Ydanis Rodriguez, the City Council member who was arrested near Zuccotti Park two nights ago, gave a press conference at City Hall this morning, his face still showing cuts and scrapes where he says police forced his face into the pavement.
Rodriguez told reporters he didn’t go down to Zuccotti Park Monday night intending to get arrested. When he was tipped off to the 1 a.m. police raid Monday night by one of the occupiers, Rodriguez, who represents Washington Heights, drove downtown and started walking to the park.
Two blocks north of the park on Broadway, Rodriguez says he encountered a group of police officers. He began to identify himself as a Council member, but he says he didn’t even have time to finish identifying himself before officers began pushing him back with nightsticks.
Then another officer stepped out of the group and started hitting Rodriguez and forcing him to the ground, he said. Rodriguez sustained cuts to both sides of his face (still visible two days later) as well as his right shoulder area, he said.
As all this was going on, Rodriguez said a senior NYPD official with whom he has worked in the past was nearby.
“The NYPD cannot say ‘We didn’t know who that person was,'” Rodriguez said.
After his arrest, Rodriguez was held for 12 hours without being allowed to speak to a lawyer, first alone in a bus, then inside One Police Plaza.
“I didn’t want to be treated different, I only wanted to be treated with the rights that I know that I have as a citizen,” he said.
The arrest of Rodriguez marks the second time in less than four months that the NYPD has tangled with a New York City Council member. In September Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams was handcuffed and detained at the West Indian Day Parade and then released without charges.
The City Council’s Rodriguez’s arrest is being picked up by other members of the the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, who say this second incident is further evidence of a New York Police Department out of control.
It’s also being taken up by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose likely mayoral run could pit her against Police Chief Ray Kelly. Quinn told the press conference there are a lot of questions surrounding Rodriguez’s arrest:
“Why was he arrested when he was not in the park not having left?” Quinn asked. “Why was he charged with resisting arrest? Why was he pushed to the ground and injured?
Why was he held in a van outside 1 police plaza for two hours alone when the other individuals who had been arrested and in the van were taken inside to be processed?”
Rodriguez and other politicians also took the opportunity to condemn Monday’s late-night eviction of Occupy Wall Street:
“You have the press being arrested and not allowed to see what’s going on,” Williams said. “You have elected officials who are outspoken being arrested and being denied the ability to see an attorney or seek medical attention…. and then you have a tremendous show of force under cover of night while people are sleeping to remove a peaceful unarmed protest. That reminds me of the worst kind of fascist state.”
Williams and others called on New Yorkers to take part in tomorrow’s demonstrations, which will attempt to shut down the New York Stock Exchange.
“What was going on at Zuccotti Park is about the 99 percent, who the mayor and even the governor aren’t speaking to,” Williams said. “It’s important that this message be the things that they spend their energy and resources on, not resources to send an army in to remove unarmed people who are peacefully protesting.”
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