What to Know
- Multiple videos captured the moment police officers drove two SUVs into a crowd of protesters in Brooklyn on Saturday
- NY Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have called for quick, independent reviews of violence seen in protests over the weekend
- More protesters marched through NYC streets Sunday, marking the fourth day of demonstrations against police brutality
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has guaranteed an independent investigation into violent clashes between police and protesters, including the moment caught on video when NYPD officers in two police SUVs drove into a group of protesters in Brooklyn.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said Monday morning that NYPD Internal Affairs is reviewing about six incidents from the last four days of protests, and that disciplinary action will be taken if needed.
Multiple videos, including one shared with NBC New York, appeared to show two police vehicles hit a group of protesters in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The video shows people place a metal barrier in front of a parked police vehicle near Flatbush Avenue and St. Marks Avenue around 8 p.m. Saturday.
After a second NYPD vehicle pulls up and protesters are seen banging on the car, it accelerates, pushing people in the crowd. The first police vehicle then also accelerates into the crowd, knocking several people to the ground. It was not immediately clear if there were any injuries.
Law enforcement officials say the vehicle was hit with rocks, bottles, and lit debris prompting the officers to push through the barrier instead of confronting the protesters outside.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the police’s actions during a press conference on Sunday, arguing that the protesters should not have surrounded a police vehicle.
“Imagine what it would be like — you’re just trying to do your job and then you see hundreds of people converging on you. I’m not going to blame officers who were trying to deal with an absolutely impossible situation,” de Blasio said. “The folks who were converging did the wrong thing to begin with. And they created an untenable situation. I wish the officers had found a different approach but let’s begin at the beginning. The protesters in that video did the wrong thing to surround that police car, period.”
The mayor announced an independent review of the actions seen in the video will be led by Corporation Counsel James Johnson and NYC Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett. He said the results of their review will come "in the next few weeks."
De Blasio commended the "restraint" of the NYPD as a whole in handling the protests around the city and repeatedly defended the work of the police.
"If you're going to peacefully protest then you have every right to be able to peacefully protest, and any NYPD officer who does not respect that right to peaceful protest, they are going to have a problem. There are going to be disciplinary actions taken on some of the officers we've seen already in videos because what they did was wrong," he said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also called for a review by by Attorney General Letitia James into "all actions and procedures" used during the protests. that were used last night."
"I've seen those videos and those videos are truly disturbing," Cuomo said Sunday. "Some of the videos, frankly, are inexplicable to me."
Other instances of police action under review are a video from Friday that showed a large male NYPD officer shoving a smaller female protester with intense force, sending her flying to the ground. Another video captured during Saturday's protest appeared to show an NYPD officer pull down the face mask of a protester before shooting them with pepper spray.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the mayor's comment "unacceptable" and demanded accountability.
"This moment demands leadership & accountability from each of us. Defending and making excuses for NYPD running SUVs into crowds was wrong," the representative tweeted.
Commissioner Shea joined the mayor at Sunday's briefing, where he said detectives would work to identify "anyone that is systematically looking to ambush my police officers, throw lit materials on the car and put them in harm's way."
"There are protests and there are mobs, and I saw a kid closer to a mob of protesters not involved surrounding and ambushing a marked police car and putting my officers and my detectives at risk," Shea said.
In a Today Show interview Monday morning, Shea acknowledged the incidents under review, but said they were just a small fraction of the bigger picture.
“In literally tens of thousands of encounters, we have about six that our internal affairs officers are looking at," the commissioner said.