‘We were being packed and packed like sardines,’ report details NYPD tactics during Mott Haven protest in June

An illustration detailing alleged 'kettling' done by the NYPD during the Mott Haven from June.
Screenshot via Zoom

The Human Rights Watch released a 99-page, detailed report and nearly 13 minute video which documented NYPD tactics used during a Black Lives Matter protest of about 300 in Mott Haven that turned into chaos on Saturday, June 4.

It alleged that minutes prior to the city’s then 8:00 p.m. curfew, NYPD officers blocked in protestors from both sides at the intersection of Brook Avenue and E. 136th street, a practice referred to as “kettling” by the HRW.

An example of a similar, NYPD bicycle unit crowd dispersion tactic can be viewed below:

However in this case, it is alleged that protestors were deliberately contained and not led to an exit until after the curfew was in effect. That’s when the mass arrests began while Chief of Department Terrence Monahan was on site.

“We were being packed and packed like sardines,” one protester said according to the report, which also stated that many had been chanting “let us go” and one even yelled “you’re gonna kill us; I can’t breathe.”

The report also accused and showed NYPD striking people with batons from the tops of cars, shoving protestors down to the ground and allegedly firing pepper spray in their faces.

“Then it’s kind of all a blur,” one protester told HRW in the report, saying a police officer punched him in the face while twisting and breaking his finger.

He went on to say a third officer pulled off his face mask and pepper sprayed him.

“Then they dragged me on the ground and beat me with batons,” he said according to the document. “Somewhere in the process of being cuffed, I had a knee on my neck.”

The following day, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said that posters had been displayed throughout Mott Haven which claimed that demonstrators were going “to burn things down” and “cause mayhem.”

Ida Sawyer, an author of the report, acknowledged that violent flyers depicting officers being jumped on and police cars being set ablaze were found at the time during a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

That came in the context of previous protests which had turned into violent, fiery rioting and looting on Fordham Road, Burnside Avenue and other parts of the Bronx on Monday, June 1.

Shea stated on June 5 that officers recovered firearms, gasoline and numerous other unspecified weapons at the protests. He then blamed peaceful protesters for who “might have gotten caught up” in arrests or baton beatings for turning out to a protest that advertised violence.

Since that time, reports indicated that gasoline and weapons recovered by police were not connected to that protest.

The Human Rights Watch stated the report was based on interviews or written accounts from 81 people who engaged in the Mott Haven protest as well as interviews with 19 other community members, lawyers, activists and city officials in addition to analysis of 155 videos that were recorded during the protest.

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