Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez held a press conference on the steps of City Hall this morning to discuss his arrest during the NYPD raid on the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park. Councilman Rodriguez said he was thrown to the ground by arresting officers, held for more than 12 hours and prevented from speaking with his attorneys during his time in custody.
He was joined by his lawyers and a slew of other elected officials including Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Councilman Jumaane Williams, State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Councilwoman Tish James who condemned the arrest and Mayor Bloomberg’s overall handling of the Occupy Wall Street eviction.
“It is simply outrageous that City Hall felt it necessary to swoop in on Zuccotti Park under cover of the dark of night and to show up with such an incredible show of force somewhat similar to the shock and awe that was employed in Iraq,” Comptroller Liu said.
Councilman Rodriguez, who held a march in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street earlier this month, said he went to the protests to observe and had no intention of getting arrested. He said he was frustrated with the way he was treated, as well as the way police treated protesters and multiple members of the media who were arrested trying to cover the raid.
“I have no problem being arrested. I have no problem participating in civil disobedience, but I think that what happened yesterday morning didn’t have to happen. Not only to me, but to the nine reporters of the media, to hundreds of people that many of them–that many of them did not pick to be arrested,” Councilman Rodriguez said. “I believe that participating in civil disobedience is the right of the citizens as also it is the right of the NYPD to conduct their work and to guarantee order in the city, but my experience in the whole process was not a good one.”
Councilman Rodriguez said he drove to the park from his home in Upper Manhattan after receiving a late night text from one of the protesters informing him of the raid. He said he was arrested on Broadway about three blocks away from Zuccotti Park.
“I was walking by and I saw a group of protesters and NYPD officers. I knew that it was tough for me to walk to the park, so I crossed the street, and when I crossed the street, I was suddenly taken down,” Councilman Rodriguez said.
He accused the arresting officer of pushing his head against the curb. A small scratch was visible on his face during the press conference. “I have also a scratch in my–this area,” Councilman Rodriguez said pointing to the side of his head.
Councilman Rodriguez said he was did nothing to get in the way of the officers who were evicting protesters from the park.
“I was walking in an area that the police didn’t have to be–they were not involved in controlling a crowd. I even crossed the street to the left side of Broadway to be sure that I was not interfering with the work that the NYPD was doing,” Councilman Rodriguez said.
Councilman Rodriguez said he identified himself as a Councilman and that there were high ranking police officers nearby at the time.
“NYPD cannot say, ‘We didn’t know who that person was.’ It was that–it’s another practice where some police officers, NYPD, they are not doing the right work. And unfortunately, it affects the image and also the relationship that we would like to continue building because we need to work closely with the NYPD,” Councilman Rodriguez said.
Speaker Quinn told Councilman Rodriguez she was “sorry this happened” and said his arrest raised a series of “troubling questions” for the city.
“Most significantly, we need answers to these questions–Why was he pushed to the ground? Why was he held in a van for two hours when no one else was in that van with him? Why did he ask to see a supervisor and was never granted that right. Among other questions those are troubling, troubling questions. Why was his attorney not given the ability to see him?” Speaker Quinn said. “These are troubling questions, which we in the Council, but more importantly we as New Yorkers deserve to get answers to and we will work closely with the Councilmember and all of my colleagues to make sure we get answers to these questions.”
Comptroller Liu said he was there to “support” Councilman Rodriguez. He also criticized several other aspects of Mayor Bloomberg’s handling of the Zuccotti Park raid.
“Somewhat confusing to all of us why the Mayor would say that they did so in the dark of night to keep everybody safe and yet it required such an incredible show of force. Very curious for the mayor to say that the news media was kept out of the area for their own protection,” Comptroller Liu said. “It’s 2011 not 1984, and yet, we hear more and more of this Orwellian double speak coming from City Hall. This has to end.”
Councilman Williams, who was himself arrested at the West Indian Labor Day Parade in September, said the situation reminded him of a dictatorship.
“This kind of reminds me of a fascist dictator. So, you have the press being arrested and not allowed to be on scene to see what’s going on. You have elected officials who are outspoken being arrested and denied the ability to see an attorney, even denied the ability to seek medical attention,” Councilman Williams said.
Councilman Rodriguez’s attorneys, Andrew Stoll and Leo Glickman said their were two prior complaints against the officer who arrested the Councilman. They declined to release the officer’s name.
“A crime was committed here, but it was not by Ydanis Rodriguez. It was by a police officer who felt it necessary to falsely arrest Ydanis Rodriguez, grind his face into the ground, use excessive force conduct a false arrest … the decision to perjure himself in charging instruments against Ydanis Rodriguez thats the crime that was committed here,” Mr. Stoll said.
The attorneys said they will fight the case to the finish but that, in the meantime, they’re calling on the District Attorney’s office to investigate the circumstances of Councilman Rodriguez’s request, to dismiss the case and to take action against the arresting officer.