Nikki Stone, a trans woman from the Lower East Side, was arrested following a string of graffiti and vandalism linked to the Occupy City Hall protests.
The video shows her being scooped up by a team of plainclothes NYPD officers, put into an unmarked minivan, and whisked away from the scene.
She was held for five hours for processing and released around 1 a.m. to cheers from her fellow protesters. She said she had some scrapes on her knees but was otherwise fine.
Stone is charged with criminal mischief, making graffiti and possession of a graffiti instrument for five separate incidents.
Witnesses said it looked more kidnapping than an arrest, and they said it reminded them of a tactic used by federal officers in Portland, Oregon.
"They grab her off of the street as she's skateboarding, don't even put handcuffs on her, and throw her into an unmarked vehicle," one protester said. "None of the people are wearing badges. That's just terrorism."
Authorities say the arrest was standard procedure for the warrant squad, but that squad typically goes after more dangerous people and violent offenders.
Police say that's actually the point of the warrant squad: to not look like cops and catch suspects off guard. They also pointed out that the cops were being assaulted with rocks and bottles.
NYPD Chief Terence Monahan defended the actions of his officers and said police received a tip Stone was at the protest. He said as they were watching her, she approached the van and started chanting curse words at the police and encouraging other protesters to join her. Monahan said the warrant squad drove away because they didn't want to make a scene, but she followed them. That is when they executed the warrant and took her into custody.
"In regard to a video on social media that took place at 2 Ave & 25 St, a woman taken into custody in an unmarked van was wanted for damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents in & around City Hall Park," the NYPD said on Twitter. "The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks & bottles."
In regard to a video on social media that took place at 2 Ave & 25 St, a woman taken into custody in an unmarked van was wanted for damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents in & around City Hall Park. The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks & bottles. pic.twitter.com/2jGD3DT3eV— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) July 29, 2020
Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the controversy Wednesday, saying it was not desirable for the police to handle the arrest as they did.
"This is not Portland," he said. "Anything that even slightly that even suggests that is troubling...That was not the time and place to effectuate the arrest. Given this atmosphere we're dealing with in the country, it just didn't make sense."
WATCH: Mayor de Blasio discusses the arrest
Still, the mayor affirmed no one is allowed to damage police property.
"If you damage property, it will lead to consequences," he said.
Governor Cuomo also weighed in saying, "I felt it was very disturbing to me. I'm surprised, especially at this time, that the NYPD would take such an obnoxious action, it was wholey insensitive of everything that's going on."
Stone is said to be a recidivist vandal of city property, most notably painting over the four NYPD cameras monitoring the Occupy City Hall protest.
Police said Stone is on surveillance video numerous times committing graffiti and criminal mischief during the course of protests.
Still, Council Speaker Corey Johnson called the video incredibly disturbing, and other elected officials are demanding answers.
City leaders took to Twitter to voice their concern over the arrest, including New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Warning: Tweet contains video with graphic language.
I’m deeply concerned by the videos circulating of a protester being thrown into an unmarked van.— Scott M. Stringer (@NYCComptroller) July 29, 2020
We need answers immediately. https://t.co/k8hUe4QLTC
The incident added new tension to protests that had largely died down in the city.
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However, not everyone agrees with the protesting.
"Enough is enough," Brooklyn resident Benny said. "It was getting better before George Floyd, but now you're putting the cops hands behind their back, and this is why all the shootings and the crime rate are going up so much."
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