Above photo: Police officers in the West Village on June 28th, 2020. Aviva Stahl/Gothamist.
NYPD officers arrested and pepper-sprayed protesters at the Queer Liberation March Sunday afternoon while attempting to arrest two people for graffiti, according to witnesses.
Numerous videos shared on social media show a crowd of officers shoving outraged protesters where arrests were being made near Washington Square Park.
As two were being arrested for graffiti, protesters intervened in an attempt to free them, at which point police responded with pepper spray, multiple witnesses told Gothamist. A legal observer said at least four people were arrested and 10 others pepper-sprayed—including someone running a fruit stand nearby protesters.
— NYC Protest Updates 2020 (@protest_nyc) June 28, 2020
Speakers at the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives Matter told protesters they got word that officers were pepper spraying people nearby after marching from Lower Manhattan to Stonewall Inn and ending with a rally at Washington Square Park. NYPD helicopters circled above during the march.
“The NYPD is going ballistic,” said a witness livestreaming on Facebook. “The situation was at a point where this was almost Stonewall 2,” the narrator added, referencing the uprising at Stonewall Inn in 1969 nearby Sunday’s protest on the weekend of Pride and 51st anniversary of the uprising.
“There was an excessive amount of police once the march got here,” the livestreamer said.
Witnesses described a dance party before arrests began—a celebration and march led by the Reclaim Pride Coalition.
“We were dancing right in front of the arch on 5th ave and out of nowhere, cops started storming into the crowd,” Mike Perles, a 29-year-old city employee, told us. “They pushed everyone in front of them out of the way and onto the ground. They pushed a reporter who was taking photos down and started randomly pepper spraying people. I couldn’t see anyone instigating. It seemed like they felt out numbered after entering a huge group and panicked and started beating people up.”
The police just started a riot at Washington square park pic.twitter.com/Zb7VyQvPI9
— Mike Perles (@mike__perles) June 28, 2020
Another witness who was picking up food and water supplies, Pippa Bianco, said was shoved and held down by officers while seeing three others get pepper sprayed.
“I was totally peaceful, we all were—I was picking up food for a volunteer food station when the cops rushed into the crowd in a panic and started the violence,” Bianco, a volunteer with NourishNYC, told Gothamist.
Bianco helped four others get water and medical attention after they were pepper sprayed and also saw a police medic pouring water into the eyes of two other cops after they accidentally got the pepper spray in their eyes.
“The man who was arrested was crying and saying he was hurting and the cops were dragging him by his hands so his weight was against his shoulders pulling [on] the sockets,” said Bianco, adding the situation escalated when two whiteshirts “sprinted into the crowd and started shoving us” and another group of officers on motorcycles were pushing bikes into protesters.
“Get out of the street!” yelled one officer, who pushed multiple people with his baton, according to a video. A crowd of protesters continued chanting “whose streets, our streets” as an NYPD vehicle idled in the crowd near Washington Square Park.
These cops just got ran up on people pic.twitter.com/RnibVPjKfm
— Eliel Cruz (@elielcruz) June 28, 2020
The Reclaim Pride Coalition said in a tweet that the livestream “ended early because the NYPD began pepper spraying, making arrests, and using force.”
UPDATE: Our livestream ended early because the NYPD began pepper spraying, making arrests, and using force. We are carefully monitoring the situation. Please keep each other safe!
— Reclaim Pride Coalition (@queermarch) June 28, 2020
Check back for updates. With Jake Offenhartz.