Cameras caught a disturbing scene on the streets of NYC this week. Witnesses watched plainclothes police officers roughly drag an 18-year-old woman into an unmarked van in East Manhattan during the Abolition Park Protest.
Chaos ensued as several uniformed officers surrounded the van, seemingly using their bicycles to keep the outraged protestors from swarming the vehicle. One plainclothes police officer can be heard barking at civilians to “step back.” Several others are heard screaming “back up” as protestors express their dismay at the incident.
Michelle Lhooj, a counterculture journalist based in LA, shared the footage and details to Twitter. Her post was picked up by other outlets, including the ACLU, which released a statement on Twitter condemning the behavior of the NYPD: “These dangerous, abusive, and indefensible actions must stop. Law enforcement must be held accountable.”
According to the NYPD, the woman was wanted for “five separate criminal incidents” in and around Manhattan. Witnesses who know the woman, identified only as “Nikki,” claim she was merely putting stickers on cameras at Occupy City Hall.
Several politicians and notable figures expressed their concern and disgust at the events in the video.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the representative for New York’s 14th district, shared the ACLU’s post. She added, “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. To not protect our rights is to give them away. It is our responsibility to resist authoritarianism.”
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson shared another angle of the incident, initially posted by Jake Offenhartz. Johnson called the incident, “incredibly disturbing.”
According to a GoFundMe set up for Nikki, she goes by the nickname “Stickers.” Twitter users have seized on this fact to express their contempt for the NYPD’s use of excessive force on someone non-violent and non-threatening.
The page appears to have been set up before the incident. It seeks to raise money to provide housing for Nikki, whom the creator of the GoFundMe, Emily Dick, describes as “a young, trans woman who has been experiencing houselessness.”
The page goes on to explain, “She is in need of housing within the next two weeks. She is in need of money for rent for several months as she finds a source of stable income. She is a passionate woman who brings joy and comfort to all those who she surrounds, and she is dedicated to helping those in her community. Those that know Stickers want her to thrive and live in stable, comfortable and safe housing. We love Stickers!”
At the time of writing, the fundraiser has brought in over $40,000 for Stickers, which far surpasses the $15,000 goal initially set.