In July, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized President Trump’s deployment of federal agents in Oregon and the unaccountable tactics they were using. But on July 28, plainclothes officers in unmarked minivans rolled alongside protesters in New York and arrested a woman near the front of the group. Protesters closed in to resist the arrest, but NYPD bike cops formed a line to hold them back. President Trump threatened to send federal agents to the Big Apple as well, but the NYPD Twitter feed revealed the plainclothes officers to be NYPD.
Mayor de Blasio was quick to attempt to distinguish the incident from the nearly identical situation unfolding in Portland.
“This is not Portland,” said the mayor. “What you see on that video is an NYPD officer.”
The NYPD has come under increasingly intense scrutiny because of its plainclothes “anti-crime” unit. Though it is unclear whether this same unit was responsible for this incident, what is clear is that such actions are within the NYPD’s policies.
The mayor allowed that the optics were “unfortunate,” saying, “There has to be sensitivity, where folks are understandably worried about what they see coming out of Washington.” What’s truly unfortunate is the absence of transparency and accountability when law enforcement, be they DHS or NYPD, wear clothing that makes them indistinguishable from organized thugs like the militia groups that have menaced protesters recently.
Meanwhile, after weeks of chaotic protests that were met with police wielding tear-gas pumping backpacks and “less-than-lethal” munitions that have left some protesters hospitalized in critical condition, Portland police were enjoined by a federal court from using such tactics. Ironically, after many subsequent incidents where Portland PD violated this order, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler himself was gassed by federal agents while attending a protest in July.
Federal agents were issued a temporary restraining order barring them from arresting journalists and legal observers. This order contained a warning that violations of the order would result in a denial of the “qualified immunity” defense for offending agents. Yet journalists have documented agents repeatedly violating this order.
When officers violate the rights of citizens, we must demand they be held accountable. We must demand a system where accountability is the norm, not the exception.
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