On June 4, 2020, protesters gathered at 149th Avenue and third Avenue, in Mott Haven. They met on the Hub — the civic and cultural heart of the South Bronx — to hearken to audio system, move round water and face masks, and meet the decision to ”take the streets.”
One week had handed since folks — enraged and politically energized over the homicide of George Floyd — started a brand new protest motion in America, demanding authorities accountability for the well being inequities and gross financial inequality laid naked by COVID, in addition to radical reform of a prison justice system rooted within the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
New York Metropolis, then the epicenter of the pandemic, was additionally a hotbed for this new activism. And nowhere was the anger and vitality of the motion felt extra so than within the Bronx, an over-policed and under-resourced borough of largely Black and brown New Yorkers.
Two teams, Take Again the Bronx and Bronxites for NYPD Accountability (aka Why Accountability) put out the decision on social media to “take again the streets” on June 4th, concentrating on the NYPD with a photograph of a burning NYPD SUV, and the phrases “Fuck Yo Curfew,” “The Metropolis is Ours!” and “24 Hours Until Go Time!!”
However whether or not any of the few hundred protesters who confirmed up in Mott Haven that evening had been fascinated with committing any precise property harm or violence is unclear. And in reality, because it rolled out, the protest was fully peaceable.
Till the police moved in to implement a brand new city-wide 8 p.m. curfew—earlier than 8 p.m.
The governor and mayor imposed the curfew after looting occurred elsewhere within the metropolis. They expanded it—from 11 p.m. to eight p.m.—on June 1st, solely exacerbating tensions amongst metropolis officers, activists, NYPD and the communities they police.
When the curfew arrived at 8 p.m. on June third on the Higher East Facet, cops used a public handle system to ask a whole lot of protesters to disperse. Roughly 60 protesters who didn’t comply had been arrested.
However the subsequent evening in Mott Haven, the police—unprovoked and with out warning—closed in on protesters about ten minutes earlier than the curfew, a strong phalanx of officers on bicycles stopping the protesters from shifting ahead, simply because the PA announcement started to blare. On the similar time, one other group of motorcycle cops moved in from behind, fencing-in demonstrators on 136th Avenue close to Brook Avenue.
When the clock struck eight and the curfew fell, there was nowhere for the folks to go. They had been trapped.
That is how regulation and dysfunction occurred in simply 24 Minutes in Mott Haven
We went there to protest police brutality and have become victims of police brutality.
I can bear in mind and recall listening to bones cracking, folks screaming, and simply blood.
I noticed officers in uniform climbing on high of vehicles with their batons beating into the group. I noticed a few of them smiling whereas they had been doing it.
“As my arms had been being put behind my again I used to be nonetheless being punched.”
“I see one of many officers take his baton out and hit my brother. And I believe that was the second for me to comprehend that we’re being arrested.”
I used to be struck within the head, and I consider I misplaced consciousness … The subsequent reminiscence I had was a police officer dragging me by my hair, out of the group, face down.
Police arrested 263 folks, greater than at another protest in New York final summer season. Some had been launched later that evening; others the subsequent afternoon. One was held for per week. Most had been charged with Class B misdemeanors for curfew violations or illegal meeting. Meaning they acquired summonses or desk look tickets.
At a information convention the subsequent day, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea confirmed the premeditated nature of the operation saying, “We had a plan which was executed almost flawlessly within the Bronx.”
Whereas he later apologized for any situations of police misconduct in the course of the protests, Shea additionally demanded that protesters cease insulting and attacking cops, and warned that anti-police rhetoric would result in continued violence.
“For there to be calm, there should even be contrition,” Shea stated. “So I’m sorry. Generally even the most effective — and the N.Y.P.D. is the goddamned greatest police division within the nation — however typically even the most effective fall down.”
He added, “So for our half within the harm to civility, for our half in racial bias, in extreme drive, unacceptable habits, unacceptable language and lots of different errors, we’re human. I’m sorry. Are you?”
When requested for remark particularly about this venture, an NYPD spokesperson stated in a press release: “The NYPD is dedicated to equity and transparency and officers work across the clock to maintain each New York Metropolis neighborhood secure. Working in shut partnership with the communities we serve is paramount to having a secure New York Metropolis. Since final yr, based mostly on the suggestions of the Division of Investigation report, now we have modified and tailored our practices. The DOI report discovered that the Mott Haven arrests had been lawful, but additionally discovered that there have been options to the mass arrests that ought to have acquired extra consideration.”
Past town’s personal Division of Investigation, Human Rights Watch issued a 99-page report which discovered that the NYPD’s conduct in the course of the Mott Haven protest violated human rights, civil rights protections of the U.S. Structure, and the NYPD’s personal Patrol Information.
The New York Lawyer Common Leticia James can also be suing the NYPD for extreme use of drive — and calling for a federal monitor of the NYPD based mostly, partly, on the occasions in Mott Haven on June 4, 2020.
A number of particular person and sophistication motion lawsuits have additionally been filed. And one group of protesters, calling itself the Mott Haven Collective, despatched a requirement letter to the Metropolis Comptroller asking him to create a reparations fund to compensates the people injured within the protest, in addition to the South Bronx neighborhood which the Collective alleges has suffered systematic and racialized police violence for many years.
This venture is produced by the WNYC/Gothamist Race & Justice Unit which explores programs of inequity and oppression.
Jami Floyd is the Senior Editor for Race and Justice at WNYC/Gothamist. When you’ve got a tip for her, she’s on Sign and WhatsApp. Or you possibly can message her on Twitter @jamifloyd.
David McLean is the Video Producer on this venture.
Amy Pearl is the Assistant Video Producer.
Wayne Shulmister is the Technical Director.
Jodi Malarbe is the analysis assistant and intern.