A large group of New York City police officers charged at protesters, diners and pedestrians in Manhattan's West Village on Saturday night, arresting 12 people and raising questions about the aggressive response.
After raiding a peaceful art protest in Washington Square Park, NYPD officers rushed the group on a nearby street around 8 p.m., according to NBC New York. The protesters at the scene had walked towards the police precinct house in the neighborhood because officers had seized their music equipment.
Police said in a statement they “responded to a large disorderly group obstructing vehicular traffic in the vicinity of 10 Street and Hudson Street within the confines of the 6 Precinct.”
But photos and videos from the incident appeared to show a different scene. Images captured from different angles seems to depict a small group of protesters on one side of the street and dozens of officers on the other side.
After a message played on a loudspeaker saying, "Please be advised that pedestrians are not permitted to walk in the street or roadway," the police ran towards the protesters on the opposite sidewalk, grabbing people and arresting them. Videos show some people trying to flee, as police pushed them into diners eating an outdoor meal.
People who weren’t part of the small protest said they found themselves running away from the police.
Molly Dillon, a policy advisor to New York state senator Alessandra Biaggi, told NBC News she was in the neighborhood when she saw "the massive amount of police officers."
"All of the sudden the police all at once came running across the street toward the people watching them," Dillon said. "People were not in the street. People were not chanting. People were stopped to look at the 100 or 200 NYPD gathered around milling about."
"As soon as the police started running my friends and I ran down the sidewalk and up against the wall of the restaurant behind us next to a table of diners who allowed us in there," she said.
Dillon added she noticed very few of the officers were wearing masks and there was no social distancing.
Rebecca Fishbein, a journalist and author who was at the scene, said on Twitter she was “walking down Hudson after a micro-wedding on the water, not there in a reporting capacity.”
“Don’t recommend running from the cops in heels,” she wrote, adding that “no one was even in the street” when the police rushed at them.
“I’ve lived in New York for 31 years and this was the most unhinged thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.
The NYPD said a statement that "a group of roughly 150 demonstrators came to the 6th precinct and blocked traffic," and they took people into custody "after multiple warnings to clear the sidewalk."
In total, police arrested 12 people, eight of whom received summonses for disorderly conduct, the NYPD said.
Brad Hoylman, a New York state senator for Manhattan, said his office was in touch with police about their use of force on Saturday evening.
“We’re exhausted of seeing video after video, and hearing from constituents in person, of inexplicable escalations that undermine an already fragile trust,” he wrote on Twitter.