Nassau County officials are defending police officers who made arrests during a seemingly peaceful Black Lives Matter protest and were caught on videos that went viral, drawing national headlines.
On Friday, June 12, dozens of protesters made their way from the East Meadow Mall onto the Hempstead Turnpike, leading to the arrest of several Long Islanders, and drawing the ire of some when the videos were made public.
Scenes of the police interaction with the protesters led to multiple viral videos, some of which drew millions of viewers.
In the videos, Nassau County Police can be seen and heard directing the protesters, some of whom objected, prompting officers to subdue them, leading to an outcry of anger from others in the crowd.
One demonstrator who was a part of the crowd and witnessed the arrests said that an officer knelt on a protester’s neck while he was being arrested.
“He was just walking as can be seen in the video when five or six officers arrested him with no explanation,” the protester said. “The other organizers, one of whom is the brother of the first man arrested, asked the police captain why his brother was arrested.
“The Nassau County Police Captain responded ‘I don’t know,’ " the protester added. “Several of the police officers started laughing and the group demanded the man to be let go but they drove him off immediately.
“Then we kept marching down Carman Avenue as (the march) shouldn’t stop, and the other organizer was thrown to the ground and six officers pinned him down while one officer kneeled on his neck.”
It is further alleged that another protester was slammed onto the ground and arrested for “walking on the wrong side of the street.”
Following the release of the videos, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said that the officers repeatedly made efforts to keep protesters out of moving lanes of traffic before they were taken into custody.
"This safety precaution was met with strong opposition and resistance which resulted in the arrests of these subjects,” they said. “Nassau County Police Officers are highly trained professionals and for days at over 75 demonstrations, had positively engaged with protesters at all events, even during some tense moments
“Our police officers take an oath to protect and serve and they have done that admirably. We have and continue to protect the public which includes protesters, during marches, on major roadways, and during their interaction with counter-protesters.”
Over the weekend, Ryder added, "We gave them the lanes, we gave them the turnpike," he said, noting that as the group neared Carman Avenue, ‘one of the individuals decided to jump into oncoming traffic,’ causing a car to come to a ‘screeching halt.’”
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