A woman was released from police custody overnight after video caught a swarm of police officers shoving her into an unmarked van during a Black Lives Matter protest Tuesday evening in Manhattan.
Nikki Stone, an 18-year-old trans woman, was leading a 24-hour protest against police brutality and racism when the incident occurred. Plainclothes officers apprehended Stone, wrestling her to the ground as she struggled against them. Stone was quickly thrown into an unmarked police van, her capture further protected by a team of NYPD officers on bikes who swarmed the scene and fought off horrified spectators.
The video of Stone’s arrest has received over 10 million views in less than 24 hours
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The scene felt eerily similar to dispatches from Portland, Oregon, where protesters have been reportedly whisked away in unmarked vans courtesy of federal officers.
NYPD released a statement via Twitter Wednesday night, saying that Stone was, “wanted for damaging police cameras during five separate criminal incidents in and around City Hall Park.” In a follow-up tweet, the NYPD couldn’t resist presenting themselves as the real victims in this scenario: “When officers from the Warrant Squad took the woman into custody in a gray NYPD minivan this evening, they were assaulted with rocks and bottles.” The police also attempted to downplay the terrifying viral video, insisting that “The Warrant Squad uses unmarked vehicles to effectively locate wanted suspects.”
Of course, this does little to alleviate the fact that a woman was aggressively thrown into an unmarked van, one of the many nightmarish scenarios women are socialized to be fearful of. The fact that police officers were the ones responsible for these kidnap-adjacent tactics doesn’t make it any less terrifying, especially considering the violence trans individuals receive from law enforcement.
Welcome to the new normal of policing, where behaving like a kidnapper is rationalized as a reasonable response to the dangerous conditions they themselves created. While this isn’t novel for many black and brown Americans, the police performing this stunt in broad daylight for all to see and capture on camera suggests an increasingly cavalier approach to so-called law and order, even at a time when police conduct is under increased scrutiny.
It is not clear if Stone has been charged, but she was released from police custody after receiving a desk appearance ticket.
In a tweet, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex said “Our civil liberties are on brink.” Well, what else is new?
But if there’s one blip of a silver lining it’s this: A GoFundMe was set up for Stones—also known as “Stickers”—four days ago to help her find housing. She has received more than 771 donations since her arrest and has far exceeded the GoFundMe goal. Little victories in the face of state violence.