New York police officers in riot gear and backed up by helicopters and police vans surrounded the home of a prominent Black Lives Matter protester Friday morning, tried to get him to come out of his apartment, and finally left empty-handed after a crowd gathered because the protester began streaming the incident on Instagram Live.
A spokesperson for the NYPD, Jessica McRorie, later said the NYPD had been “attempting to make an apprehension for an assault on a police officer.” She declined to say more, saying the investigation was “active and ongoing.”
But the explanation left many unconvinced, especially because of the bizarre way the incident unfolded, with officers at first telling the protester, Derrick Ingram, that they had a warrant, and then, when he asked to see it, backtracking on that and saying they were working on a warrant, according to Kiara Williams, who, along with Ingram, is a member of the protest group Warriors of the Garden. BuzzFeed News profiled the group in June.
“This is very clearly a political decision by the NYPD to harass peaceful protesters without a legal means to do so,” said Atusa Mozaffari, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society who was present at the scene, though is not counsel for Ingram. “This is exactly what everyone in New York City should be worried about.”
Ingram, 28, has been involved with Warriors in the Garden since June, shortly after protests against the police killing of George Floyd began convulsing American cities.
“This was an attempt to silence our movement. This militarized police response endangers the safety of residents in Hell’s Kitchen and across NYC,” Ingram said in a statement on Friday evening. “Officers used threats and intimidation tactics on a young man with no criminal history,” the statement added.
NYPD officers arrived at Ingram’s apartment around 7 a.m.
“There’s no reason for us to come in there — open the door and come out,” an officer told Ingram.
“Derrick, you’re the one making this difficult. We’re just trying to get you to come outside. You’re the one being hostile.”
“I’m not being hostile. I’m calm,” Ingram answered, as hundreds of his followers watched.
The video echoed police encounters with Black men that have ended violently.
Ingram, who is Black, held his head in his hands, and paced back and forth in his apartment, visibly nervous.
Under New York law, police officers can only enter a person’s home under prescribed circumstances.
“The police can enter your home without your permission if they have a warrant or if it is an emergency. If the police say they have a warrant, ask to see it,” said Katie Chmielewski, a communications associate for the New York Civil Liberties Union.
But when Ingram asked to see a warrant, officers did not produce one. By late morning, he appeared increasingly shaken as he continued to film. At one point, he put on some music to try to keep calm. At another, he swung the camera around to show that there were officers in the building across from him, and that he could see their holsters. Other officers were trying to climb the fire escape, said an onlooker. Ingram fielded calls from lawyers trying to advise him, as the booming police knocks continued.
“My lawyer is trying to coordinate a surrender,” he told police at one point on the livestream. The officers on the other side of the door continued to try to cajole him to come out. “Just open the door,” they called out to him. “This isn’t a trick.”
By noon — about five hours into the standoff — the street in Hell’s Kitchen where Ingram lives was blocked off at both ends. Several NYPD vehicles from the emergency services unit were parked outside the building, along with unmarked police cars. Officers from the Strategic Response Group and the Technical Assistance Response Unit were also present as a helicopter whirred overhead. Multiple observers told BuzzFeed News they had seen more than 30 police officers throughout the morning.
“We’re from emergency services,” one of the officers told Ingram from behind his apartment door, as they continued to knock over and over again.
“What emergency?” Ingram asked. “I don’t know what the emergency is.”
As Ingram continued to livestream on Instagram, a crowd formed on Ninth Avenue, where police had vehicles and officers blocking off the street. Chants for “no justice, no peace” began to pick up from behind the barriers.
“We came immediately when we heard about it because we knew it could happen to one of us,” said Frantzy Luzincourt, the cofounder of Strategy for Black Lives, another protest group that’s worked with Warriors in the Garden. “This is next-level, and it’s scary for organizers. Are they going to show up at my house next? Or his?” he said, pointing to a friend.
Chi Ossé, another member of Warriors in the Garden who is also running for city council next year, chanted “Where’s the warrant?” over a megaphone. “This is nothing more than domestic terrorism,” he told a crowd of people who had gathered in a park that overlooked Ingram’s street.
Without warning, around 1 p.m. officers started leaving the area. Supporters and protesters who had gathered at both ends of the street streamed toward Ingram’s apartment building as the police vans all drove away. The crowd clapped and shouted at the victory, filling the street in case cops returned.
“The people united will never be defeated,” they cheered.