New York City police officers grabbed a protester off the street in the middle of a demonstration Tuesday, threw the person into an unmarked van, and quickly sped away.
The incident was captured on several brief clips that spread across social media on Tuesday evening.
The officers were not wearing uniforms, the videos show, as they quickly grabbed the person, pushing them into a gray Kia van. When some protesters moved toward the plainclothes officers, uniformed police quickly moved in, using their bicycles to keep demonstrators away.
"They grab her, kinda push her to the ground, push her by the neck, and scoop her into the van and drive off," a demonstrator who witnessed the incident told BuzzFeed News. "No words exchanged."
The person arrested has been identified as Nikki Stone. The NYPD told BuzzFeed News it arrested Stone, an 18-year-old woman, for "criminal mischief and making graffiti for 5 incidents ranging from June through July."
An NYPD spokesperson added that the arrest — near Second Avenue and East 25th Street in Manhattan — was by the department's Warrant Squad. The department tweeted that the person was wanted for damaging police cameras "during five separate criminal incidents in and around City Hall Park." There was a protest encampment in the park that police recently dispersed.
"The arresting officers were assaulted with rocks and bottles," said the statement, which was also posted on Twitter.
In the multiple short videos posted to social media, no rocks or bottles can be seen being thrown at the officers. Protesters appeared to be marching peacefully on the street before the woman was taken into custody.
Officials at the department did not provide information regarding the five incidents, including when they allegedly took place. The spokesperson also would not answer questions regarding why plainclothes officers in an unmarked vehicle took the protester into custody, despite a number of uniformed officers being in the area.
Early Wednesday morning, City Council Member Carlina Rivera, who represents the part of Manhattan where the arrest occurred, tweeted that the protester had been released from custody.
Video of the incident shows the van slowly driving down the street alongside demonstrators.
The protester who witnessed the incident told BuzzFeed News that he saw the van while he was on his bike taking pictures, but assumed the people inside were also demonstrators.
"And I hear a car screech, I turn around, and see this car had stopped at the intersection," he said.
The protester asked not to be identified because of fears of being targeted by police.
He said he followed the van for several blocks on his bike after it sped off. He chased after it until the van suddenly drove toward a bike lane, stopped, and officers got out. The officers walked toward another demonstrator who had been following them, he said.
"They get out of the car and yell at this person with a GoPro that they are not allowed to be near them," the protester said. "At that point, they get back into the car and they proceed to run through I don't know how many red lights. I couldn't keep up with them."
The protester said he saw no identifying markers on any of the officers except one who was wearing a shirt that read "Warrant Squad."
Video shows some of the officers had NYPD badges with black ribbons covering part of them.
In a statement posted online Wednesday, Stone's mother, Carly O'Neil, said her daughter, who she said prefers the name Stickers, was doing traffic control ahead of the protest group when she noticed the van, "and everything moved quickly from there."
"What you see in the video is Stickers being physically accosted by the arresting officers, which included several punches to the face as she started to panic and exhibited that anxiety in the moment," O'Neil said.
While the officers used her pronoun, O'Neil said they "insisted on calling her by her legal name and not her chosen, female name," adding that none of the officers wore masks in the van.
"She experienced inhumane treatment as the officers yelled insults like, 'Act like a normal fucking human being and not some animal,'" O'Neil said. "She felt powerless in that moment but immediately understood the gravity of this event in the context of the larger scope of equal rights and the history of LGBTQ+ being demeaned by systemic bigotry."
By Wednesday morning, some city officials were criticizing the officers' actions and the manner in which the arrest was carried out. New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called it "incredibly disturbing."
"It is totally unacceptable that an arrest for minor property crime was carried out in such an aggressive and disturbing manner," he tweeted.
Some people likened the video to footage of federal officers in camouflage uniforms grabbing protesters in Portland, which has drawn lawsuits and criticism against the Trump administration.
Among those critics was Mayor Bill de Blasio, who sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security after President Donald Trump threatened to deploy federal officers to New York as well.
In the letter, de Blasio told acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf that agents who "engage in tactics like those in Portland, will not help fight crime — it will undermine public trust in law enforcement."
"What federal officials are doing in Portland — arresting individuals without notice, the use of excessive force, and other apparent acts — is in violation of those rights and it is not welcomed in New York," the letter reads.
De Blasio, who did not immediately comment publicly on the NYPD arrest, was asked about it at a press conference Wednesday.
He said “it was the wrong time and the wrong place to effectuate that arrest,” but said damaging police property is a “real offense … that could lead to an arrest.”
He said he would talk to the police commissioner about “a better way to get that done.”
“A lot of us have watched, in pain, what’s been going on in Portland, Oregon… So anything that even slightly suggests that is, to me, troubling and is the kind of thing that we don’t want to see in this city,” he said.
Correction: Based on a police report, Nikki Stone's name was misstated in a previous version of this post.