This article originally appeared in Filming Cops and has been re-posted with permission.
[Update and Correction Below]
A Brooklyn judge has set bail at $5,000 for one activist arrested protesting the sentence of former NYPD officer Peter Liang in front of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s house on Tuesday night.
The activist, Jason Woody, will be awaiting trial at Rikers Island jail, which can take months or even years, unless activists can raise at least $1,000 for bond on the $5,000 bail by later today, according to several people present in court for the arraignment. (You can donate to the bail fund here.)
The other six activists arrested at the demonstration were released from Brooklyn Central Booking late last night, almost 24 hours after their arrests. Each of them was charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration (OGA) and three counts of Disorderly Conduct (DisCon), a misdemeanor and three violations, respectively.
Woody, who is black, was additionally charged with felony assault of an officer, resulting in the $5,000 bail. One day earlier, a white couple from Virginia who “attacked a (NYPD) transit police officer, hitting him repeatedly with his own baton and choking him with the chain attached to the shield around his neck” were also charged with felony assault of an officer and asked to post $5,000 bail, according to DNA Info.
By comparison, this is the incident for which Woody was charged with the same:
Woody was documenting the protest, which was contained to the sidewalk, from his bicycle in the roadway at the time he was arrested. This is legal in New York City as long as he is biking, not walking. (Woody regularly documents protests in NYC in this manner.)
According to Ashoka Jegroo, who was also documenting the demonstration, Woody was taken down by approximately 10 NYPD officers. One officer’s finger was cut during the incident, which is likely what the felony assault of an officer charge stems from.
Meanwhile, activists received visible injuries from their arrest and detainment:
— Ash J (@AshAgony) April 21, 2016
The judge in Woody’s arraignment noted that a special prosecutor will be handling Woody’s case, likely because the Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson would be biased in prosecuting someone arrested protesting in front of his own home. Those wanting to donate to Woody’s bail fund can do so here.
The demonstration was protesting the sentence of five years probation and no jail time for the NYPD officer convicted of manslaughter for shooting and killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed man who Police Commissioner William Bratton described as “a complete innocent.” Thompson recommended the sentence, which protesters called unjust because Thompson recommends much more jail time to people convicted of much lesser offenses.
The protesters marched back and forth in front of Thompson’s house holding a banner that read “BYE KEN/BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS,” chanting that if the Gurley family could not sleep tonight, neither would his.
“These efforts to harass and intimidate my family, frighten my young children and disturb my neighbors at one in the morning will not deter me from doing what is right,” Thompson said in a public statement. Activists quipped that what he meant to say is he would not be swayed to do what is right.
Contrary to what the Daily News reported, the six protesters besides Woody were never in the street blocking traffic. Ironically, the Daily News even embedded a video showing that the protesters were marching on the sidewalk long before their arrests, contradicting their own copy, which reads, “When cops arrived the protesters were blocking traffic. The police told them to stop. They refused, and the seven were arrested.”
The protesters say that the arrests began when, in addition to the uniformed officers policing the march on the sidewalk, an unmarked police vehicle sped around the corner and several plainclothes officers jumped out of the vehicle and began making arrests without warning.
On Twitter, people demanded that the charges against the activists be dropped, and noted that they had spent more time in jail than the cop who killed Akai Gurley. Protesters and their supporters used the hashtag #ByeKen.
Oren Yaniv, a spokesperson for Thompson, implied that the charges were at least partially justified because the activists were “cursing on (on) residential street”:
Yaniv later deleted the tweet.
These six protesters were also subjected to unusual and legally dubious practices during their detainment. All six of their phones have been kept by the NYPD as evidence in Woody’s case, which is highly unusual for people arrested at a political demonstration, and which has raised concerns among activists that the NYPD is data-mining and/or monitoring communications.
The NYPD also attempted to question all six without the presence of a lawyer. This practice was deployed by the NYPD against people arrested during the large Black Lives Matter protests in late 2014 and early 2015, likely in violation of the Handschu Agreement – a court order restricting the NYPD’s spying on constitutionally protected activity – as documented by the New York Times.
In this case, all six protesters refused to speak with the NYPD officers, who identified themselves as “detectives,” without a lawyer present.
The protesters also claim that they were denied food, water, and access to the restrooms and phones while being held at the 88th precinct for over seven hours before being transferred to Central Booking.
Woody will appear before another judge in the Bronx later today for failing to appear at a court appearance for a previous incident due to a legal error. The charge for the previous incident is expected to be dropped at that time, but he must either post bond or be sent to Rikers for the current incident.
Again, activists are trying to raise money for his bond through this bail fund.
[Update and Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that bail was set at $25,000, which could be paid with a $5,000 bond, as reported by several people at the arraignment. However, bail was in fact set at $5,000 and the entire amount was required in order to release him at his arraignment in Brooklyn. Today at his arraignment in the Bronx, his $5,000 bail may be able to be covered with a bond of approximately $1,000, and his support network believes they have this amount covered.]