The Huffington Post's brief coverage of the NYPD's use of pepper spray on a minor at McCarren Park pool on Tuesday July 17 is entirely inaccurate. I witnessed the entire event.
Not only was your "eye witness" account stating -- "then something obviously happened, he tried to resist arrest maybe, and they forced him to the ground" -- sloppy reporting: it was wrong. If we are ever going to have an honest, productive conversation about how to keep that pool open and accessible to the public, then the press needs to stop referring to whites and blacks as "gentrifying newcomers" and "unruly crowds" respectively, and deal with the fact that it isn't just anyone who is being told that they are not welcome in a public pool. And that public pools are not just any old place. As for your reporter's assumption that the "something" your "witness" witnessed was a brawl -- you offer no evidence outside of implicit pro-police assumptions for this conclusion. There was no brawling.
Again there was no brawl. If police were "provoked" by anything it was likely their own, anxious, racism. I cannot stress this enough, as every news source in the city seems to think that the cops were protecting pool-goers from inter-pool-goer violence. Like most violence involving cops and crowds, the police started it. People became agitated when cops arrested two teenagers for jumping into the pool. Jumping into the pool is against the rules but let me just repeat that statement because I like how absurd it sounds: Cops arrested teenagers for jumping into a swimming pool.
This is what happened: Kids started jumping and doing back flips into the pool. Lifeguards made everyone get out of the pool. More kids jumped into the pool in defiance of the lifeguard whistles. Cops picked two of the pool jumpers as they emerge from the pool, shoved them against a metal barricade, and cuffed them. As the cops led the two men across the pool deck toward the exit, a crowd gathered, someone shoved a cop and five cops took him down. While he was being cuffed by five cops, the small crowd re-formed and an officer started pepper spraying people. A young man who looked about 13 and was certainly not a legal adult, got sprayed directly in the face. The crowd dispersed.
To be fair, I did not see every bit of what was happening, but I was standing near the edge of the small crowd watching the police arrest the third person -- because you not only have a right, but an obligation to watch the cops -- and I would be comfortable saying that there was not a fight. The group of mostly black people simply got too close to the arresting officers and a cop started spraying.
It was a tense situation, I certainly felt the potential for it to become something violent. But not because the "unruly" people were causing trouble, but because there is real and understandable tension between "unruly" people and cops. And two "unruly" people had just been hauled-off. There was no brawl that started it and no act of violence "provoked" the pepper spray that ended it.
Even more disgusting than the way that cops behave towards African Americans is how the press has reacted. The New York Times, The Daily News, and The Huffington Post have actively promoted the impression that black kids are ruining it for everyone, that if there just weren't any black people in the pool there wouldn't be problems. So of course the cops get away with it, white people -- excuse me, "recent gentrifiers" -- get even more scared, and no one says a peep about an almost theatrical re-staging of recent history.
On Tuesday July 17, two more young, black men may have gotten criminal records for doing something that would have gotten any white kid grounded at best. And speaking of the bad behavior of white kids, for several years McCarren park was a concert venue where people drank, smashed bottles, did illegal drugs openly and messed around on a giant, not so safe looking slip and slide. No one got arrested. No one's kid went to jail for acting like a kid and no one was pepper-sprayed.
Watch footage of the event below:
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