By Kevin Deutsch and Sasha Gonzales
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Police Commissioner Dermot Shea defended Thursday’s violent crackdown by cops on peaceful protestors in the Bronx, claiming his department had intelligence demonstrators intended to “destroy property, injure cops and to cause mayhem.”
“This wasn’t again about protests, this was about tearing down society,” Shea said Saturday during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily press briefing, adding that the operation cops used to shut down the Mott Haven demonstration was “executed nearly flawlessly.
That operation was overseen by NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, who appears on video personally directing officers as cops take peaceful demonstrators into custody. Other smartphone footage showed cops beating demonstrators with batons, using force to arrest multiple marchers, and hauling zip-tied activists off to jail in waiting Department of Correction buses.
NYPD cops are making violent arrests & beating people with batons at the #FTP4 march in the Bronx. I just got hit with a baton & pusher by cops. pic.twitter.com/w6YOxXssvj
— Ash J (@AshAgony) June 5, 2020
The NYPD said about 260 people were taken into custody after refusing orders to disperse their ranks during the demonstration.
Witnesses told Bronx Justice News a large number of cops arrived at the protest about fifteen minutes before curfew time, hemmed in demonstrators once the clock struck 8 p.m., and began arresting them.
In defending the crackdown, Shea said in a Tweet Saturday protestors had seen something “not right just blocks from a demonstration,” and called police.
“The result: 2 men arrested, gasoline, knives, a machete, 2-way radios recovered … and lives saved — all thanks to the community & cops working together,” Shea wrote.
Police also said two hammers, spray paint, a laser pointer, sledgehammer, gas masks, and fireworks were found on the arrestees just before 6:30 p.m., as cops intercepted them en route to the protest.
At the mayor’s press briefing Friday, a reporter who covered the police operation told Shea he witnessed journalists being threatened with arrest by cops, a pregnant woman screaming, and “multiple legal observers” being “thrown around cars and arrested.”
“I believe that’s what you saw, but sometimes when you’re in the middle of something, you don’t get to see the big picture,” Shea replied.
“They put out posters advertising that they were going to burn things down, that they were going to injure cops, that they were going to cause mayhem,” the police commissioner said.
Shea did not offer more specifics, or say whether police had evidence of any protestors at the demonstration planning violent acts.
Multiple activist groups – including the radical grassroots organizations Decolonize This Place and Take Back the Bronx – as well as hundreds of local residents, marched across the borough last night in response to the police killing of George Floyd, who was slain by cops in Minneapolis.
One of Floyd’s killers kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, until his heart stopped. The officers involved have since been arrested and charged in Floyd’s death.
The Bronx protestors targeted by cops Thursday had been marching through The Hub, a business district in the heart of the South Bronx.
The area is among the poorest neighborhoods in America, with data showing residents suffer disproportionally from air pollution, asthma, poor health outcomes, food deserts, overpolicing, street violence, and COVID-19, among other ills.
The mass unrest roiling cities across the U.S. first reached the Bronx early Tuesday, with demonstrations turning violent near Yankee Stadium and looters laying waste to stores during a destructive, hours-long spree, authorities said.
More demonstrations are planned citywide in the days and weeks ahead.