A peaceful “We Choose Freedom” march that started at Stonewall Inn last night descended into violence as police arrested marchers for a second night straight. Multiple videos of the scuffles with police were broadcast live on social media, capturing the heightened tensions between the two groups. According to the New York Daily News, police arrested a total of 19 protesters including 13 men and 6 women during the clashes. All but one of those arrested were quickly released.
The protest began Thursday outside the Stonewall Inn. According to social media, Joel Rivera has been organizing weekly actions at the historic location but those crowds have grown due to Tuesday’s general election.
Protesters last night focused on advocating for trans rights, and Rivera addressed the crowd just before the march.
The group was confronted by a heavy police presence from the start. Up to 150 police officers by some counts, some on bikes while others were in riot gear, made an ominous show of force.
Tensions were high and shortly after the march began clashes erupted between police and a group of protesters who had broken off from the main march. Police rushed in and started making arrests. Video shows a chaotic scene with swarms of officers roughly pushing aside, with a circle of officers protecting those making the arrests. There was video of police kettling protestors, or using their bikes to box the group in and force them to one space. According to reports, police drastically outnumbered the marchers.
Of the 19 people arrested, only one is facing serious felony charges, with the rest charged with misdemeanors and released, or issued summonses to appear in court at a later date Rivera was among those arrested and released according to reports. Police arrested Levon Wheeler, 30, and charged him with felony assault for allegedly attempting to wrap a heavy metal chain around the neck of a police officer. They also charged him with fighting with police at Bond Street and Broadway. Wheeler reportedly lives in a psychiatric shelter on Ward’s Island.
Police arrested 57 persons during a Manhattan protest Wednesday, including Devina Singh, 24, who was charged with spitting in the face of a police officer, an apparent violation of social distancing restrictions in place for the global pandemic. This summer there were other incidents that involved police violence outside of Stonewall, 51 years to the month after the pivotal Stonewall Uprising.