Felix Rivera-Pitre, Protester Sought for Arrest After Being Punched by Cop, Inspires March to D.A.'s Office
One of the more recent instances of alleged police brutality against Occupy Wall Street protesters involves Felix Rivera-Pitre, who was allegedly punched by a police officer identified as Deputy Inspector Johnny Cardona last week after the movement won the right to stay in Zuccotti Park. Various witnesses say he was unprovoked; the NYPD's position is that Rivera-Pitre attempted to elbow Cardona in the face. Rivera-Pitre's lawyer, Ron Kuby, says, "We deny that. There's no video, there are no photographs of that. But, even so, Cardona was not making an arrest; he was beating somebody up. Sucker-punching someone in the jaw is not a means of making that arrest. He should be arrested for that, but the police don't want to."
C.S. Muncy, who witnessed the event and took the shot above, says: "The protester refused to step back as the scooters moved forward into the crowd. Eventually he is pushed back, by about five feet. I'd had a few brief interactions with Cardona (white shirt, Major's rank on his collar) but he never really seemed to get in my way or try to keep me from shooting. The next thing I see, he just yanks his arm back, and slams the kid. The kid goes down; he keeps hitting until a few other cops pull him loose (the rest push us violently back. At some point I get poked pretty hard in the chest with one of those nightsticks). At some point after, an empty (or partially empty) water bottle is thrown and catches Cardona. I can't imagine it hit very hard, but he makes a big show of it, and pulls away from the crowd and back towards the other cops."
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne has said in a statement that cops are looking to arrest Rivera-Pitre for "attempted assault on a police officer, obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct." Kuby says, "There's an Open 61 on him, which means, it's not a warrant, no judge has passed on it, but it's generated by the police to the police."
Yesterday Kuby, who is also Kaylee Dedrick's laywer (he tells us he has taken both cases pro-bono), sat down for an hour with the bureau chief of the official corruption unit, two assistant district attorneys, and an investigator to discuss the incidents involving Dedrick, who was pepper sprayed by Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, and Rivera-Pitre.
Kuby says, "I asked, why have you not arrested Deputy Inspector Bologna on the charge of third degree assault? I've just watched the video with you, that's a prima facie case, am I wrong?" They said, "We're still investigating."
He continues: "I'm attempting to preclude that lengthy cumbersome process designed to go nowhere by making a much more modest, reasonable request -- just treat this angry white shirt the same way you would any other angry guy who gets pissed and attacks a group of women. The reason I think this is going nowhere -- if they wanted it to go somewhere, it would have.
I was asked the question, 'Are they [the corruption unit] acting like they're taking this seriously?' Yes, that is exactly how they are acting. But we have to remember, it's only an act, and it's not going to win an Emmy."
Rivera-Pitre, who is openly HIV-positive, is currently in hiding to avoid arrest and believes that he may have been targeted because he is gay. Kuby has asked that any arrest be held until the investigation into the incident has been completed.
Meanwhile, there's a march to Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance's office tonight at 5 p.m. to protest police brutality. This follows a march earlier today at Sotheby's, where protesters joined union workers, who are involved in a contract dispute with the auction house. Later tonight, protesters will go to Lincoln Center in support of the Granny Peace Brigade.
[UPDATE] HIV Positive Protester Says Cop Who Punched Him Should Get Tested [Gothamist] Occupy Wall Street protester 'sucker-punched' by NYPD cop speaks out: He 'just lunged at me' [NYDN] Occupy Wall Street Holding Marches To DA's Office, Lincoln Center And Sotheby's [CBS]
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.