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The Guardian - May 4, 2020

As New York saw temperatures climb past the 70s this weekend, a more relaxed approach to social distancing was out in force. New Yorkers, starved for fresh air and sunlight, took advantage of the weather to visit parks and go to the beach. In response, over 1,000 NYPD officers were deployed across New York’s five borough to enforce social distancing mandates, with police officers reminding people to maintain 6ft of distance and to wear face masks.

But some have complained of a tale of two very different cities when it comes to how those guidelines have been enforced. In particular, outrage has sparked over juxtaposed images that show officers handing out masks to white sunbathers, while another video shows an officer punching a person of color and sitting on him following a dispute about social distancing.

The video footage recorded in Manhattan’s East Village shows an officer approaching a man and hitting him several times in the face before pushing him to the ground and kneeling on his neck.

The NYPD has confirmed that the officer, now identified as Francisco Garcia, has since been stripped of his badge and his gun and the incident is under internal review.

Daquan Owens, a bystander who uploaded the video of the arrest to social media, told New York Daily News that the police reaction was uncalled for.

“The guy that just got slammed to the floor and punched, he was just standing there saying, ‘They didn’t do nothing,’ and actually they didn’t do nothing,” Owens told the Daily News.

“Nothing was going on, nothing provoked the cop. He just got up, pulled his Taser out … The cop, I guess he was frustrated and took his frustration out on the guy,” said Owens.

In a statement, the NYPD confirmed that the incident concerned social distancing protocol to begin with, but had escalated as marijuana was observed at the scene and that one person “took a fighting stance against officer [Garcia]”.

“A group was observed standing on the corner … in violation of social distancing orders. Officers instructed the group disperse and while most complies [sic], some refused. As officers approached, they observed a bag of alleged marijuana in plain view … A third individual was ordered by an officer to disperse and this male took a fighting stance against the officer and was also taken into custody,” an official NYPD spokesperson said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea both acknowledged the incident in a joint press briefing Sunday. “It started out as a social distancing enforcement … I am aware of the video that’s out there,” said Shea. Mayor de Blasio said he was “really disturbed” by the footage in a tweet on Sunday evening. ...
Read full report at The Guardian