A peaceful protest against the city’s decision to budget $170 million to hire 1,300 new cops resulted in at least one arrest Tuesday night — because a protester sneezed. The arrest occurred in front of Gracie Mansion around 9 PM, after demonstrators gathered at City Hall, marched to Union Square, then took the subway to the Mayor’s house.
When the police caught up with the protesters at Gracie Mansion, cops promptly forced them into a pen on the sidewalk with mobile barricades. One man sneezed over the barricade near a white-shirted police officer, who immediately shoved the barricade to the side, chased down the protester and arrested him. The entire incident was caught on livestream. The sneeze occurs at minute 30:47:
— Keegan Stephan (@KeeganNYC) June 24, 2015
“I was standing right next to him,” said Daniel Ismael Aguilar, who shot the video. “I saw him sneeze, but nothing even came out of his mouth – no spit or anything – and then the cop called to other cops and they all started chasing him.”
At the 19th Precinct, Inspector Grant told the protesters that the man would not be released with a Desk Appearance Ticket, as is protocol for the minor offenses protesters are typically charged with, because he would likely be charged with assaulting an officer for “spitting on a cop.” He told ANIMAL the man would be taken to Central Booking and see a judge in the morning.
The man was indeed sent to Central Booking and spent the night in the tombs. He is still waiting to see a judge as of this afternoon, and is currently being charged with six crimes: resisting arrest, two counts of obstructing government administration, two counts of disorderly conduct, and harassment. All for sneezing.
This level of aggressive over-policing was consistent throughout the demonstration, which drew a crowd of several dozen people despite pouring rain. Police outnumbered the protesters and physically restrained them onto sidewalks, even when the group was crossing the street in the crosswalk while the light changed mid-march. The police used this tactic to essentially break up the march at every intersection and threatened to arrest anyone who tried to keep it together.
Protesters argued that more police would result in more selective, aggressive over-policing, not the friendly community policing promised by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others. If the police response to this protest is any indication of what is to come with 1,300 new NYPD, the demonstrators appear to be right.
(Photo: Keegan Stephan)