Local elected officials are calling on the city to report on why and how social distancing is being enforced.
The demand comes following a violent arrest on Avenue D and Ninth Street late Saturday afternoon that was captured on video via a bystander.
An NYPD officer, identified as Francisco Garcia who's stationed at PS4 on Avenue C, was stripped of his gun and put on modified duty following the ugly confrontation when an attempt to enforce social distancing rules escalated.
" ... a plainclothes officer can be seen punching and tackling Donni Wright, a groundskeeper with NYCHA, while shouting the n-word, brandishing a taser, and subsequently kneeling on Wright's head. The confrontation began after officers, some of whom were not wearing face coverings, spotted "a number of people not wearing masks" at the corner of Avenue D and 9th Street, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Monday.
Shea told Pat Kiernan yesterday that he was not happy with some of the tactics that he saw used in the video. Mayor de Blasio had this to say...
Saw the video from the Lower East Side and was really disturbed by it. The officer involved has been placed on modified duty and an investigation has begun. The behavior I saw in that video is simply not acceptable.— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) May 3, 2020
And yesterday, a handful of elected officials, led by local City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, sent Shea and de Blasio a letter asking for "transparency and accountability" in the way the NYPD is enforcing social distancing.
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The letter reads in part:
This incident highlights our concerns that social-distancing enforcement may not be applied equally in all communities. Social media accounts portray scenes of people congregating in parks across New York City’s more affluent parks and neighborhoods, yet the enforcement actions that come to light are those like the May 2 event on East 9th Street and Avenue D, predominantly a community of color.
We, therefore, request that NYPD release a report on social-distancing enforcement statistics by neighborhood and demographic. The report should include all citations including warnings and fines, along with 311 complaint data on the matter so that we and the public can compare application of the law.
Communities of color have been particularly burdened by the COVID-19 outbreak, and it is imperative that, especially now, they see that New York City government is in their corner. In the interest of transparency and accountability – and to help repair the mistrust fostered by the May 2 incident and others like it in the past – please release this data immediately.
The letter is signed by Rivera, State Sen. Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
Meanwhile, as previously reported, the city has paid out nearly $200,000 to settle lawsuits involving Garcia, an eight-year veteran.
Gothamist had more details on some of these incidents yesterday.
According to a complaint filed in 2013, Garcia allegedly told a woman eating with her partner inside a Harlem restaurant that she "dressed like a man." When the woman attempted to get his badge number, Garcia allegedly pushed her, then replied: "Take a fucking picture of it, fucking dyke." The city settled that suit for $8,500.
A year later, Garcia was accused of wrongfully arresting a man trying to visit his girlfriend inside a Washington Heights NYCHA building. According to a federal lawsuit, which the city settled for $27,500, Garcia "forced [the man] to the floor face-first," then punched, kicked, and clubbed him.
The letter also states that the officials "expect a full investigation of Officer Francisco Garcia. All disciplinary actions should be on the table, including dismissal."
For further reading:
Mother of man beaten in East Village social distancing melee rips NYPD