Councilman says he was detained because of race

September 6, 2011 2:33:36 PM PDT
A New York City Council member and a city aide say they were pushed around and detained by police at the West Indian Day Parade because of their race.

Councilman Jumaane Williams and Kirsten John Foy, a top aide to the public advocate, spoke Tuesday outside City Hall. They said they were accosted by officers while walking along a blocked-off sidewalk at the West Indian Day parade.

"I was actually handcuffed while on the phone with one of the chiefs of police," Williams said.

It was a nightmarish moment, says City Councilman Williams. They had shown officers their identification, but the men say the situation turned ugly.

"Kicked me in the back of my knee. I then fell to the ground. He took me by my neck and shoved by head into the grass," Foy said.

"I was repeatedly telling them as the pushing increased - at that point it swelled to maybe 10 to 15 police officers - to please stop pushing us," Williams said.

Both men were detained but later released.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly promised a full investigation.

"I think it was a misunderstanding as to, certainly, who the councilman was and who allowed or not is allowed in the frozen zone. We are trying to get to the bottom of it," Kelly said.

Police said things escalated after a captain was punched by someone.

"The only assault that happened was from police to us. That was the only assault that happened," Williams said.

Williams says he thinks it happened because he is a "35-year-old black man with dreadlocks."

Meanwhile, the National Action Network is calling for disciplinary action against the officers.

In a statement Tuesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton's group condemned the "forceful arrests" of Williams and Foy.

It says both men have worked for the group on issues related to police misconduct and racial profiling.

A Williams' spokesman said the Brooklyn representative had been given permission to walk there by a police official. The NYPD said Williams was detained while police verified his identity.

The NYPD released a statement Monday, saying: "Before their identities were established, Council Member Williams and Mr. Foy were stopped from entering a frozen zone near the Brooklyn Museum. A crowd formed and an unknown individual punched a police captain on the scene. In order to separate them from the crowd, Mr. Williams and Mr. Foy, who were handcuffed, were brought across the street and detained there until their identities were established and then released. Commissioner Kelly met personally with Mr. Williams and Mr. Foy and directed that an investigation into the matter be conducted."