As it turns out, the cop in question here is probably not a cop at all. See our update.
Surreal Estate is one of Bushwick’s many sprawling, quasi-legal, live/work/party spaces, a nominally community-centered resource that hosts everything from Food Not Bombs to anarchist book fairs to noise fests. On Friday, it became the scene of a near riot and police confrontation, as cops choose the occasion of the space’s 3D 13 Dimensional Dance Party–featuring, among many others, Liquid Liquid’s Sal P and the six-piece brass band Underground Horns–to raid the commune. Things got out of hand relatively quickly. Gothamist reports that 10 people were arrested, and a camera-wielding bystander, Vladimir Teichberg, came home with a souvenir: a video clip of a plainclothes cop threatening to throw Teichberg in jail where, the officer promised, he’d be abused and raped. Our own Robert Sietsema was there that night, so we asked him for his account. The whole thing popped off, according to Robert, at around 12:30 a.m., when a pair of co-eds from Jacksonville, Florida decided to skip a half-hour bathroom line and go outside to pee:
Apparently, cops had been lying in wait for just such an infraction to raid the place. I was on the second floor in the front, and could see the two girls in the paddy wagon. There were two paddy wagons there already, indicating that the police had been itching to arrest people.
Someone had locked the bar lock on the second floor, and I heard continuous pounding from someone outside in the stairwell. Various members of the collective that runs the place came sprinting up to the door, and shouted repeatedly “Who is it?” to which they receive no reply. Meanwhile, more cops were summoned, and were visible out the second story front window. Inside the club it was chaos, with patrons running to and fro and wringing their hands.
Eventually, the second floor stairway door was opened, and a guy outside the door, apparently a bouncer, gave us the choice of leaving, or go upstairs to the third floor, where a disco had been set up. Apparently, this place could be construed as a more private club that the bottom two floors, under different tenancy, or maybe just a defensible perimeter. I declined to go upstairs (by this time it was 12:50, I checked my watch), since I could smell trouble.
As I filed out the door, the cops were eyeballing us, and pulling patrons aside for frisking. I was able to escape with throngs of other partygoers, who made their way to the L stop at Morgan Avenue, and quickly filled up the entire platform (I’d estimate the crowd in the club at midnight, roof areas and three floors included, at 250). As I was walking to the subway, two blocks away, I could hear yelling and screaming from the club, and I assumed it was patrons who’d stayed behind to protest the raid.
Once on the platform, a trio of cops came runnning from the end of the platform, pushing people out of the way in a rather dangerous fashion, in pursuit of someone they thought had entered the station, then got on the next subway and eyeballed the dissolute partygoers.
What happened at Surreal Estate next, according local blogger No Police State Girl, was a full-blown “New York Police Department pepper spray, tear gas raid.” It was in the midst of this that Teichberg and the undercover detective had their confrontation outside. It involved the cop telling him “you’re gonna go to jail, and you’re gonna get abused in jail. The guys in jail are gonna rape you.” Teichberg, no fool, caught it all on tape:
In the clip, the officer also repeatedly calls another camerawoman “ugly,” and rocks a truly comical tie-dyed t-shirt, before whipping out his own camera and (illegally) filming the protesters. Teichberg, for his part, tells the cop “you’re going to be so fucking fired man” and makes fun of his “undercover gear,” so perhaps that helps explain why the officer got irritable and started threatening people who had committed no crimes with prison rape. “You don’t understand the power of the internet man,” Teichberg responds. He’s onto something there.
Since then, according to Gothamist, both Teichberg and the group he’s affiliated with, the Glass Bead Collective, have lawyered up and are calling for an investigation, though whether they can prove that a cop being “discourteous” constitutes an actual crime seems doubtful. Either way, just another night in good ol’ Bushwick, right? More photos of the scene before it all went to hell, right here: