The image shows Vernikov and Lewis-Martin sitting next to each other holding teacups with the caption “Some quiet tea time with @ingridBKNY this am. Talked about the genocidal war in Israel, atrocities committed against the Jewish people, & the fear our communities here in NYC are experiencing. I can say with unequivocal certainty that we have true friends in this administration.”
The meeting was widely panned on social media by progressive pols and activists, who argued the administration should not be meeting with a lawmaker who was just arrested on a gun charge.
When asked if Lewis-Martin meeting with Vernikov after her arrest sends a message that the administration condones that behavior, Adams rushed to defend his trusted lieutenant, without addressing the specific question. He said Lewis-Martin has his “utmost confidence” and the city is able to function because of her willingness to sit down with both Democrats and Republicans.
“One of my most potent weapons is my chief adviser,” he said. “Her ability to sit down with everyone across the aisle throughout the years, her ability to nurture relationships. The government must still run and to be able to get things done, you must be willing to sit down with all groups across the aisle. And that’s what she has done. And I ask her to do it often. And no one has done it better.”
Vernikov did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.