NYPD Commissioner Defends Arrests of 28 Protesters at MLK Day Demonstration

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At least 28 people were arrested as groups of protesters gathered in New York City to march on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Hundreds of protesters in different groups throughout the city began rallying as early as noon on Monday as a part of a Black Liberation March to commemorate the life and legacy of the Civil Rights leader. The groups calling for racial and social justice peacefully marched from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to City Hall where they were met with a large group of NYPD officers.

The rally came to an end just as many Black Lives Matter protests ended last year. Police told protesters to disperse and violence broke out as officers began arresting demonstrators. A total of 28 people were arrested late Monday, police said. Their charges include disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and blocking a roadway.

Eleven officers were injured, according to the NYPD, but none in serious condition. One uniformed captain was hit in the head with a glass bottle. It's unclear how many protesters were injured.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea on Tuesday defended the police response, telling NY1 that police officers aren't the ones painting graffiti, NBC News reported.

"When you march from Brooklyn over a bridge, you try to shut down the traffic on the bridge," he said Tuesday. "You're bringing bottles. You're bringing graffiti. You're spray-painting our city. This is our city. You're spray-painting to burn our city down."

"This isn't actions that are caused by police officers, so that's a news flash for the AG," Shea said. "This is actions caused by people that want to destroy our way of life and our city and we're not going to let it happen,” he said.

Just last week, New York’s attorney general sued the New York Police Department over the rough treatment of protesters, calling it a part of a longstanding pattern of abuse that stemmed from inadequate training, supervision and discipline.

Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit includes dozens of examples of alleged misconduct during the spring demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s police killing, including the use of pepper spray and batons on protesters, trapping demonstrators with a technique called kettling and arresting medics and legal observers.

"Less than a week after I filed a lawsuit against the @NYPDnews for using excessive force against peaceful protesters, last night we saw officers exhibit the same concerning behavior," James tweeted Tuesday. "As we laid out in our lawsuit, this is a longstanding pattern that must stop."

She asked anyone with photos, videos or eyewitness accounts of interactions with police to contact her office.

James’ lawsuit is the second major legal action to stem from the NYPD’s handling of the protests.

In October, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society sued the city on behalf of protesters who say they were assaulted and abused by police.

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