New York Police Use of an Unmarked Van in Arrest Draws Parallels to Portland

New York City police officers, in various civilian clothes, participated in a demonstration against aggressive police tactics on Tuesday and arrested a protester they appeared to have targeted, taking her to an unmarked minivan before leaving.

Videos of the meeting generated intense criticism on social media, including allegations that New York police were adopting tactics similar to those used by federal agents during the recent protests in Portland, Oregon, where some people were taken to unmarked trucks. .

The Police Department said in a statement that the woman had been detained by law enforcement squad officers in connection with “damaging police cameras during five separate criminal incidents in and around City Hall Park,” an apparent reference to incidents that occurred during the Occupy City Hall protests. Police did not immediately provide details on those incidents. The arrest took place on Second Avenue and East 25th Street in the Kips Bay section of Manhattan, according to the Police Department.

The command squad generally uses unmarked vehicles to locate wanted people in connection with the crimes, police said. Police did not name the woman but said charges against her were pending.

While the police indicated that they were following standard procedure, the incident occurs at a time when law enforcement practices are under intense scrutiny. Several city officials said Tuesday they were concerned about the videos of the woman’s arrest and publicly demanded a more complete explanation from the Police Department.

Corey Johnson, the Speaker of the City Council, called the video of the meeting “incredibly disturbing.” Scott M. Stringer, the New York City Comptroller, said he was “deeply concerned.”

Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander said that with “anxiety over what is happening in Portland, the NYPD deploys unidentified vans with plainclothes police officers to make street arrests of protesters feel more like provocation than public safety” .

A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio referred questions about the woman’s arrest Tuesday night to the Police Department’s statement.

Tuesday’s arrest was the latest highlight in a nationwide conversation about aggressive police tactics. For weeks since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, people have organized city-wide protests against police brutality and racism in the criminal justice system.

The protest on Tuesday in which the woman was arrested was held in response to the eviction of the Occupy camp from the city council last week, organizers said.

The Occupy City Hall rally, which started on June 23 when about 100 people set up camp on a small patch of grass east of City Hall, was intended to pressure the City Council to cut funds from the Police Department.

Most of the people who attended the rally went home a few days after the Council finally decided to take nearly $ 1 billion away from the police, although the move did not meet many of the protesters’ expectations. Homeless people flocked to the site to receive their free meals and to camp outdoors before the camp cleared last week.

The tactics used by federal agents in Portland have sparked renewed protests across the country. Some officers, dressed in camouflage and tactical equipment, sprayed tear gas at the protesters and pushed others into unmarked trucks.

Juliana Kim contributed reporting.