Police officers beat and pepper-sprayed people at a benefit for Anarchist People of Color after arriving in response to an officer’s report of someone standing outside the party allegedly holding an “open container.” An organizer for Anarchist People of Color joins us in our studio. [Includes transcript]
Up to 100 people attending a fundraising event in Brooklyn were sprayed with pepper spray, beaten with nightsticks, and harassed by police officers on Saturday night.
Approximately 21 police vehicles arrived at the benefit for Anarchist People of Color following an officer’s report of someone standing outside the party allegedly holding an “open container.” At least 8 people were arrested on charges including assault, inciting a riot, and resisting arrest.
The fundraiser held at the office of The Critical Resistance, a national grassroots group that focuses on prisons and police brutality.
- Mayuran Tiruchelvam, an organizer for Anarchist People of Color. He was at the front door when the police showed up.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe what happened? What was happening on Saturday night before the police arrived?
MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM: Well, it was actually, probably a very positive and beautiful event that we were having. It was a spoken word performance, live music, DJs, basically to raise some funds to cover the costs of the Anarchist People of Color, that went to an historic conference in Detroit over a month ago. It was a really beautiful event, there was a great vibe going down and clearly the police decided they wanted to break that up. There was too much fun happening in Brooklyn at the time. Before it happened everything was going really well, people were having a great time. Then all of a sudden, three plain clothes detectives were coming up in our space and everything went out of control pretty quickly.
AMY GOODMAN: How many cars? How many police cars?
MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM: People counted 21 marked vehicles. The initial detectives arrived in unmarked vehicles. There were other unmarked vehicles, SUVs and things like that. And someone told me there was a bus that was even further down.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did the police say when they moved in?
MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM: They just came walking right up in there and starting harassing people even before they told us that they were police, they wouldn’t show us their badges.
AMY GOODMAN: You didn’t know that the 21 cars were police, none of them were marked?
MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM: The plain clothes detectives were in just 1 car, first they showed up. Within seconds of us going outside there was all of these other cars. It was like a hornet’s nest. All of a sudden all of these police cars were showing up in seconds.
AMY GOODMAN: What did they do when they got out?
MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM: The reason why we ended up outside was because they pulled one of the members of Critical Resistance outside to arrest them. We went outside, why are you arresting them we asked? Can we have your names? Can we have your badge numbers? And they wouldn’t give us any of that information. They called for backup once they saw that people were coming outside the space.
AMY GOODMAN: What did they do? Just arrest people?
MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM: First they were throwing around and beating the first young person that they had arrested. Then when we tried to ask questions, when we tried to prevent that person from being arrested, they began pepper-spraying people pretty much indiscriminately, hitting people with night sticks, dragging them on the ground, throwing them. A man was punched in the face right next to me. I was thrown to the ground and I was pepper-sprayed. A lot of things were going on at the same time to a bunch of different people because there were so many police officers. 50 police officers or more.
AMY GOODMAN: Did the police ever explain why they were there? Did they say that someone had an open can of liquor outside?
MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM: They never told us that specifically when they came into the space. I was at the door when they came in and they just started threatening people. Saying we were running an illegal night club. They were throwing in all these different accusations at us, but they never once clearly said what the problem was, why they were there, nor did they ever ask to be invited into the space.
AMY GOODMAN: Did anyone end up in the hospital?
MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM: Well what happened was eight people were arrested and one person was not arrested and he was pretty badly beaten and he did go to the hospital. The people who were in the jail, they had some pretty serious injuries and needed to go to the hospital and unfortunately they didn’t receive medical attention until a few hours afterwards, after they were in jail and they didn’t get to go to a hospital until after they were released last night about midnight.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, everyone’s been released?
MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM: Everyone’s been released. Charges still stand though and they have several court dates.
AMY GOODMAN: Anymore explanation at this point? Any understanding? And, what are your plans as a group, Anarchist People of Color?
MAYURAN TIRUCHELVAM: I feel that part one of this that the event was held at the space of an organization called Critical Resistance. They do a lot of work against the prison industrial complex. Against forces of policing and repression. Clearly they’ve been targeted by the police specifically because it’s Critical Resistance. Also because as Anarchist People of Color, we’re just starting to build and organize in the city. They know that we’re starting to build and organize and they’re trying to stop it before it gets started. Much like they’ve been doing to other events and organizations in preparation for things that might be happening next year with the Republican National Convention, other kind of direct action events.
AMY GOODMAN: The Republican National Convention, here in New York City. Well, I want to thank you for being with us, Mayuran Tiruchelvam, an organizer with Anarchist People of Color, at the front door when police showed up and moved in on their group.