There was yet another protest in New York City this weekend, replete with the usual scenes of disruption and unrest. A large number of people showed up outside of an NYPD station and in Times Square to demand that ICE be abolished. Wait a minute… I thought we were supposed to abolish the police? Now we’re back to abolishing ICE again? Well, I suppose as long as we’re abolishing something it’s just another day ending in a Y in the Big Apple.
But this time something was different. In the past, officials in New York have been mostly standing back until the protests turned into something more officially resembling a riot when the looting and burning really got into full gear. This time, however, as soon as the demonstrators moved to sit down in the middle of the street, the police arrived in a swarm and began hauling people off to jail. And not just a few of them, either. They wound up arresting nearly 100 of them before their demonstration could even get underway. (NY Post)
Police arrested 86 protesters at tense Abolish ICE demonstrations in Times Square and near NYPD headquarters in Manhattan Saturday, police sources said.
Videos from the scenes show police scuffling with protesters demonstrating against recent reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement performed unneeded hysterectomies on immigrant women detained at an ICE facility in Georgia.
One protester in Times Square, Isabella Leyva, wrote on Twitter that officers began making arrests as protesters stepped off the sidewalk and into the street.
Video from the scene showed police arresting several demonstrators as they sat in the street.
The police announced loudly and clearly that any people sitting in the streets were illegally blocking traffic and would be removed. They then proceeded to do so. And when the protesters attempted to use bicycles that some of them had ridden there to block the cops, they picked up the bikes and threw them out of the streets as well. One horrified protester filmed the police activity and seemed genuinely shocked that the NYPD would actually enforce the law and begin kicking butts.
The NYPD just attacked us at the Times Square abolish ICE protest for stepping off the sidewalk. Several organizers arrested for no reason. Police violence at protests is escalating in nyc, please pay attention pic.twitter.com/HcyAosYEtu
— Isabelle Leyva (@isabelle_leyva) September 19, 2020
While this is a welcome change of tactics by the NYPD, I have to wonder if this is going to wind up being too little, too late. They’ve been essentially standing down for most of the summer on orders coming from the Mayor’s office and his Police Commissioner. That has emboldened the rioters to the point where they’ve been largely disregarding the cops and even openly assaulting them in the streets. I suppose it’s possible that this may prove to be a wakeup call for some of the aspiring rioters, but it’s difficult to imagine them suddenly backing off and slinking back to their respective holes with some newly regained respect for law enforcement. That genie has been out of the bottle for a while now and it won’t be easy to cram back in.
The big question here should be whether this was a case of the police acting on their own initiative or if there’s been a change in the marching orders coming down from City Hall. There hasn’t been any sort of formal announcement from Bill de Blasio’s office about cracking down on the lawlessness that I’m aware of, but I suppose he could have done it under the covers. That would probably make sense since he’s spent so long singing the praises of Black Lives Matter and the free speech rights of the “peaceful protesters.” Admitting that we’ve reached the point where the NYPD needs to start cracking some heads would be a bad look for him.
But then again, de Blasio doesn’t have to worry about another election, because he’s term-limited. And his national aspirations are pretty much off the table after his disastrous trainwreck of a presidential primary bid exposed him as being largely a joke among the members of his own party. Unless he’s thinking about running for Governor at some point (which might be tough considering how he allowed Gotham to go up in flames), he pretty much has a free hand to act as he chooses. If so, he should come out and declare that publicly, if only to send a message to the rioters. Order must be restored on the streets of New York and it’s the Mayor’s job to make sure that happens.