City Councilman Jumaane Williams isn't the only City Councilperson to have a run in with the NYPD at a parade this year. Though his arrest at the West Indian Parade was definitely worse, what with the whole arrested thing, UWS Councilwoman Gale Brewer apparently had her own tough time with the police at the Gay Pride Parade this year, and she's decided to talk about it. Capital's Azi Paybarah got his hands on a scathing letter from Brewer to commissioner Ray Kelly in which she recounts her experience. Spoiler alert: She is not a fan of the NYPD these days!
Basically, Brewer misread her instructions on the day of the parade and found herself blocks from the rest of the City Council. Because of the crowds (gay marriage had just been made legal, after all) she found it impossible to move on the sidewalk and tried to walk down the parade route as the parade had yet to start. It did not go very well!
Because the crowd behind me in the side street was immense, I produced my Council ID, explained the situation to the patrolman on duty at the barricade, and asked him to let me through so that I could walk along the parade route to the meeting place. The parade had not yet begun. He not only refused, but immediately adopted a belligerent attitude, hooking his thumbs in his belt, puffing up his chest, and acting as though he felt he was under threat. When an African-American woman also peaceably approached the barricade with a similar request, he grabbed her and pushed her backward. None of this was called for.
By cell phone, I contacted the Council Speaker's staff, one of whom was behind a barricade on the west side of Fifth Avenue, but they too were unable to persuade any NYPD officer to release us from behind the barricades. I asked repeatedly for a supervisor. Soon a Sergeant appeared and I explained the situation to him. After a brief word with the patrolman, he refused to assist me, was also angry and rude, and clenched his fist and swung his arm upward in a little arc—a universal gesture that needed no translation. Then he and the patrolman had a good laugh.
Eventually, after an hour and a half, Brewer was able to join the parade, but she was beyond not amused at that point. "The issue in all these instances is not whether there are rules," she wrote to Kelly. "It is the abuse of discretion, a pattern of needless and angry over-reaction, an attitude of contempt and insult toward both elected officials and private citizens, and an apparent license among the rank and file of the NYPD to act inappropriately and insultingly whenever they choose. If officers feared being disciplined, they would not behave in these ways."
Brewer initially didn't plan on even mentioning the incident until Williams was arrested and says that "In my own case I refrained from making a public matter of the way in which I was treated, but after the incident with Council Member Williams, perhaps I should have spoken up earlier." Perhaps she should have, but better late than never.