[Trigger Warning: Homophobia]
Community activists are furious over a new video that appears to show Brooklyn police roughly detaining a gay man and pepper-spraying him while hurling homophobic slurs at his friends.
The incident took place at approximately 4:00 am on Sunday, June 2 when an NYPD officer reportedly accused Josh Williams, a 26-year-old waiter who lives in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, of public urination outside Brooklyn’s 79th Police Precinct. Williams and his roommates, Tony Maenza and Ben Collins, claimed he was innocent of the claim, at which point the officer “snapped.”
“He rolled his eyes and sort of snapped, twisting an arm behind my back and slamming me against a car,” Williams said. “I was able to ask him what was going on, and he slammed me against the car and pepper-sprayed me. I was blinded and disoriented.”
The video recorded by Maenza and Collins and posted online shows more officers rushing to the scene, crowding the two away from Williams with vulgar threats. Williams is shown being held against a fence before being thrown to the ground. His friends were also detained after demanding the officers’ badge numbers and telling them the entire assault had been caught on film.
“I believe they arrested us because when the last officer who called us faggots, Tony told him that we had the incident on video, and I’m sure he relayed that information inside and they then decided to follow us outside and arrested us,” Collins told the Village Voice.
“It felt as if we were an exhibit at a zoo,” he continued. “It felt demeaning and dehumanizing to be treated this way. Our safety concerns ignored by the officers.”
The NYPD informed the Voice that the incident would be subject to an internal investigation, but the excessive force and homophobic taunts have already caught the attention of LGBT groups in the city.
“This case is so extreme in how the encounter escalated so fast over something so silly and turned so violent,” said Cynthia Conti-Cook, Williams’ attorney. “Based on how the incident started, there’s very little to justify such extreme action other than homophobia.”
Anti-gay hate crimes have increased by 70 per cent so far in 2013, with city officials offering special self-defense classes for anyone who feels they may be at risk. A gay couple was recently assaulted outside Madison Square Garden, raising the number of bias-related crimes up to 24, according to NBC News, ten more than the 14 reported during the same time period in 2012.
The New York City Anti-Violence Project announced it will hold a press conference on June 11 at 2:00 pm EST to address both the incident in question and the broader unease.