After Uruguay defeated Paraguay in the finals of the Copa America on Sunday, ecstatic fans flooded the streets of Jackson Heights. Minutes later, dozens of police officers arrived at 37th Avenue and 84th Street and began pushing back the crowd. This led to scuffles between the soccer fans and the police. Residents felt that the police response was unjust; “I couldn’t call 911. They were the same people abusing us,” said Silvana Sislian, 46, manager of La Gran Uruguaya Bakery, to the Daily News.
The NYPD said yesterday that the officers “responded appropriately in dealing with disorderly elements” in the large crowd, which they estimate was seven or eight hundred people.
Sislian said that when they arrived, some police officers smashed Uruguayan flags against the pavement, and this sparked the conflict. It is unclear to what extent things got out of control, but five revelers were arrested, and two officers were treated at the hospital for bruises.
One of the arrested celebrators, Ronel Mendoza, 19, said that he was playing drums on the sidewalk when the police arrived, and when things got bad, he went to the bakery to check on his sister and the police grabbed him. “They arrested me for nothing,” he said.
Another celebrator Antonio Carvallo, 78, was pushing his walker down the street when the police arrived and he was caught in the chaos. “I felt impotent and angry against those wearing a blue uniform,” he said.
“The police spoiled the most important day in the last 20 years of Uruguay’s soccer history,” Sislian said.