Police threw a cyclist to the ground and violently arrested him for riding too slowly for the fed-up cops driving behind him in a police van during a Black Lives Matter protest in Brooklyn on Saturday night, according to the victim and a horrified witness who captured the attack on video.
Victim Pierce McCaffrey told Streetsblog on Sunday night that he was riding in front of an NYPD van as they headed up Nassau Street near Gold Street at around 7:40 p.m. trailing a crowd of protestors after a solidarity ride, when four cops jumped out of the van and threw him to the ground, smashing his head against the pavement.
“They started tackling me to the ground, punched me, put my hands behind my back, handcuffed me and threw me into the car,” said McCaffrey, reliving an attack caught on video. (Content warning: police violence and brutality)
McCaffrey said he did nothing to instigate the cops besides purposely biking slowly — he said they had the sirens blaring for about 10 seconds, but did not use a speaker to ask him to move out of the way, before throwing him to the ground.
“I was biking with the bike protest and there was a procession of cops at the back. I kind of cut in front of one, and was biking pretty slow and they sirened at me, but I didn’t move,” McCaffrey said, adding that he got off his bike as he saw cops running towards him in hopes of softening the blow. (Many cyclists have been tackled by cops during the 10 days of protests in New York.)
In the video, cyclist Mike Hassell tells McCaffrey not to resist, and McCaffrey responds, “I’m not!” as cops continue to pummel his head into the ground.
Hassell’s video confirms much of McCaffrey’s account, though he is obscured by parked cars for about 10 seconds. But Hassell also told Streetsblog that everything was peaceful and police just seemed mad they couldn’t drive faster — a tactic used by cyclists during protests to slow cops down.
“They were literally just pissed off because he was going slow,” said Hassell. “There was blood — they hit his head on the ground. It was such a vicious attack.”
McCaffrey says he was taken to the 72nd Precinct stationhouse, where cops put him in a holding cell for about two hours before letting him go with a summons for “disorderly conduct.” The conduct? McCaffrey told one of the officers,”Fuck you, pig,” according to the summons — but he told Streetsblog that he only hurled the taunt once he had already been tackled to the ground.
McCaffrey left the attack with bruises and scratches, but recognizes that he could have fared worse — something that’s particularly ironic, given the nature of the Black Lives Matter, anti-police brutality protests all weekend.
“I probably would have been in way more trouble physically if I was black,” he said. “But it cemented my belief that they really just want to use violence. There was no procedure, they were just angry, it wasn’t for any reason besides just anger. I’ve seen a lot of police brutality in the last couple weeks.”
Cyclists have been a visible target of the NYPD throughout the so far 11 days of protests — just days earlier police had aggressively swiped protestors’ and reporters’ bikes during a peaceful march in Brooklyn, and indiscriminately used their batons to attack people on bikes in Manhattan.