‘This must end’: Lower East Side rally blasts lack of action in police brutality case

A video still of the arrest of Donni Wright on the Lower East Side on May 5, 2020. (Photo via Twitter/@JBlascoNYC)

Nearly four months ago, cops confronted Donni Wright in front of a Lower East Side business after he was allegedly observed failing to follow social distancing guidelines. That led to a violent confrontation caught on camera that quickly went viral. 

The video taken on May 5 showed one officer, identified as Francisco Garcia, kneeling on Wright’s neck while attempting to arrest him. It happened just 20 days before another officer, in Minneapolis, put his knee on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes, leading to his death — and sparking nationwide protests demanding justice and an end to police brutality.

Wright, however, survived his experience with Garcia — yet, as elected officials pointed out at an Aug. 21 press conference, the officer has yet to be prosecuted for his actions. Moreover, the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau recommended departmental charges against Garcia, but to date, none have been presented.

Sergeant Jessica McRorie, an NYPD spokesperson, told amNewYork Metro on Saturday, “The officer’s current duty status is modified. The disciplinary process is ongoing.”

“We shouldn’t have to stand here almost four months later demanding justice from a system that’s supposed to protect our community,” said City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera during Friday’s press conference at the corner of East 9th Street and Avenue D, where Wright’s arrest occurred.

Standing with justice advocates and elected officials, Rivera called on the NYPD to fire Garcia, and for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. to pursue criminal charges against the officer over the brutal act. She slammed Vance, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea for apparently dragging their feet on the matter.

“When we ask for the firing and criminal charges for Officer Garcia, we are asking for the bare minimum from Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Shea, and DA Vance,” Rivera charged. “We’re asking them to make it clear that police abuse is unacceptable in any form. It’s a disgrace that six years after the death of Eric Garner and his denied justice, the de Blasio administration continues to deny justice black and brown
communities. This must end.”

Rivera said that neither the NYPD nor the Manhattan DA’s office have provided recent updates on the Garcia case. The Legal Aid Society reported that Garcia has been named in at least seven misconduct lawsuits filed over the past five years, leading to settlements and/or judgments against the city totaling nearly $200,000.

The Wright arrest was another sign of rampant police misconduct and brutality on the Lower East Side, according to activist Shaheeda Yasmeen.

“The unfortunate event that happened to Donni Wright, amplified how police misconduct and brutality is alive and well [here],” she said. “There are so many incidents that were not recorded. But the community trauma that lives in the memories of many of the residents of this community and so many others like it have created a barrier between us and those who are paid to protect us.”

Several other elected officials — including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, state Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblyman Harvey Epstein — further called for action against Garcia.

“It is absolutely unconscionable that after four months, DA Vance and Commissioner Shea have not given any updates on the status of the investigation into Officer Francisco Garcia’s blatant act of police brutality that was all caught on camera,” said Maloney. “From Eric Garner to Breonna Taylor to George Floyd to Donni Wright, enough is enough.”

amNewYork Metro also reached out to the Manhattan DA’s office for comment, and is awaiting a response.

Watch Rivera’s press conference below: