Police on Wednesday clashed with protesters and made a number of brutal arrests during a demonstration seeking justice for Jordan Neely, a Black homeless man who witnesses say was choked to death while riding the New York City subway earlier this week.
“The homeless matter!” was the crowd’s rally cry, as supporters and those experiencing homelessness flooded the northbound F train platform at the Broadway-Lafayette station in Manhattan, where Jordan Neely lost his life.
Neely, 30, was a known subway rider and even spent some of his time as a Michael Jackson impersonator. On May 1, he allegedly became agitated while aboard an F train. According to eyewitnesses, Neely began yelling and although he did not physically touch anyone, a white man approached him from behind and placed him in a choke hold until he lost consciousness.
Neely later died of his injuries, and the alleged killer was reportedly released by police without being charged.
Furious, protesters supporting the rights of the unhoused gathered on May 3 to remember the life of Neely, while also seeking justice for a man they say was failed by New York City’s safety net.
Johnny Grima, a man who has experienced homelessness, said he was riding the train that day and came upon the scene. At the time, he said he didn’t understand what was taking place. Now he says he lives with regret he didn’t step in.
“I wish I would have done something. When he finally released him, his eyes were staring off and he wasn’t nobody, because he was dead,” Grima said. “He didn’t hurt anybody and they killed him, and they think them being scared of him is an excuse for him being murdered.”
Wednesday afternoon, a deluge of demonstrators inundated the subway platform and, with incensed outrage, demanded the man who choked Neely be held accountable. Amid screams, protesters spray painted the platform with the question, “Who killed Jordan Neely?” and brandished signs for over an hour before marching throughout Lower Manhattan.
Flanked by cops, the call for justice swiftly grew out-of-control when a protesters marched past a person being handcuffed inside a clothing storefront on Broadway and Broome Street. This sparked outrage from demonstrators and as they chanted “shame” and admonished the NYPD. During the chaos, both protesters and members of the media were violently shoved and manhandled by police.
Members of the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group quickly swept into the fray, tossing demonstrators and aggressively shoving photojournalists as forceful arrests were made. Officers could be observed dragging protesters across the ground and yanking them by their clothing during the detainments.
While some bodies were simply tossed aside, three individuals were taken into custody.
The death of Neely has sparked outrage from homeless advocates and politicians across the city.
“This horrific incident is yet another reminder of Governor Hochuls’ and Mayor Adams’ complete failure to provide the critical mental health services desperately needed by so many people in our city,” Dave Giffen, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless said in a statement. “What’s more, the fact that someone who took the life of a distressed, mentally-ill human being on a subway could be set free without facing any consequences is shocking, and evidences the City’s callous indifference to the lives of those who are homeless and psychiatrically unwell. This is an absolute travesty that must be investigated immediately.”
The Medical Examiner officially ruled Neely’s death a homicide as a result of compression of the neck.
amNewYork Metro reached out to the NYPD for a statement and is awaiting response.