NYPD officers descended en masse on a socially distanced outdoor concert in Park Slope on Friday evening while in pursuit of an unrelated group of protesters — breaking up the festive music event while brandishing riot gear and batons, according to witnesses.
Cops came across the concert on President Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues at around 8:30 pm while following a group of protesters from Grand Army Plaza, and quickly moved to clear the street of concert goers — promoting one Park Sloper to inquire with a supervising officer about why they had shown up with such force to a peaceful event.
“He just kept saying ‘these people are endangering lives,’” said Joanna Oltman Smith. “Then I look around and there’s like tons of riot cops.”
Think of how terrifyingly combustible it is having people this heavily armed, amped up, and confused descending on innocent families unexpectedly. I cannot believe the ineptitude and danger. @NYCMayor @hrw @NYCMayorsOffice @NYCCouncil pic.twitter.com/VwnDVoVcbG
— Joanna Oltman Smith (@jooltman) October 3, 2020
Smith says the cops told the concert goers to break it up, and that the confrontation ended without further incident, but that the show of power by the department was wholly unnecessary for a small group of neighbors listening to music, and potentially traumatizing for the children in the crowd.
“What about all the kids who witnessed you barreling down on them?” Smith asked. “I saw a lot of riot cops pacing around with their weapons deployed…it’s quite a terrifying thing for any kid.”
Video from the scene shows a group of cops standing in the intersection, with some wearing riot helmets and holding batons — and several others not wearing face masks.
NYPD spokesperson Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell says the officers were tailing a group of protesters from Grand Army Plaza when cops claim the protesters began to block traffic at Seventh Avenue and President Street, where cops ordered them to disperse. Officers issued no summonses and did not make any arrests in relation to the incident, O’Donnell said.