In a harrowing video that has been likened to the human rights breaches that have been happening at the hands of unidentified federal agents in Portland, video began to circulate on social media Tuesday of a trans femme protestor being pulled off of a street and thrown into an unmarked van by the New York Police Department. The footage has drawn widespread condemnation and a GoFundMe has been started for Nicki Stone, the woman in the footage who is also experiencing homelessness.
Stone, who is 18 years old, was taking part in a peaceful protest against police brutality alongside a reported crowd of 200-300 people on Tuesday. When the protest got to the corner of Second Avenue and East 25th street in Manhattan it was confronted with police. Police grabbed the teen, yanking her off of her skateboard, dragged her into a minivan, and used pepper spray on other protestors that were watching.
"Suddenly there was an unmarked grey van that moved out in front of us that had been waiting for us," Derrick, another who declined to give his last name, told 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." Some have reported that Nicki was a leader of the protest.
Authorities did not identify themselves and did not say what Nicki had been detained for or where she was being taken. After footage of the incident, which was dubbed a "kidnapping," began to draw attention online, the New York Police Department said she was "wanted for damaging police cameras during five separate criminal incidents in and around City Hall Park. The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks and bottles."
No available footage of the incident shows officers being assaulted.
"The Warrant Squad uses unmarked vehicles to effectively locate wanted suspects," they continued.
Many have spoken out on the incident with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson calling it "incredibly disturbing." Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez tweeted "There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans." According to Vice, Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn said that within the context of "anxiety about what's happening in Portland, the NYPD deploying unmarked vans with plainclothes cops to make street arrests of protesters feels more like provocation than public safety."
The Human Rights Campaign went on to call the incident "deeply troubling."
According to Gothamist, Stone was released from custody early Wednesday after being charged with "multiple counts of vandalism and criminal mischief for five incidents in June and July. This includes spraying graffiti and painting over surveillance cameras.
A GoFundMe that had been created prior to the incident for Stone, referring to her by a presumed nickname, began to be circulated as Stone was in custody. At the time of publication, it has exceeded its goal of raising $15,000 to provide stable housing for her.