The leader of a local Black Lives Matter chapter is suing the city and the NYPD, alleging that he was assaulted and falsely imprisoned while protesting police brutality at rally in Midtown, Manhattan earlier this year.
Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, says the March 28th confrontation began when an officer started jabbing him with a mountain bike, then "lost his mind" after the activist requested he stop. "He started punching me, and all of a sudden they're all on top of me, swinging me around and ripping my shoulder," Newsome told Gothamist. "There was another officer who had his knee planted in my head while I'm lying there not resisting."
Video of the incident shows half a dozen bike cops charging Newsome, with one of them punching him in the head, and others slamming him to the ground. At least one of their bikes lands on Newsome, who was subsequently arrested on a charge of obstructing governmental administration. At the 45 second mark, two cops appear to exchange a high-five over the violent arrest.
"These guys are assaulting me and then celebrating after," added Newsome. "What kind of message does that send to the country?" He was carrying a "Blue Klux Klan" sign at the time of the arrest, while protesting the killing of Stephon Clarke, who was fatally shot by police in his Sacramento backyard earlier that month.
Newsome, who says he was held for 22 hours following the arrest, believes that he was intentionally targeted because of his vocal anti-police activism. "Police treat us like we're terrorists—they harass and follow us. This is commonplace for activists for New York City," he said. The BLM leader was also arrested at a previous Washington Square Park rally last year, on charges that were eventually dropped. He filed a lawsuit in that incident as well, which is currently pending.
"This is the second arrest of Hawk Newsome at a civil rights demonstration within the year," said his attorney, Sanford Rubenstein. "He's the leader. So the question has to be raised: Is the NYPD targeting civil rights leaders for arrests at demonstrations?" A criminal investigation should be opened into the actions of the officers who attacked Newsome, Rubenstein argued.
The lawsuit will be filed on Friday afternoon. A spokesman for the city Law Department declined to comment.
"The country needs to know the type of hostility that Black Lives Matter protesters are met with by police officers," said Newsome. "They're trying to harass us and intimidate us, but we're not going anywhere."