When Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and his security detail were doused with fake blood at a protest in Times Square in November, Bratton demanded justice. "I hope he’ll be a professional resident of Rikers Island,” Bratton said of Diego Ibanez, the protester who tossed the blood.
— Liberty Radar (@LibertyRadar) November 25, 2014
After his arrest, prosecutors threw the book at Ibanez, charging him with two counts of assault in the second degree and six counts of criminal mischief in the third degree, all felony charges. Ibanez was held on Rikers Island on $30,000 bail.
But Bratton's wish was not to be. Ibanez made bail after a few days, and last week, prosecutors cut a deal, knocking his charges down to a single Class A misdemeanor. For his crimes, Ibanez will do 10 days of community service.
Ibanez says he wasn't lying in wait for Bratton. "Sometimes inspiration comes without planning," he says. "I wasn't even going to go on that march." But watching a livestream of Michael Brown's family's reaction to the news that the police officer who killed their son would not be charged, Ibanez felt called to join the protest. On his way out the door, he grabbed some stage blood left over from a demonstration at the Mexican consulate the week before.
"I was carrying this bottle around. The idea was to do hand-prints around the city with the march, put it on police cars, things like that. It was a very symbolic intention," he said. But when the New York Police Commissioner showed up in the middle of a demonstration against police violence, Ibanez felt he had to do something.
"The idea that this guy thinks that he can show up at this march and just walk around like it's nothing, secure, that made people feel disrespected," Ibanez says. "We needed to take that moment to process the pain in our own lives, and it was very disrespectful for him to come and do that little princess wave."
Ibanez says he still feels that bloodying Bratton in Times Square in front of dozens of photojournalists was an important thing to do. "One of the things I was taught is that it's really important to start making the invisible visible," says the veteran activist. "The NYPD does a really good job of convincing the general public, through the mainstream media, that they don't have blood on their hands. This was a way of showing that they do. Afterwards, I didn't have to go around and explain myself; people understood. Sometimes it's the most simple things that speak the loudest."
Ibanez will begin his community service in June, cleaning up a city park. He says he may bring some friends and make a day of it. "I'm not going to go into this feeling bad," he says. "It's all about having a positive attitude."