NYC to review police response at immigration protest
Mayor de Blasio said the city will investigate the NYPD's handling of a protest against the deportation of immigration activist Ravi Ragbir
By Jillian Jorgensen
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — Mayor de Blasio said the city will investigate the NYPD's handling of a protest against the deportation of immigration activist Ravi Ragbir after officers' clashes with demonstrators, including two City Council members who were arrested.
"We are definitely going to investigate what happened with our police officers because I am concerned to know exactly what happened, why it happened and if anything happened that was not appropriate in the handling of the protesters, that needs to be acted on," de Blasio said on his weekly appearance on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show.
But de Blasio blamed federal officials for ratcheting up the tensions Thursday, insisting the "original sin" came when ICE detained Ragbir during a routine check-in with the intention to deport him.
"What happened yesterday was troubling on a number of levels starting with the activities of the federal agents who, I think in a very provocative way, took someone who was a leading advocate, highly respected individual and in manner I think that might have been meant to be provocative, acted to suddenly deport him," de Blasio said. "That was done by federal authorities, that was not done by New York City officials or New York City police officers in any way shape or form. I think that started a chain of events into place."
The demonstration Thursday quickly descended into chaos as Ragbir was transported in an ambulance, which authorities say was headed to a hospital but which protesters sought to block as they believed it was going to another ICE facility.
Among those arrested were Councilman Jumaane Williams, who was seen being bent over the hood of a car and grimacing in pain as he was handcuffed in video shot by Buzzfeed, and whose suit jacket was torn in the encounter; and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, whose account tweeted a photograph of an officer in front of him with both arms around Ydanis' neck, while the councilman's hands were pulled behind him by another officer.
De Blasio, who has been arrested in decidedly calmer, more choreographed situations at past protests, said he believed the council members were engaging in "a conscious act of civil disobedience," but that it had not gone the way civil disobedience usually had in his experience.
"I've been involved in plenty of civil disobedience in my day and typically that is pre-negotiated with the police and everyone understands," he said.
He said he believed the sudden nature of Ragbir's detention was part of the problem.
"I think people understandably reacted with real passion to what they thought was an unjust situation and I think did spontaneous civil disobedience," de Blasio said. "And I think that added to the confusion. But from everything I understand it was a purposeful act of civil disobedience."
Ragbir is executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. He was granted permanent residency in 1994, but it was revoked after he was convicted of wire fraud in 2000. He served a 30-month prison term but later asked the court to revise the original judgment, citing faulty jury instructions and poor legal representation.
In a statement late Thursday, an ICE spokeswoman said Ragbir had "exhausted" his petitions and appeals and would be deported.
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