While you were busy high-fiving friends, crawling into bed, or peacefully cheering in the streets somewhere around town, things got a little bit crazy over in Williamsburg. I was there first hand to witness the fun side of the street party, which from about midnight to 2:30 p.m. was nothing more than a bunch of happy Brooklyn kids dancing, cheering, and playing music at the corner of Bedford and North 7th. Around 2:45 a.m. though, with a NYPD helicopter circling overhead, police working the streets became visibly frustrated with the ongoing revelry. And then, out came the riot gear.
A number of FREEwilliamsburg commenters began chronicling their tales of abuse early Wednesday morning, and Gothamist just posted one tipster's first-hand account of her boyfriend's arrest. From a call to the NYPD, they learned that there are about "6 in there" currently locked up. So did they deserve it? From what we're told, no. The NYPD seems to have overreacted last night due to what seems to be escalating nerves. Here's a brief collection of the allegations against the police, which seem to have a common thread of "we didn't do anything to deserve this!".
From Anonymous: "A few minutes after the riot cops rolled in, I saw one cop break a beer bottle on the ground with his baton for no reason at all amidst all the positive energy and celebrating crowd. I assumed for intimidation purposes. People looked up at him and exclaimed "hey that isn't safe" as one girl used her foot to try and push the shards to the side against the curb. Then after the first beat down occurred, one innocent bystander was pushed back and I saw him fall on this glass with his hands. I could only see this one guy being held down by three or four cops, then a slew of other cops hitting other people nearby the Oasis falafel place. It was hard to keep track because I couldn't believe what was going on."
From Casey256: "I took the L-train home to Brooklyn around 2:30AM and the train was moving really slow, then there was an announcement that it would not stop at Bedford because of ongoing police investigation. As we slowly rolled through the station I saw a ton of cops walking around and several people standing there."
From Michael: "Eventually the riot police showed up and started hitting people with batons and arresting anyone who stepped off the sidewalk. It was the most disgusting abuse of NYPD power I've ever witnessed."
From Joey (Who complained to internal affairs, and is asking that if you have anything to add, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org): "Things I witnessed: An officer striking the ground with his steel baton in an attempt to intimidate, breaking several glass bottles which sent shards everywhere; A photographer was slammed up against a trashcan, shattering his camera; A young girl curled in the fetal position was hit three times by an officer with a baton as her protesting boyfriend was dragged away; A man carrying his dog was cross-checked from behind by a cop's baton, causing him to drop his dog."
From Saddened: "these cops clearly were pissed off about the election and realized the hipsters were not going to fight back the way a crowd in Harlem might. They dealt with it in an entirely incompetent way. Very very sad. I urge everyone who witnessed this to write a letter to Mayor Bloomberg. Apparently the city lost millions in lawsuits after this same shit happened during the Republican convention of 2004 and he was very pissed off about that. He should know that it hasn't abated."
For video of the street celebrations, including footage of a cop shoving a hipster in a pirate costume (Aye voted!), click through to Gothamist. And if you were there, please, share in the comments. Will this go down as The Great Williamsburg Election Riot of 2008, or be passed off as a few drunk hipsters?