New York City: Protest Leader Targeted In Police Raid

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Above photo: Ingram, in the red plaid, locking arms with Black Lives Matter activists as they marched to the precinct on Saturday Jake Offenhartz/Gothamist.

Allegedly Shouted In Cop’s Ear Two Months Ago.

The failed NYPD raid that brought riot cops, police dogs and helicopters to a prominent Black Lives Matter activist’s home on Friday was sparked by his alleged crime of shouting into an officer’s ear with a megaphone nearly two months ago.

Derrick Ingram, the 28-year-old co-founder of the Warriors in the Garden collective, said he awoke to cops with the NYPD’s warrant squad banging at his door at 7 a.m. on Friday. For the next five hours, dozens of officers — stationed outside Ingram’s apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, on his fire escape and in a neighboring unit — urged him to surrender, claiming they had a warrant, but declining to provide one.

As Ingram live-streamed the tense stand-off on Instagram, dozens of protesters showed up outside, and the police officers eventually dispersed, empty-handed.

“I’m highly traumatized from everything, from the drones to the dogs to the lies that have been told by the NYPD,” Ingram said on Saturday morning. “I think we should focus our efforts on getting Commissioner [Dermot] Shea out of office.”

The heavily-militarized operation was sparked by Ingram’s involvement in a Midtown protest on June 14th, police said on Saturday. After an officer blocked him from entering a restricted area, Ingram allegedly “placed a handheld megaphone directly against the officer’s ear, activated the megaphone and yelled, causing pain and protracted impairment of hearing,” according to the NYPD account.

Police said the charge against Ingram was second degree assault, a felony.

A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to say whether the alleged crime justified the considerable resources used by the NYPD to target Ingram in his home. In a statement provided by his office, the mayor praised the NYPD commissioner’s handling of the incident.

“Commissioner Shea made the right decision to call off the operation,” he said. “Assaulting an officer is unacceptable and will always lead to consequences, but arrests must be made properly.”

At the advice of his lawyers, Ingram turned himself into police at the Midtown North precinct on Saturday morning, accompanied by roughly 100 protesters. He said he wanted to avoid police smashing down his door, or worse, if they did obtain a warrant.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr., who previously pledged not to prosecute “protest-related charges where appropriate,” did not say whether the office would pursue the case.

Lawyers for the city have previously argued that exposure to loud noise should not be considered an illegal use of force, since sound is “not a substance, but a physical phenomenon, like light or gravity.” They mounted that argument in defense of the NYPD’s use of sound canons against nonviolent protesters, a case they ultimately lost.

Activists who escorted Ingram to the Midtown Precinct on Saturday said the megaphone charge was absurd on its face.

“They’re beating us, they’re macing us, they’re stroking their batons with the intent to hurt us. How dare they complain about some noise,” said Chi Ossé, a 22-year-old leader of Warriors in the Garden and City Council candidate. “This is where our taxpayer dollars are going. Shame on them.”

Lupe Todd-Medina, spokesperson for NYC Defender Services, which is representing Ingram, said the NYPD’s actions on Friday represented an “unprecedented show of police overreach.”

“The presence of NYPD officers on Mr. Ingram’s fire escape, helicopters circling overhead, and police dogs was a shocking demonstration of the tactics the NYPD is willing to undertake to suppress dissent,” she said in a statement.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who represents Ingram’s district, called the raid an “attempt at intimidation.” He said his office was still seeking answers.

Pointing to the recent arrest of 18-year-old Nikki Stone by plainclothes officers driving an unmarked van, many protesters agreed that the NYPD was using increasingly aggressive tactics to silence the leaders of the anti-police brutality movement.

But Gabriel Hernandez Solano, a 30-year-old Bronx resident, said he believed that strategy would backfire.

“It’s insane that they don’t get that the optics of this are adding fuel to the fire,” Solano told Gothamist. “Who’s their fucking PR person? I haven’t been up at 7 a.m. on Saturday in years, and yet I’m here for this. We’re only more galvanized now.”

Ingram is expected to be arraigned on Saturday afternoon.

Update: Ingram was released from custody on Saturday afternoon. During his arraignment, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office moved to reduce his top charge to assault in the third-degree, a misdemeanor. The judge granted the request.

In a statement to Gothamist, a spokesperson for the Manhattan DA’s Office said: “Our office does not condone the extraordinary tactics employed by police on Friday. These actions were disproportionate to the alleged offense that occurred two months ago, and unjustifiably escalated conflict between law enforcement and the communities we serve.”