Jumaane D. Williams, a city councilman from Brooklyn, was handcuffed and detained by police at the West Indian Day Parade on Monday. Reportedly, Williams and Kirsten Foy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, were stopped for walking down a closed sidewalk while trying to reach an event at the Brooklyn Museum. Apparently, they had previously received permission from a police officer to do so, but the cops near the museum didn't buy it, even though Williams — who, as has escaped no one's attention, is dreadlocked and young-looking and black — explained the situation and showed them his councilmember's pin. Things went downhill from there. According to the police version of the confrontation:
“A crowd formed and an unknown individual punched a police captain on the scene,” said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.
To separate them from the crowd, Mr. Browne said, Mr. Williams and Mr. Foy, who were handcuffed, “were brought across the street and detained there until their identities were established, and then released.” The police said that the two men had not been arrested.
Onlookers say the two men were pushed to the ground during the incident. Afterward, they were taken to a synagogue on Eastern Parkway, where they were held for about 30 minutes until De Blasio showed up. Later, he told reporters:
“It’s broad daylight, they get thrown to the ground, they both get arrested ... If that’s what happens to an elected official and a senior appointee, imagine what happens to a general member of the public.”
It's actually not that hard to visualize, since the police seemed to be having so much trouble believing Williams and Foy (who is also black) were not, in fact, general members of the public. Ray Kelly has already asked that the situation be investigated. Meanwhile, Williams has said only that the incident was "easily avoidable"; he is expected to comment further Tuesday morning. The Times describes him as a well-known critic of the Police Department's “stop, question, and frisk” policy (a practice that many have criticized as an excuse for unnecessary confrontations and racial profiling) so, between that and yesterday's events, he'll probably have a lot to say.
Police Detain Brooklyn Councilman at West Indian Parade [NYT]
City Councilmember From Brooklyn Handcuffed at Parade; Assemblyman Jeffries Demands Apology [Patch]
NYC councilmember detained at West Indian parade [WSJ]
Update: Williams held a press conference this afternoon dismissing the NYPD claim that an officer got punched in the face, calling it a "bald-faced" lie. "Cease and desist with the lies," he said, according to the Times. "Please don’t insult our intelligence. Because we’re black, we’re not dumb." Foy, who was also at the press conference on the City Hall steps, said he appreciated apologies from Mayor Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly, the latter of whom he praised for strong leadership. Unfortunately, "his character has not been mimicked by people subordinate to him," Foy said. Meanwhile, the pair labeled their detainment a form of racial profiling, which they said was endemic to the NYPD, and they demanded systemic changes in police practices.