NYC mayor defends police response after videos show officers punching anti-Israel protesters

New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers arrest pro-Palestinian demonstrators during a rally to mark the Nakba anniversary in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on May 18, 2024. (John Lamparski / AFP)
New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers arrest pro-Palestinian demonstrators during a rally to mark the Nakba anniversary in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on May 18, 2024. (John Lamparski / AFP)

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Eric Adams defends the police department’s response to an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian street demonstration in Brooklyn, New York over the weekend, calling video of officers repeatedly punching men laying prone on the ground an “isolated incident.”

“Look at that entire incident,” Adams says on the “Mornings on 1” program on the local cable news channel, NY1. He complains that protesters who marched through Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge section on Saturday had blocked traffic, spit at officers and, in one instance, climbed on top of a moving city bus. “I take my hat off to the Police Department, how they handled an unruly group of people.”

“People want to take that one isolated incident that we’re investigating. They need to look at the totality of what happened in that bedroom community,” Adams adds.

Footage shot by bystanders and independent journalists shows police officers intercepting a march in the street, shoving participants toward the sidewalk, and then grabbing some people in the crowd and dragging them down to the asphalt. Officers can be seen repeatedly punching at least three protesters, in separate incidents, as they lay pinned on the ground.

A video shot by videographer Peter Hambrecht and posted on X shows an officer in a white shirt punching a protester while holding his throat. Hambrecht said the arrests took place after police told the crowd to disperse.

“They were aware they might get arrested, but many times people use that to justify the beating which is obviously ridiculous,” Hambrecht tells The Associated Press in a text message.

Independent journalist Katie Smith separately recorded video of an officer unleashing a volley of punches on a man pinned to the ground, hitting him at least five times with a closed fist.

At least 41 people were arrested, according to police.

The NYPD later released its own video showing misbehavior by protesters, including people throwing empty water bottles at officers, splashing them with liquids and lighting flares and smoke bombs. It also showed one protester sitting on the roof of a moving transit bus waving a Palestinian flag.

The protesters were demonstrating against Israel and marking the “Nakba,” or catastrophe, of Israel’s founding and the accompanying exodus of some 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the War of Independence in 1948.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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