Another day, another video of police inflicting violence on the very people who pay the salaries they earn to protect and serve the public.
“Velvet” (her stage name, and the only name by which she wishes to be identified) told The Root she had just gotten off the L train and was on her way home from work Wednesday night when she witnessed what she initially thought was an altercation between two men near the entrance of 100% Playground in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Velvet said her initial inclination was to cross the street in order to avoid the confrontation, but then she noticed that one of the two men had his hands up in the air—in what she felt was an indication that he was not wanting a fight—as the other man pinned him against a wall.
“I stopped to get a better look, and that’s when I saw the cop’s gun,” she said, and that’s when she realized he was an undercover cop in plainclothes.
“I was listening to music in my AirPods, and when I turned it off, that’s when I heard the young man ask the officer to identify himself and ask him why he was being arrested.”
She immediately began filming.
In the video, the young man can be heard repeatedly asking the officer what he did that caused him to be stopped. The cop never answers but continues to aggressively push him against a wall as he attempts to flag down passing patrol cars.
Eventually, some patrol cars stop, and a number of officers approach the scene, seemingly to provide assistance.
What happens next is what seems to happen quite often in these incidents.
The young man, who again, can be seen fully cooperating and not resisting, is violently taken down to the ground by between five to eight police officers. He can be heard crying and pleading for them to stop hurting him, and asking for someone to call his mother.
Velvet posted her videos to Twitter, where they were shared by criminal defense attorney Rebecca Kavanagh, who says these types of stops and attacks are not uncommon for the clients she represents.
According to information obtained by Gothamist reporter Jake Offenhartz, NYPD says the young man was stopped and arrested for allegedly smoking marijuana in the park—despite a mandate issued in 2018 by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that instead of making arrests for misdemeanor marijuana offenses, NYPD officers should issue $100 criminal violations for a first offense of public consumption.
In a press conference Thursday, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea addressed the video and said it had “disturbing points.” According to Gothamist, he told reporters that two young men, aged 18 and 20, were initially approached in the park because of reports of a shooting in the area—an incident he admits the police have no proof that either young man had anything to do with.
Shea went on to place blame on the young man for the incident, claiming that he should not have run from the police. He said the young man—who suffered abrasions to his knee and may have had an officer stand on his ankle—was charged with marijuana possession, resisting arrest, and obstruction of governmental administration.
So here we have the police giving two different versions of the same story. Even if we are to believe what police say and the young man was, in fact, smoking weed and even if he did run from the police initially, this was still excessive force—especially when at no time in the video do we see him resist them.
The Root contacted NYPD’s 69th Precinct, which covers Canarsie, and we were told to contact either the Internal Affairs Bureau or the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Maybe everyone who saw the video should file a complaint, because this was egregious.
Again, even if he was smoking weed—not selling it, but simply smoking a joint—there was no need for this level of violence to complete an arrest that, according to the mandate from the mayor, should not have happened in the first place. And with him standing against the wall with his arms raised simply asking that his constitutional rights be honored by telling him why he was being detained, there was no reason for eight officers to take him down as one stood on his ankle.
According to Gothamist, the NYPD says the incident is under review.
I guess we don’t have to wonder why 32 years after it was first released, NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” remains an evergreen classic.