This morning, huddled at the top of the steps at City Hall in an effort to stay dry, City Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Kirsten John Foy (Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's Community Affairs Director), held a press conference to discuss their arrests after yesterday's West Indian-American Day Parade. After being allowed to pass through two check points near the Brooklyn Museum in Prospect Heights, Williams and Foy were halted and—even after they had properly identified themselves as an elected official and a high ranking government aide—an altercation ensued. "I was actually handcuffed while talking to the chief of police telling him what was going on," recalled Williams, who went on to blast the arresting officers as racially-profiling liars.
Williams and Foy maintain the police are lying about an officer being punched, and that they were detained for their own safety. "If you believe a black person can punch a police officer in this city and nothing happens to him... I defy the NYPD to find one shred of evidence of any police officer being punched in the face," said Williams. When asked if police said anything as the situation escalated, Foy quoted one police officer as saying, "It's over for you. You're done."
As the first public official on the scene, NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio described his experience with police at security checkpoints that day very differently. Coming from his home in Park Slope, de Blasio said he too went through several checkpoints, showed similar identification, and entered the frozen zones without a problem. "We were wearing the same pin that day," he said of Williams, pointing to his right lapel, "Police know what this means." He went on to chastise police for violating the rights of "exemplary New Yorkers" who had done nothing wrong, and took the opportunity to call for reforms to police procedures like stop-and-frisk.
Kirsten John Foy said he intends to use his experience to highlight long-standing problems revolving around stop-and-frisk and marijuana arrests, which disproportionately affect young black and Latino men in New York City. Both have been a divisive issue in New York for decades, and Williams is a long-time advocate for revising police practices. “I commend the police commissioner for his leadership on many issues. He has kept us safe," Foy said, but, "That leadership has not trickled down to the ranks and file leadership
Rev. Al Sharpton was rumored to attend today's presser, but didn't show up. (Maybe he was detained en route?) Here's his statement:
National Action Network condemns the improper and forceful arrests of Councilman Jumaane Williams and Kirsten John Foy, Director of Community Affairs for New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, at the West Indian Day Parade on Monday, September 5th, and are urging strong disciplinary action against the arresting officers. Both Councilman Williams and Mr. Foy are members of the National Action Network and have worked closely with the organization on issues pertaining to police misconduct and racial profiling.
According to witnesses and the victims themselves, there was unequivocally no basis for the forceful arrests of the duo who were attending the parade as advocates representing the City of New York. NAN will closely monitor any and all action taken by the NYPD in this case and will mobilize the community in protest if the disciplinary actions are not strong enough.
Still mum on the events, Mayor Bloomberg arrived as the conference came to a close and slipped past the press into City Hall before he could be asked to comment, but NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has launched an investigation into the incident.