During multiple incidents in Brooklyn, N.Y. over the weekend, groups of dueling demonstrators supporting the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement became engaged in physical altercations. Video footage from the scene shows, on numerous occasions, people in attendance to support the NYPD directing racist, sexist and vulgar language at smaller groups of BLM supporters.
Videos of violent interactions between the two groups spread widely over social media, in particular on Sunday night, as did examples of aggressive policing by NYPD officers. One particular and viral incident, seemingly sparked by a police officer, showed a Black man being aggressively shoved and tased before being detained.
Pro-police demonstrations began on Saturday in the Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn. A Saturday morning demonstration was dubbed “Rally to Back the Blue” and a Sunday march was called “We Support The NYPD.” Posters and flyers promoting the rallies had been circulated online in the neighborhood in the days prior.
New York state assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Max Rose for his seat in Congress, described herself as “leading the charge” at the Saturday event. Brooklyn Conservative Party chairwoman Fran Vella-Marrone was also in attendance. Vella-Marrone later appeared to share a tweet from the Brooklyn Conservative Party which described the event as a “Very important show of ssupport [sic] for NYPD,” but “NOT a protest.” The message continued to claim that it was counter protesters who, “brought ugliness to a positive community event for all people.”
The protest came weeks after the New York City Council cut the NYPD’s budget by $1 billion in light of national calls to defund police departments in response to the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people at the hands of police officers.
According to Abdullah Younus, one of the BLM protesters and a Bay Ridge resident, people in the neighborhood became aware of the marches and showed up to oppose them.
“Whenever racist stuff pops up in our neighborhood, we mobilize,” Younus tells TIME. “We didn’t think it was going to be that bad, because we are never violent when we counter protest.”
Younus says Blue Lives Matter protests have been happening in the neighborhood for the past few years.
On this occasion, about 30 BLM protesters arrived on the scene on Saturday, Younus says, compared with numbers closer to 300 of the pro-police contingent, along with police officers who were securing the scene.
Anthony Beckford, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn, also attended protests Saturday and says that the NYPD officers present did not stop the pro-police demonstrators from threatening and trying to hit BLM protesters.
“It disgusted me to watch all of this. It’s dangerous especially for Black people — they’re giving these people the avenue to enact violence against us,” Beckford tells TIME. “People wonder why we march and protest.”
As the rallies went on, police mostly faced the counter-protesters who, according to Beckford and Younus, were being peaceful. Meanwhile, “they were hands-off with [the pro-police protesters],” Beckford claims, whose actions were more aggressive.
Reached by TIME for comment on the violence, a spokesperson for the NYPD said that they were aware of the video of a Black man being tased and that it is “under review.” They did not respond to specific questions regarding the disparity between how BLM protesters were treated and pro-police protesters were treated, as both Younus and Beckford allege.
Rallies continued on Sunday and, that evening, turned violent as fights broke out between members of both groups. Hundreds of pro-police demonstrators were in attendance again, while the BLM group was much larger than they were on Saturday.
(It was at the Sunday rally where the viral video was filmed of a Black man being shoved, tased and arrested by an officer.)
City Councilman Justin Brannan, who represents southwest Brooklyn, said that the pro-police march was organized under the “guise” of showing support for the NYPD, but in reality, it was a “political stunt designed to divide our community.”
“The actions I saw directed at a small group of peaceful counter-protesters was vile, reprehensible and left me ashamed,” Brannan said in a statement. ““Saying Black Lives Matter is not racist. It is not anti-white or anti-police. It does not imply hatred or violence against anyone. It’s about promoting equal justice and fairness. Most of our community understands that.”
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