In the summer of 2020, as New Yorkers exercised their First Amendment rights to demonstrate and demand justice for Black lives, NYPD officers responded with shocking displays of escalation and abuse. The violence that New Yorkers witnessed was overwhelmingly carried out by police officers and directed against the public. From the many documented incidents of excessive force, the arrests of journalists and legal observers, the interrogations of protesters’ political believes, and the contempt shown by officers attempting to evading accountability by concealing their own identifying information, the NYPD’s actions reflect an approach that is fundamentally hostile to the public’s right to engage in First Amendment-protected protest.

The NYPD should be explicit in its recognition of and its commitment to respecting First Amendment rights, and the Department should be equally committed – in both its policies and its actions – to holding officers responsible for any failure to do so.