One of the factors that fueled Thursday’s huge march on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City was the dramatic surprise police raid on Zuccotti Park earlier in the week. Among those arrested in the raid was New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and then held in a police van alone for two hours. Rodriguez’s arrest came just a week after he helped organized an 11-mile march from the his district in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, a largely immigrant community, to Occupy Wall Street. He describes his ordeal in police custody and why the experience has only emboldened him to continue his involvement with the Occupy movement. “We wanted to bring more black and Latino participants to that movement, because we believe that this movement is not only for the college students, this movement is not only for the unemployed, it’s for the working class, it’s for the middle class,” Rodriguez says. “A block before I was arrested, there was a large number of demonstrators, and I saw a potential conflict that could happen. And what I did, I moved to the east side of Broadway, where there was not any demonstrations going on, any rally. It was when I walked to the next block, two blocks before the park—I believe it was two blocks… That’s where I was stopped. I said, ’I’m Councilman Rodriguez. I’d like to keep going, walking to the park.’ I was pushed back, and I was thrown on the floor. A police officer came from the middle of the street. He jumped on top of me.” [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: One of the things that fueled last night’s huge march on the Brooklyn Bridge was the dramatic surprise raid on Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning. In Juan’s column in today’s New York Daily News, you can see a picture of people marching across the Brooklyn Bridge. At the center is New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. Well, at the time of the raid early Tuesday morning, he was arrested at Zuccotti Park. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, then held in a police van alone, handcuffed outside One Police Plaza for two hours.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Council Member Rodriguez’s arrest came just a week after he had helped organize a march from his district in Washington Heights, 11 miles, from a largely immigrant community to Occupy Wall Street. Ydanis Rodriguez joined us in our studio on Thursday to describe what happened.
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: My plan from the beginning was to be there as an observer. As an elected official, I believe that I have the right to observe a situation when I believe that we need to protect the First Amendment of our citizens, especially representing a community as Washington Heights, northern Manhattan, where many member has been involved in the Occupy movement. So I—
JUAN GONZALEZ: And you had—and two days before, you had led an 11-mile march from Washington Heights?
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: It was like two weeks, two weeks before.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Oh, two weeks before.
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: One or two weeks before. What we did is we did together with Senator Espaillat, Assemblyman Linares, all the elected officials, all the labor movement, we walked from northern Manhattan to Wall Street, because we wanted to bring more black and Latino participants to that movement, because we believe that this movement is not only for the college students, this movement is [not] only for the unemployment—it’s for the working class, it’s for the middle class. But one more time, this mayor is showing that he’s disconnected.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But—and when—so you have no doubt that when you were there and the officers who arrested you, that they knew who you were? Did you identify yourself at all as a council member?
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: I did. A block before I was arrested, there was a large number of demonstrators, and I saw a potential conflict that could happen. And what I did, I moved to the east side of Broadway, where there was not any demonstrations going on, any rally. And in—it was when I walked to the next block, two blocks before the park—I believe it was two blocks, I’m not too sure, and it was two or three. That’s where I was stopped. I said, “I’m Councilman Rodriguez. I’d like to keep going, walking to the park.” I was pushed back, and I was thrown on the floor. A police officer came from the middle of the street. He jumped on top of me, and he twist my arm, and all those—all those type of things that—
AMY GOODMAN: How big was he?
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: He was heavy.
AMY GOODMAN: He jumped on top of you. Did you say, “I am a city council member”?
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: Oh, yeah. I did. Even when I was down on the ground and he was smashing my face against the ground, I say, like, “I am Council Member Rodriguez.” Again, I don’t want to use a title. I don’t want to be treated as because I’m a council member. I believe that we need to protect the rights that we have as citizens. And here was my concern. However, as elected officials, I know that I have also the right to observe a situation.
What I would not [inaudible] I was planning, I would never plan to interfere of the work of a police officer. They need to do their work. I has been arrested in the past. I has participated in a number of civil disobedience—in the Vieques issue, in the [inaudible], in a number of occasions. However, those times, I decided to be arrested. I know that I was doing something that could cause my arrest. This particular occasion, it was not only my case; it was a number of people arrested in a way that NYPD didn’t have to do it.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what happened in the van, when you said all of these other detainees were taken out of the van—this is in the middle of the night—of this police van that you’re in.
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: In the morning, yeah. Early in the morning.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re handcuffed—you were handcuffed in this van.
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: Very tight.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re held alone there? And Juan wrote about it in the New York Daily News. You were held alone there for two hours in this van?
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: Yes. [inaudible] I mean, for me, and only I was—at that point, again, my concern—and this is my role as a parent—is a completely different experience. If I would be arrested like 10 years ago, seven years ago, I would not have that concern. But now as a parent, my concern was, no, how long I’m going to be arrested was. I was reminded by my wife, “You need to be at this meeting, because this is important for our daughter.” So, my concern, when an hour passed, I spoke to the officer who was close to the van. I said, “Can I speak—I am Council Member Rodriguez. Can I speak to a supervisor?” And they say, “You will speak later on.” Something—I’m not sure about the quoting, but it was more, “Later on. Not right now.”
AMY GOODMAN: Was it explained why you were held for that amount time and kept from even speaking to an attorney for more than 12 hours?
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: Not at all. Neither—
AMY GOODMAN: And you were bleeding from your head?
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: Neither—yeah. Neither any moment they gave me the reason why I was arrested. Most of the individuals that were inside with me, they were already when—after they took the fingerprint, they were given the information were being arrested for, but I wasn’t. [inaudible]
AMY GOODMAN: You’re held for—you’re held until 8:00 that night. The next day at noon, you hold a news conference. Christine Quinn, leader of the New York City Council, writes a letter demanding an explanation of how, overall, the protesters are being treated, is this correct? And also raising serious questions about her colleague, you, Ydanis Rodriguez?
COUNCIL MEMBER YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: Well, she was—she also told me that her office called deputy mayor. They said—not the day after, the day when that happening, during that morning, she told me that a number of phone calls from her office was made to the deputy mayor, to Commissioner Kelly.
And, I mean, this happened that one day. However, I just want to take this 10-second opportunity to invite New Yorkers to join the protest today, because this movement is not about one council member being arrested or a media person being arrested. It’s about a frustration of the working class and the middle class, who say, “We are fed up. We cannot take it no more. Enough is enough.” I have been supporting—I’ve been encouraging my members of my community, and I call everyone to join the protests at different levels. Those who can be arrested, do it. Those that only can be there as a participant, be with the protesters, but send a message to the Wall Street community that they can increase their level of contribution to the finance of this society, because if they don’t, we will see more black and Latino going to jail, we’ll see more working class and middle class without opportunity to receive a quality education or getting good jobs in this society.
AMY GOODMAN: New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez describing his arrest as he attempted to observe the surprise police raid early Tuesday morning on Zuccotti Park. Last night, Rodriguez was front and center during the march on the Brooklyn Bridge.