Democratic district leader Paul Newell was hanging out at The Living Room on the Lower East Side (“It’s in my district!” he said) when he received word on Twitter that the NYPD was preparing to clear out Zuccotti Park.
He got on his bike and headed down to Zuccotti Park (“Also in my district,” he noted) hoping “to speak to an incident commander, use my title, use my seat to defuse the situation. In retrospect, obviously, that seems like a futile endeavor,” he said. “By the time I got down there it was too late.”
Mr. Newell achieved some notorieity in 2008 when he mounted a long-shot campaign against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a race that made its way onto the silver screen in the documentary “Excuse Me, Mr. Speaker…”
In 2009 he won a seat as district leader, and this year his ally Jennifer Rajkumar won a seat as female district leader, besting an ally’s of Speaker Silver.
Last night, Mr. Newell says that all of his political sucess was for naught as he waded his way through rows of police–explaining that he was an elected official–in an effort to speak with an incident commander.
Eventually, “Someone slammed me with his riot shield, and then poked me rather vigorously with his night stick and arrested me.”
He was taken 1 Police Plaza–also in his district–where he ran into City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.
“He looked rather beat up. He had cut on his head. He had definitely been struck,” Mr. Newell said.
Mr. Newell said he was unable to speak with Mr. Rodriguez, and was placed in a holding cell until 5:30 a.m. (at which point he walked home–he noted that the station is only a block and a half away from where he lives.)
He was given a desk appearance ticket for obstructing governmental administration and a January court date.
Mr. Newell did not approve of how the raid was handled–not just for himself, but for all of the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
“All the arrests that I saw, including my own, were in my opinion unlawful. I can’t speak to every arrest, but every arrest that I witnessed was clearly and patently unlawful. People were in compliance with police orders and were no by stretch of the imagination violent or even resistant.”
Newell spoke at the law offices of Yetta Kurland, who likewise challenged a powerful speaker–in her case, Christine Quinn–and who was engaged in the legal efforts to allow the protesters to return to Zuccotti Park.
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