Protesters on Brooklyn Bridge arrested ahead of pro-police march

Police arrest a handful of counter-protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

Police clashed with a small group of protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge roadway Wednesday as the demonstrators tried to block a larger march of religious and pro-cop groups from crossing the span on their way to Manhattan.

About a dozen activists locked arms on the bridge in opposition to the Jericho March, which started at Cadman Plaza around 9 am and headed for City Hall in the Big Apple on the bridge an hour later. The event, which drew police supporters and some right-wing politicians, was organized by several religious and law enforcement groups in opposition to a recent spike in gun violence.

Before marchers could cross the bridge, police grabbed the seemingly peaceful protesters and violently arrested them, clearing the way for the religious and pro-cop march around 10 am, footage from a Gothamist reporter shows.

At around 10:30 am, a man on the bridge’s walkway swung a bat at a group of cops who were arresting another man, hitting a white-shirted lieutenant in the head, surveillance footage posted by the Police Department’s Twitter account shows. “Three officers violently attacked by protesters crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. The officers sustained serious injuries. This is not peaceful protest, this will not be tolerated,” read the post.

The senior cop was among the three officers injured at the bridge this morning, according to a follow-up tweet, but a spokesman for the NYPD later clarified that only the lieutenant in the white shirt was hurt by the bat-wielding assailant and that the other two sustained their wounds while arresting protesters. 

The man swinging the bat was not among those arrested, according to the spokesman, who declined to say how many protesters police took into custody and what offenses they were charged with. 

Wednesday’s march follows violent clashes between Black Lives Matter protesters and pro-cop groups in southern Brooklyn over the weekend.

Before the scuffle, participants of the Jericho March gathered at Cadman Plaza calling for unity and an end to gun violence that has recently swept the city. 

Religious and law enforcement groups march at Cadman Plaza on July 15. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

The rally’s organizers included the Rehoboth Cathedral Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, whose senior pastor said in a video posted online by Republican Bay Ridge Assemblywoman and Congressional candidate Nicole Malliotakis that the community needs the police to help address the recent spate of shootings.

“We support the Police Department and we need the Police Department,” said Bishop Gerald Seabrooks. “Just last night in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area, there was 13 shootings and we’re saying that we want to bring peace, tranquility, and togetherness to our city.”

Dozens of people have been shot across the city in recent weeks, including one-year-old Davell Gardner, who was fatally struck by a spray of bullets during a family barbecue in Bedford-Stuvyesant on July 12. Early Wednesday morning, one person was killed and another five were wounded during a mass shooting in Crown Heights.

The religious marchers were joined by a large contingent of pro-police groups waving Thin Blue Line flags and “Blue Lives Matter” signs.

Pro-law enforcement groups at the July 15 march in Downtown Brooklyn. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

Among the groups in attendance were the New York State Fraternal Order of Police and the New York Police Department’s sergeants union, whose president Ed Mullins also made an unmasked appearance in the video posted by Malliotakis, along with former Marine Park state Senator Marty Golden and Republican candidate for that seat Vito Bruno.

Once police removed the protesters, the march continued to across the bridge. 

One of the event’s organizers said he was surprised by the large police group presence at the march, but said that he didn’t take issue with the their participation if they joined for religious reasons or to call for unity.

“I was surprised by the large police marching crowd also. But if it’s about God and Unity, who am I to complain,” said Tramell Thompson, a subway conductor and host of the labor-focused online show Progressive Action. “The origin of this march is about Jesus, God and Unity … Clergymen are leading this march, not police.”

Thompson also criticized the Police Department for arresting peaceful protesters, and said that the march would have welcomed the others to join. 

“It was wrong, people should be allowed to peacefully protest. We weren’t here for people to get arrested or detained,” he said. “We would of [sic] loved for them to march with us. This was a march about God and unity.”

This story first appeared on brooklynpaper.com.