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NYCLU Statement On Disturbance At Poor People’s Demonstration

What had been a largely peaceful and orderly demonstration became chaotic when protesters were constrained at a police barrier at a demonstration site at 29th Street and Eighth Avenue. The demonstration on behalf of Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign began with a rally of several thousand demonstrators at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.

The group marched down Second Avenue and across Twenty-Third Street, to the agreed upon demonstration site at Eighth Avenue between Twenty-Sixth and Thirty First. Police suddenly erected a barricade across 29th Street, splitting the group in two. An angry exchange ensued with the police, who refused to let the group join the demonstration north of 29th Street.

The NYCLU had more than a dozen legal monitors at the site who observed police tactics that were heavy handed. The exchange exploded into melees that led to the arrest of a number of demonstrators. A number of police officers then wildly drove scooters into the crowd, hitting people and knocking them down.

The action of setting up pens which hemmed in many of the marchers was the kind of police practice the NYCLU challenged in its federal court case. Our staff attorneys observed that people were not able to get in or get out of these pens, which created a disturbing situation. As the crowd railed against being forcibly kept in one place, the NYPD approached in riot gear, further exciting the crowd.

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