I was crossing Nassau Street within a mass of approximately 500 people during the first minutes of a peacefully festive early morning demonstration. I heard the words “get him” yelled from somewhere among the crowd. A group of 6 to 8 NYPD officers were standing quietly near the crosswalk as the crowd flowed around them. My hand was raised in the air at this moment with a camera phone as I was about to take a photograph of the Federal Hall National Memorial building.
I first realized that the “get him” was directed at me when one of the officers reached up and grabbed my right hand, which was holding the camera. The other officers moved to restrain me from behind, not allowing me to remove the camera wrist strap before applying plastic cuffs. I did not resist or complain to the officers, as it was obvious that they already understood the improper nature of this no-warning arrest. The telephoto camera lens was still engaged behind my back as one of the officers squeezed it shut with great force. I could feel the gears grinding as the end of the phone was still in my hand. The officer continued grinding his thumb into the phone screen as the others patiently waited for the glass to break.
That didn’t work so they turned their attention to ripping the phone from the tough vinyl fabric strap that was still stuck under the plastic handcuffs. The one officer alone could not break the strap so two officers pulled together. The strap was so strong that they had to leverage their weight against my body to break it. The cameras metal and plastic casing broke before the vinyl strap.
Several television news crews had surrounded us by this point, at which time I began yelling to the cameras that the officers were taking my phone and trying to break it. One of the cops then deliberately held up the phone for the cameras to see and placed it into my backpack. The camera phone still appears to function so I will not be requesting reimbursement.
My other complaint concerns an Officer Akopov(shield #19909). He was working at approximately 9AM in the first room that new arrestees enter during the booking process. Akopov searched me in one of two small cubicles located within this same room. He immediately exhibited mild physical aggression, grasping and pushing with more force than necessary.
I remained casually polite in tone and demeanor, following Akopov’s instructions to first remove a shirt and belt. The pants did not fit without a belt so I was going to ask for a rubber band to hold them up. “This is going to be a problem………..”, I said, not having time to get the words out before Akopov said, “It’s not a problem for me. Buy clothes that fit.”
He next asked for the elastic band around my ponytail. The band came off entangled with a few pieces of my long brown hair. “You’re disgusting”, said Akopov. My pants had fallen down to my ankles because he would not let me hold them up. The front of the cubicle was open and female arrestees were in the room. Akopov asked me to take my socks off then immediately added “get a move on” although I remained moving at a quick pace. I do admit loosing verbal patience with Akopov at this point, when I asked, “Are you a smart guy? A tough guy?”. He responded. “I’m not a tough guy…….but I’m a smart guy.”
Akopov’s behavior presents the potential to develop towards violence if he is assigned to work with other officers who also exhibit aggressive personality traits. Akopov and the NYPD officers who ordered over a hundred no-warning arrests on September 17th remain proud as they pollute the liberty of this great city.
And let me add, there was a group of people from Occupy and the National Lawyers Guild waiting on an adjacent street near the police station after the NYPD took nine hours of my life. They clapped and cheered as each person was released. The cops were not yet done making up laws for the day. A group of officers appeared saying that we could not stand on this 50-foot-wide segment of sidewalk. They herded us like cattle for one block, threatening arrest the whole time. Everyone complied, knowing after today that NYPD culture has gone completely rouge from the US constitution.