Councilman, Aide: Police Targeted Us Because of Our Race

Councilman: It happened because I'm a "35-year-old black man with dreadlocks."

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The City Councilmember who ended up in handcuffs after a confrontation at the West Indian Day Parade is speaking out.

    A city councilman and a city aide detained at the West Indian Day Parade were targeted and pushed around by police officers because they are black, the pair said Tuesday.

    Councilman Jumaane Williams said he showed officers his official city badge, tried to explain who he was and called a police chief on his cellphone to try to clear up the situation but was repeatedly shoved and then forcibly handcuffed.

    VIDEO: Councilman, Aide Detained at West Indian Day Parade

    [NY] VIDEO: Councilman, Aide Detained at West Indian Day Parade
    This video shows the skirmish where Councilman Jumaane Williams and city aide, Kirsten Foy, were detained at the West Indian Day Parade. Foy is in the aqua blue shirt and can be seen being thrown to the ground at the start of the clip. Williams is not pictured.

    "If I did not look the way I look ... we are sure things would have been handled differently," the 35-year-old, who wears his hair in long dreadlocks, said at a news conference on the steps of City Hall. "These things happen on a regular basis. If it happens to myself, an elected official ... please imagine what is happening to our young, black and Latino males every single day."

    Williams and Kirsten John Foy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, said they had been trying to get to an official event near the parade on Monday and were allowed into a blocked off area by a police official.

    After passing another police checkpoint without a problem, officers stopped the two at a third checkpoint and seemed uninterested in the official identification that marked them as city officials, Williams said.

    The councilman was repeatedly shoved, then handcuffed as he was speaking to a police chief on his cellphone, he said. Foy said that he was retreating from the scene at the request of an officer — backing up while attempting to explain who he was — when the officer told him, "It's over for you. You're done," then knocked him to the ground and pushed his face into the grass.

    "If you're not under threat and you proceed to be aggressive, what kind of policing are you engaging in?" Foy said Tuesday.

    Police have said Williams and Foy were stopped from entering a frozen zone near the Brooklyn Museum, where a crowd formed and someone punched a police captain.

    The two were handcuffed, taken across the street, detained until their identities were established and then released, police said. Williams said he had seen no violence by civilians at the scene.

    The NYPD did not respond to the allegation that the officers were motivated by race.

    Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would not comment Tuesday on what happened, but said internal affairs was investigating.

    De Blasio, city Comptroller John Liu, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer — all presumed to be candidates in the 2013 mayoral race — joined Williams and Foy on the steps of City Hall and called for a re-examination of the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk tactics to ferret out criminals.

    The NYPD made more than 600,000 street stops of potential suspects last year. Civil liberties advocates say that the practice unfairly targets minorities and fails to deter crime, while police say it helps them find illegal weapons and drugs before more serious crimes happen.

    City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, another presumptive 2013 candidate who has said she would like to see stop-and-frisk tactics more carefully monitored and limited, called the men's encounter with police "distressing" and "unacceptable."

    State Sen. Eric Adams said members of the city's black community feel targeted by police.

    "We hear this at every cookout, every barbecue, every family reunion, every classroom. This is the tone in our community," he said. "We want to get rid of crime in our community. But not at the expense of bartering away our civil rights."

    The West Indian Day Parade, which has been scarred by violence at least twice in the last several years, draws an increased police presence. This year, a shooting a few blocks off the parade route left two police officers wounded and three people dead.