The publication released a 99-page report titled “‘Kettling’ Protesters in the Bronx: Systemic Police Brutality and Its Costs in the United States” that revealed the results of their investigation into the police’s response to the June protest in Mott Haven, noting the assaults against the demonstrators were actually “planned.”
“We had a plan which was executed nearly flawlessly in the Bronx,” New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a press conference following the operation, adding the the protest was an attempt to “cause mayhem,” “tear down society,” and “injure cops.”
According to the report, NYPD officers “kettled” or prevented the protesters from leaving the scene about 10 minutes before the curfew actually began, but cited the curfew as a reason for the constraint.
“The New York City police blocked people from leaving before the curfew and then used the curfew as an excuse to beat, abuse and arrest people who were protesting peacefully,” said Human Rights Watch conflict director Ida Sawyer who co-wrote the report. “It was a planned operation with no justification that could cost New York taxpayers millions of dollars.”
Of the 81 protesters interviewed, one described being punched by an officer while another twisted and broke his finger. “Then, another cop sprayed me in the face with mace,” he said. “Then, they dragged me on the ground and beat me with batons. Somewhere in the process of being cuffed, I had a knee on my neck.”
About 61 people were injured during the lockdown, but spent hours without being treated as some of the medics on the scene were detained and restricted from providing medical care. 13 legal obsevers were also arrested despite wearing hats and badges that made their identities known.
More than 250 people were arrested in total, the majority of whom were charged with curfew violations or unlawful assembly and given summonses and desk appearances. The Bronx District Attorney filed to dismiss the summonses, and the desk appearance tickets will be dropped.
Protesters have also announced their plans to file lawsuits against the city.
The NYPD told the Human Rights Watch that the Bronx protest “was unlawful under the Mayor’s Executive Order establishing the curfew,” starting at 8 p.m that night. They argued the arrest of nonessential workers “was lawful,” adding the “legal observers did not enjoy an exemption as essential workers,” even though the mayor’s office exempted them from the curfew. They ignored questions about their attacks or their decision to block protesters ahead of the curfew.
As the Human Rights Watch reported, the NYPD’s attack on the Bronx protesters not only violated the international human rights law, but the civil rights protections of the US Constitution and the police department’s Patrol Guide.
“Instead of cracking down on peaceful protesters and stifling their calls for change, policymakers in New York City and across the country should listen to their demands,” Sawyer suggested. “Local governments should finally do what it takes to end the structural racism and systemic police abuse that people in Mott Haven and communities like it have long experienced.”