Artists and activists staged a nonviolent demonstration on a C train car Friday, chanting, playing music, and wrapping plastic flowers around subway poles. Part of a series of themed demonstrations spearheaded by the activist collective Decolonize This Place in advance of the Whitney Museum's big-ticket annual Biennial show, the protest bolstered the call for the museum's board to remove Warren Kanders, owner of the defense manufacturer Safariland, which supplies tear gas to the U.S. Border Patrol and helmets and body armor to the NYPD.

When the demonstrators arrived at the 14th Street station near the Whitney, however, they were surprised by a sizable police presence on the platform, and one demonstrator, DTP member Yates McKee, was arrested by a plainclothes officer and charged with "making graffiti," "criminal mischief," and "possession of a graffiti instrument."

"The doors open on 14th Street, people start exiting, cops start grabbing people," Shellyne Rodriguez, an artist and organizer for the subway action and for Take Back the Bronx, tells Gothamist. McKee, an activist and art historian, was one of the last people cleaning up on the train when police cuffed him, according to DTP organizer Amin Husain.

"We did nothing illegal," adds Dalaeja Foreman, an organizer and member of the DTP coalition. "But they had to make a point, so they grabbed someone."

The Biennial opens to the public this Friday, May 17th, and activists are planning a demonstration surrounding the opening.

Each of Decolonize This Place's demonstrations has highlighted a significant impact that Safariland has had on communities locally and internationally. Hyperallergic reported late last year that the company has supplied tear gas canisters and smoke grenades for use along the U.S.-Mexico border, in Gaza, and in Puerto Rico, among other places.

Friday's demonstration took place on a subway car headed from Euclid Avenue, in Brooklyn, to 14th Street (near where the Whitney is located). Along the way, various activist groups, including Why Accountability, the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network, and Mi Casa No Es Su Casa, boarded at different stops along the line and spoke out about how the displacement of communities relates to the militarization of police forces supplied by the likes of Safariland.

"We wanted to make the connection between Kanders and the war he’s allowing to be funded, or militarized, throughout the world in Kashmir, Egypt, Ferguson, Standing Rock, etc." says Foreman.

Safariland's weapons have been linked to police forces in Ferguson, Missouri, in addition to Baltimore, Maryland—as well as New York City. In 2016, the company announced with "great honor" that it had provided the NYPD with $7.3 million worth of ballistic equipment, including about 20,000 Delta 4 helmets and 12,000 Hardwire armor plates.

"These practices are part of a larger system in which some people (Black folks in NYC, Mexican folks on the border, Palestinians, for example) are always on the receiving end of violence," the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network said in a statement. "Warren B. Kanders is one of the people keeping that wheel turning."

(The Whitney Museum did not respond to Gothamist requests for comment.)

Activists say that police were present on the train early on in Brooklyn, but that they "vowed to stay out of the way," according to Rodriguez. Inside the car, activists hung up posters and streamers, blew up balloons, and played music on the ride to Manhattan. Hyperallergic reports that several stops in, at Van Siclen Avenue, five NYPD officers boarded the car and told demonstrators to take down posters and turn off the music they were playing. Rodriguez says the cops held the doors, and threatened to take the train car out of service if the activists didn't comply. "We said, 'No, we’re going to continue,' and that’s when they started to get super aggressive," Foreman says. "And one of the officers came in and started ripping down posters and throwing flowers on the floor and this is in front of—I vividly remember—this happened in front of a child who was maybe two years old."

Rodriguez, Foreman, and Husain each separately told Gothamist that later on, police officers all departed from the train shortly after members of Cop Watch boarded the subway car. (Recently, the city paid Cop Watch activist Jose LaSalle an $860,000 settlement after police allegedly tried to falsely imprison him after he filmed them stopping and frisking two men in the Bronx.) The demonstration continued without police, joined by more groups as the ride continued, until the train reached Chelsea. From there, the plan was to continue marching down to the Whitney and join another group of demonstrators there.

But when they arrived at the 14th Street stop, activists say, while they were finishing taking down the posters, ballots, and stickers they had hung up inside the car, they were immediately confronted with several uniformed and undercover NYPD officers. Foreman says there were at least seven police officers on the scene at first, who were joined by more later. "It's wild when you think about the amount of administrative work," she says, "And that's what our taxpayer dollars go towards. We're paying for you to grab someone who's done nothing."

Rodriguez says that when the crowd got upstairs to the street, they found three NYPD cars and a paddy wagon waiting for them, "blocking they were ready for mass arrests."

McKee says the police first took him to the transit police center, on Canal Street, before he was transferred to the Manhattan Detention Center (known as the Tombs). Upon his arrest, McKee notes, one of the undercover officers repeatedly told him, "I want to make it clear, I’m not arresting you for anything political, it’s only because of the graffiti charge." McKee adds: "Why were there a bunch of cops and undercovers waiting for us at 8th and 14th if it wasn’t about the protest?" McKee was released the following day.

In 2015, the NYPD halted thousands of people from marching in support of Black Lives Matter. At a press conference following the crackdown, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "The NYPD coordinates with any protesters who want to have an honest conversation about how to make their protests work right. There's is a long tradition of this. Ask people the stories of Occupy Wall Street, of the ongoing dialogue that occurred between police and the protesters, day in and day out."

Asked if Mayor Bill de Blasio had a comment about Friday's arrest, the mayor's office referred Gothamist's questions to the NYPD. The NYPD did not reply to Gothamist queries by publication time.