Election 2020: Arrests made after attempts to 'hijack peaceful protests' by setting fires in NYC

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Thursday, November 5, 2020
Arrests made after fires set, clashes with police in NYC
At least 20 arrests were made Wednesday night as individuals set fires and clashed with police in NYC.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Despite no reports of unrest across NYC on Election Day, several arrests were made Wednesday night as individuals set fires and clashed with police.

A couple hundred demonstrators took to the streets of Manhattan earlier on Wednesday to support "Count Every Vote." NewsCopter 7 was overhead as the people marched down 5th Avenue "in celebration of justice, fairness and democracy."

The group was marching toward Washington Square Park after President Trump's team announced they will file lawsuits in Michigan and Pennsylvania to stop vote counting underway.

NJ Burkett covers a demonstration in Manhattan to support "Count Every Vote."

The rally dispersed peacefully, but about an hour later, there were reports of unrest and clashing with police near Leroy Street and 7th Ave in Greenwich Village.

Police say they arrested at least 20 people. Sources tell ABC News they were charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly and obstruction government administration.

"We appreciate and value the importance of freedom of speech. Our top priority is and always will be safety. We have arrested more than 20 individuals who attempted to hijack a peaceful protest by lighting fires, throwing garbage and eggs in Manhattan," the NYPD later tweeted.

Police said confiscated weapons and anyone caught with a weapon at a peaceful protest will be arrested.

RELATED | NYC businesses board up amid fears of civil unrest

Earlier Wednesday morning, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said despite the lack of protests in the city at that point, the department was ready for any possible demonstrations.

"We have to just be very fluid in our planning and expect the unexpected," Shea said.

Hundreds of businesses in cities across the U.S. boarded up their doors and windows ahead of the election, fearing the vote could lead to the sort of violence that broke out after George Floyd's death.

The NYPD said they are plotting new ways to deal with demonstrators and protesters to avoid violence.

John Miller is Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence at the NYPD. And in all the chaos, he says his team has actually discovered order. He says tactical resistance that originated during protests in Hong Kong is now a fact of life in New York.

"Something we've never seen before which is almost a hundred percent resisting arrest, and what we've seen on top of that is a tactic called de-arresting," Miller said. "So not only is the person not compliant in being arrested, but a group of people come in to try to pull them away."

Miller said the tactic of de-arresting has coursed through social networks, complete with online training manuals, instructing demonstrators to surround someone cops are trying to arrest and then help him escape -- leaving the cops to fight with people they weren't even trying to arrest.

The tactic surprised cops this summer as they tried to make an arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge.

"What this resulted in is a lot of imagery being put on social media that appears to portray excessive police violence," Miller said. "And it's hard to tell people you're not seeing what you're seeing, but when you have that context, you don't know why that's happening. And they've used that very effectively as propaganda."

Hear more from Miller in the video below:

Josh Einiger has more with the NYPD on their effort to de-escalate violence during protests.

The NYPD also announced it had formed a Looting Task Force which is prepared to investigate any acts of looting.

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