Plainclothes New York City police officers were caught on video violently arresting a protester and wrestling her into an unmarked van on Tuesday.
Reporter Michelle Lhooq recorded the moment that plainclothes officers grabbed a teenage trans female protester during a protest in lower Manhattan.
The woman, identified as Nicki Stone, was charged with vandalism and criminal mischief in connection to graffiti found on police cameras and in various parts of the city, The Gothamist reported.
"Suddenly, there was an unmarked grey van that moved out in front of us that had been waiting for us," Derrick, a protester who witnesses the incident, told The Gothamist. "Four guys jumped out and a line of police bicycles came out from down the block — we hadn't seen them. They pushed us back. They grabbed Nicki like she was a rag doll . . . They had her arms on her neck, and then they drove off. They're targeting our leaders – that's what's going to happen now."
NYPD says it’s been doing this for decades:
"The warrant squad is not going to use a marked [vehicle] to arrest individuals," NYPD Lt. John Grimpel told NBC News, adding that the Warrant Squad has been using unmarked vehicles for “decades.”
"A woman taken into custody in an unmarked van was wanted for damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents in & around City Hall Park. The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks & bottles," the NYPD said on Twitter, although there is no evidence of rocks or bottles thrown at police in the video.
"The Warrant Squad uses unmarked vehicles to effectively locate wanted suspects," the NYPD said. "When she was placed into the Warrant Squad's unmarked gray minivan, it was behind a cordon of NYPD bicycle cops in bright yellow and blue uniform shirts there to help effect the arrest."
Calls for investigation:
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been silent on the incident but City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called the arrest “incredibly disturbing” and Comptroller Scott Stringer said he was “deeply concerned” by the incident.
Councilwoman Carlina Rivera called for an independent investigation into the arrest and Rivera called for an independent review of the arrest and "an immediate explanation for why an unmarked van full of officers was anywhere near a peaceful protest."
"It's clear that using an unmarked van and plainclothes officers to make an arrest for vandalism (in the middle of a peaceful protest) is a massive overstep," she said. "I'm exploring legislation."