A New York police officer was shot in the leg with his own gun while trying to arrest a man allegedly smoking marijuana. During the following three days, police mounted a massive dragnet in the community, arresting a total of 181 black men in Queens. [includes rush transcript]
We begin today with a case of a police dragnet in New York City. On June 14th, Officer Christopher Wiesneski of Queens was shot in the leg with his own gun while trying to arrest a man smoking marijuana. During the next three days, police mounted a massive dragnet in the community. A total of 181 black men in the Queens neighborhoods of Cambria Heights and Laurelton were arrested on misdemeanor charges and quality of life violations. Some who were were arrested report that they were grabbed by the cops, handcuffed and not given any explanations at the time of their arrests.
The police department and Mayor Bloomberg have remained silent on the matter despite calls from City Councilman Leroy Comrie, Queens Representative Gregory Meeks and Democratic Mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer to give an explanation for the cops behavior.
- Marq Claxton, a retired New York Police detective and is member of the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. Marq is spearheading the efforts to file a lawsuit against the NYPD.
Read article by Juan Gonzalez.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We are joined in the studio by Marq Claxton. He’s a retired New York Police detective. He’s a resident of the neighborhood and is a member of the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. Claxton is spearheading the efforts to file a lawsuit against the NYPD on this matter. Welcome, Mark Claxton.
MARQ CLAXTON: Thanks for having me.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Talk a little bit about the incident and how you became involved in it, and what the reaction has been in the community.
MARQ CLAXTON: As you indicated, on the 14th, there was a police officer who alleged that he was shot by a young male black. We became involved with it when we received several calls to our hotline number from some of the individuals who had been stopped, detained, searched, and/or arrested. So, we contacted several people and we found a disturbing pattern that really yells racial profiling. And when you look at the numbers that you mentioned, it’s clearly an indication that there is some systematic arrest — mass arrest initiative that occurred on Queens and our questions are what’s the justification for it?
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe what happened? 180 black men arrested?
MARQ CLAXTON: That’s off the charts. I mean, and if you believe those numbers, we happen to believe that the numbers are actually higher than that, it’s a very disturbing set of circumstances, and those numbers for a police precinct, are really off the charts on the first day it’s reported that there were over 93 arrests. That’s just arrests. Who knows how many summonses and stop and frisks occurred in addition to that.
AMY GOODMAN: On what grounds?
MARQ CLAXTON: That’s a good question. I attended a community meeting just last Wednesday, and the executive officer of the precinct pretty much established that this is what occurs after a police shooting. Now, my 20 years of police experience, extensive detective investigative experience, that is not what occurs. It appears that in the white communities, when there’s an incident such as this, the police will go door to door and ask questions. In the black community what they engage in is mass arrests, which lead to interrogation and interviews.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And for our national audience who may not know the Cambria, Laurelton section of Queens. I mean, that’s essentially a very middle class neighborhood. It’s not one that has a high crime rate to begin with, right?
MARQ CLAXTON: Right, it’s a solid working class, middle class, primarily black community. It’s a very quiet community. It’s a very engaging and homey kind of community. It’s not in any way considered the deep inner city. So, you have a hard working class out there. It’s a largely Caribbean community, as well. And that’s Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Laurelton, Rosedale. That’s Southeast Queens Corridor.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you describe some of the people you talked to, some of the people who were arrested.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, I talked to several young men all in their early twenties who were just standing out on a street corner about 2:00 — 2:30 in the afternoon talking to two groups of young men, when suddenly police, plainclothesmen, came up, guns drawn, threw them all on the ground and handcuffed them all, wouldn’t tell them why they were being arrested or anything, and they ended up spending 24 hours through the system. Eventually, they found out they were being charged with disorderly conduct. But then they got before a judge, all of the charges were dropped, and they were all marked for what’s called A.C.D., Adjournment Contemplating Dismissal. And I’m trying right now to find out exactly how many of those people who were arrested — and this is all minor misdemeanor charges: urinating, driving without a license, having alcohol in the street. How many of them were actually just dropped when they came before a judge, because to put that many people through the system — many of these are actually what’s called violations where you normally would get a summons, isn’t that?
MARQ CLAXTON: Correct. As a matter of fact, those things that you mentioned, urinating in public, drinking — open container violations, disorderly conduct, those aren’t even — they don’t reach the level of crime. Those are, in fact, violations of law. What occurred here is similar to, if you can imagine, driving in your car and running a red light, being pulled over by the police officer, being handcuffed, taken to the precinct, interrogated by the detectives and taken to central booking.
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, what this means when you apply for a job, for example, it says, have you ever been arrested?
MARQ CLAXTON: Right. If you consider this in the context of the recent report regarding unemployment, particularly in the black community, and the reality of the difficulty of the job market in New York and the nation as a whole, it’s very disturbing. And so many of these young men who are completely innocent, who have never had any previous police contact now have to explain this A.C.D., Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, or even perhaps convictions. And it’s disturbing. It sets them up for their future. And I think it’s alarmed the community out there, and we are staying vigorously involved in it.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is all happening as this hate crime has been committed that is getting a lot of attention right now. Howard Beach man, who was just arraigned and charged with first degree assault for fracturing the skull of a man, and it turns out your paper once again, Juan, The Daily News, is now breaking another story about this Nicholas Minucci, and what he did as the World Trade Center Towers were going down in 2001.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Right, there were actually three white men who supposedly attacked three black men in the Howard Beach section. Of course, Howard Beach is infamous back in —- nearly 20 years ago when another racial incident there that really divided the city. A similar attack on a black man walking through the neighborhood. This Minucci apparently was arrested or had an incident on the day of September 11, when he allegedly attacked a Sikh man with some other individuals where they were basically attacking them, saying that you f—- Arabs.
AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you blow this up.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Why don’t you blow this up, right, as they were beating them. So that, Minucci apparently has a history. Also one of the other men arrested along with Minucci in this latest incident apparently is the son of a police detective. And so, it’s not clear what the facts are around this case, except that one of the men, who was badly beaten, had a fractured skull and is in stable but critical condition in the hospital.
AMY GOODMAN: And the man with the fractured skull is named Glen Moore.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Right, but amazingly, the two — I think the important thing to understand is the police department has really gone very heavily after these men. And I think they should, but at the same time, when you have an incident like what happened in Cambria Heights, which is an instance not of a violent attack by individuals but of a systematic attack on the black community by the police department itself, the department is not even investigating or trying to get to the bottom of what happened out there, right?
MARQ CLAXTON: Absolutely. They seem just very reluctant to deal with this governmental violation that occurred out in this hard-working community. I think that what occurred in Howard Beach may be a convenient distraction for this administration to avoid the issues such as what occurred in Cambria Heights, Queens, and the surrounding communities, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Marq Claxton, we want to thank you very much for being with us, retired New York Police detective, who is involved in spearheading efforts to file a lawsuit against, well, his own department, the New York Police Department for what happened in Queens.
MARQ CLAXTON: The people’s department.