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During a protest in New York on Tuesday, a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer dressed in shorts and a T-shirt grabbed an 18-year-old transgender female protester and put her in an unmarked van before driving away.
Various videos capturing the arrest of the woman, identified later by the name of Nicki Stone, quickly went viral and drew condemnation from lawmakers and activists who compared the incident to similar tactics that have recently been used against protesters by federal officers in Portland.
One such video that went viral shows multiple officers grabbing Stone and putting her into the car amid a struggle as other officers push demonstrators back to prevent them from interfering. Another group of NYPD officers on bicycles then circle the van to push back demonstrators as the car drives away.
The NYPD later confirmed the arrest in multiple tweets.
The department stated that Stone was arrested for allegedly damaging police cameras in five different incidents around City Hall Park in New York.
The department also said that officers were assaulted during the arrest and that the use of an unmarked van to take Stone away was procedural.
“When officers from the Warrant Squad took the woman into custody in a gray NYPD minivan this evening, they were assaulted with rocks and bottles. The Warrant Squad uses unmarked vehicles to effectively locate wanted suspects,” the NYPD added.
However, friends of Stone disputed that officers were assaulted while making the arrest.
In an interview with local news outlet Gothamist referencing officers’ alleged assault, Stone’s friend Carla Kraebber said, “None of that happened whatsoever."
“We literally turned the corner and were met with a line of police who attacked us without warning."
Carlina Rivera, the New York City councilwoman who represents the area of the protest, said that Stone was released overnight on Tuesday.
In a tweet prior to Stone’s release, Rivera condemned the action of NYPD and called for an independent review of the incident.
“I just spoke to the CO of the 13th who said “the NYPD’s Detective Bureau Warrant Division identified a wanted person & carried out an arrest.”
“Clearly we need an ind. review + an immediate explanation for why an unmarked van full of officers was anywhere near a peaceful protest.”
New York Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez also criticized the incident stating, “Our civil liberties are on brink.
“This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.
“To not protect our rights is to give them away. It is our responsibility to resist authoritarianism.”
The protest in which Stone was arrested occurred in response to the recent clearance of the Occupy City Hall by the NYPD
The Occupy City Hall demonstrations started on June 23. Around 100 people camped on the ground to the east of city hall to pressure the City Council to defund the police department.
After the council ultimately moved to shift nearly US$1 billion from police funding, many of the protesters went home. Protesters who felt that the move fell below expectations remained in the camp.
The camp was also used by homeless people for shelter before it was taken down by the NYPD overnight in a raid.
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