Happy Pride from the New York City Police Department, which celebrated, as it often does, with violence and pepper spray. On Sunday—the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, and only a few minutes away from the Stonewall Inn—NYPD officers pepper-sprayed and used excessive force against several people participating in the Queer Liberation March, turning what had been a peaceful and celebratory event violent.
According to Gothamist and Gay City News, cops whipped out their pepper spray after they arrested two people for graffiti, and protesters attempted to intervene in the arrests by surrounding a police car. Several people were arrested and more were pepper-sprayed, according to a legal observer Gothamist spoke with—including, according to eyewitnesses, two police officers. Others also told BuzzFeed that they saw police officers whip out their batons, and also saw police officers beating people, though it was not clear if they were using their batons to do so. In one video, a cop can be clearly seen pushing a protester on a bike down to the ground.
Before the cops decided to deploy pepper spray and get violent, the march, organized by the Reclaim Pride Coalition, had been peaceful, with seemingly more of a celebratory, dancefloor vibe. As one marcher, Mike Perles, told Gothamist, “We were dancing right in front of the arch on 5th Ave and out of nowhere, cops started storming into the crowd.” Perles said that the cops then “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.”
Other witnesses, as well as video, back up Perles’s account. One volunteer, Pippa Bianco, was pushed and then held down on the ground by officers and saw others getting 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 told Gothamist.
Here’s Bianco’s account of what happened, via 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.
“People were chanting ‘don’t shoot’ and many took a knee. The police escalated and used pepper spray and batons,” Marti Gould Cummings, a draq queen and candidate for City Council, told BuzzFeed.
Many of the city’s elected officials, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, are demanding an investigation into the NYPD’s use of force. “The first #Pride started as a response to police brutality,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “This is incredibly disturbing. We need a full investigation into what happened today.”
But New York City’s useless Mayor Bill de Blasio, who earlier in the day had warbled out a tweet marking the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and celebrating the “Black, trans activists who built the movement and continue to lead today,” has stayed silent on why exactly his police department decided to celebrate the anniversary with the exact kind of violent behavior that kicked off Pride to begin with.