New York AG: Black protesters were disproportionately charged with felonies

New York AG: Black protesters were disproportionately charged with felonies

Black protesters were charged with felonies at a rate quadruple that of white ones during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in New York City, according to a preliminary report from state Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) office.

James’s investigation found that the New York Police Department (NYPD) made 2,087 protest-related arrests from May 28 to June 7, the period in which the protests began to spread nationwide after beginning in Minneapolis.

Forty-four percent of those arrested were white, while 39 percent were Black and 13 percent were Latino.

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However, James’s office found, 16 percent of Black protesters arrested were charged with felonies, compared with 8 percent of Latino protesters and less than 4 percent of either white or Asian protesters.

The report also criticized a “seemingly indiscriminate” use of batons and pepper spray by police while also faulting the department for officers brandishing guns and driving bicycles or police vehicles into crowds.

The report says that James’s office also received numerous complaints about the “kettling” technique, in which officers surround an area and leave protesters with no path out except through physical contact with officers.

The preliminary report is also critical of how police handled reporters covering the protests, citing accusations that the NYPD used “catch and release” tactics against credentialed reporters to prevent them from writing or broadcasting what they recorded.

“With this report, Attorney General James and her team have begun the important work of chronicling the events surrounding the recent protests and ensuring that all voices — protesters, police, and elected officials — are heard,” former United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who assisted in the investigation, said in a statement. “As this investigation continues, so must the vital conversations around transparency and accountability. These are the most important conversations of our time.”

The report makes several recommendations, including that an oversight commission be set up to oversee the department. This commission, the report recommends, would have authority to both hire and fire leadership, including the NYPD commissioner.

It also recommends the department solicit public input for any rule it seeks to make or change that affects the public.