Video of NYPD violent arrest over social distancing sparks outrage

The apprehension of Donni Wright may suggest that minority neighborhoods are being overly policed

A New York City police officer was stripped of his badge and gun and placed on desk duty after violently arresting a man for allegedly failing to comply with social distancing on Saturday.

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A New York City police officer was stripped of his badge and gun and placed on desk duty after violently arresting a man for allegedly failing to comply with social distancing on Saturday.

The video shows the officer, Francisco Garcia, in plainclothes and no face mask attempting to tell 33-year-old Donni Wright to disperse by slapping him in the face, punching him in the shoulder, and dragging him down the sidewalk.

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According to a report from ABC7NY, Police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell said Wright “took a fighting stance against the officer” when he was ordered to disperse and was arrested on charges including assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.

In the video, Wright is not in the frame the entire time. When he is shown he is making what appears to be a clenched fist. Garcia asks him to, “stop flexing.”


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Several people reached out to me last night about this. It’s in Manhattan, and the young brother you see on the ground was simply a witness to the horrible case of police brutality at the beginning of the video. ⁣ ⁣ Mind you, 7,000 NYPD officers are out sick with the coronavirus and they are STILL out on the streets without masks and gloves. ⁣ ⁣ So when this young man walks up to check on the kids that were being brutalized, THIS OFFICER, with the Yankees cap, immediately begins firing his Taser, then starts punching and brutalizing the man who was UNARMED and non-violent and broke no laws. You can’t even say he interfered with a crime scene because he wasn’t even close to the kids. ⁣ ⁣ What this officer did here is illegal. When a cop punches and brutalizes someone, it’s just assault. They don’t have special punching privileges. When he is ramming this man’s head into the concrete, just because he likes it, that’s just assault. ⁣ ⁣ WHAT IS HIS NAME? ⁣ WHAT IS HIS BADGE NUMBER? Follow @grassrootslaw

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The charges have been deferred pending further investigation.

The arrest highlights contradictions in how NYPD has been enforcing social distancing. Another couple on the same block were arrested with failing to comply with the standards moments earlier. Yet last month, hundreds of Hasidic Jews gathered in contradiction to social distancing standards as NYPD just stood by.

Hasidic Jews

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 05: A man speaks as hundreds of members of the Orthodox Jewish community wearing face masks attend the funeral for a rabbi who died from the coronavirus in the Borough Park neighborhood which has seen an upsurge of (COVID-19) patients during the pandemic on April 05, 2020 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The NYPD assigned over 1,000 officers to enforce social distancing in the city as the temperatures began to rise going over 70 degrees this past weekend.

In other videos, NYPD officers are seen gently asking people to disperse and handing out face masks in city parks.

During the confrontation, Garcia and another plainclothes officer are seen yelling at bystanders to get back as one officer kneels on Wright’s neck and back. A bystander replies, “he didn’t even do nothing!”

Kumar Rao, a New York lawyer, and human rights advocate tweeted that “NYPD should never have been tasked with enforcing social distancing, mask-wearing, or quarantine rules.”

READ MORE: NYPD cops seize boy selling snacks on subway in dramatic video

In an interview regarding the incident with Philadelphia’s 6ABC, Carolyn Martinez-Class, of Communities United for Police Reform, agrees. “This incident illustrates why public health professions and community partners should be responsible for social distancing education and creating norms – not police.”