A protester is arrested by NYPD officers during a march against police brutality
Getty Images / Scott Heins

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is seemingly following in Portland‘s footsteps — protesters are being snatched off the street by badgeless officers and forcefully pushed into unmarked vans. ⁠This appears to be the latest instance of federal officers working in tandem with local police in a war against protesters; a constitutionally dubious tactic putting New Yorkers’ rights to protest in peril.

What’s happening in New York and Portland, as alarming as it is, is just the beginning. According to a report from The Chicago Tribune last week, approximately 150 federal agents are being deployed in Chicago to “combat shootings.” So, as the Republican Administration is making good on its promise to quell protests by force by deploying secret troops to major US cities, it’s extremely important that you know what’s going on, and, if you choose to protest, to know your rights.

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s going on in New York.

What is happening?

Videos surfaced earlier this week showing a woman, identified by the NYPD as 18-year-old Nicholas Stone, being violently detained by plainclothes officers and then being bundled into an unmarked gray van. Police officers on bicycles appeared to block off onlookers from intervening.

The NYPD responded to the videos: “In regard to a video on social media that took place at 2 Ave & 25 St, a woman taken into custody in an unmarked van was wanted for damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents in & around City Hall Park. The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks & bottles.”

The bigger picture

The US government has indeed used force against its own citizens, and federal agents have been deployed to assist in domestic operations, sometimes against the wishes of local leaders. Recent events in Portland indicate that this might be the case in New York, too.

By giving federal agents free rein to intervene in local law and order, the administration is effectively constructing a national police force, and wielding it as a political tool. Not only is using secret police an outrageous violation of American citizens’ freedom, but this authoritarian crackdown also lays the groundwork for the president to challenge the results of the November election. When asked in a recent Fox News interview whether he would accept the results if he loses to Biden, Trump said: “I have to see.”

How are officials reacting?

As in Portland, local officials were blindsided by what looks like government interference in local law enforcement. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the Bronx borough of New York City, tweeted: “Our civil liberties are on brink. This is not a drill. There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio commented that the video was “troubling,” and said: “It is the responsibility of the police, if someone commits a response offense, they need to follow-up. Given the atmosphere in the country and the real concerns people have, it should not be in the middle of an ongoing protest.” The mayor will reportedly talk to the NYPD commissioner about the arrest in question.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also expressed that he was “concerned” about one of the videos, showing the woman being dragged into an unmarked van. “Reaching to try and get some answers,” he wrote on Twitter.

What to do if you’re arrested

It’s impossible to react accordingly to violent and random arrests such as these, which resemble kidnappings more than anything. However, officers will have to identify themselves at some point during the arrest.

Any arrested person in the US must be informed of their “Miranda rights” by police before interrogation. The statement, normally recited by arresting officers, inform them of their rights to refuse to answer police questions and the right to consult with a lawyer.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has compiled a step-by-step guide on what to say to police once arrested without perjuring yourself. Find it below:

“1. You have the right to remain silent and the right to talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police. Don’t tell the police anything except your name and address. Don’t give any explanations, excuses, or stories. You can make your defense later, in court, based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.

2. If you have a lawyer, ask to see your lawyer immediately. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you have the right to a free one once your case goes to court. You can ask the police how to contact a lawyer. Don’t say anything to police without speaking to a lawyer first.

3. Within a reasonable time after your arrest or booking, you should ask the police to contact a family member or friend. If you are permitted to make a phone call, anything you say at the precinct may be recorded or listened to. Never talk about the facts of your case over the telephone.

4. Do not make any decisions in your case or sign any statements until you have talked with a lawyer.”

Words by Sarah Osei
Staff Writer