They Said They Were Protesting Peacefully. Then the Police Arrived.

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Five New Yorkers describe the night they were arrested while participating in Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Anthony Mendez recalled how he had been held in a crowded cell for six hours after he was arrested during a protest, the first time that he had ever gone to a march. Clare Ramirez-Raftree said she ended up with welts on her wrists for days from the tight plastic handcuffs. And Patrick McElravey said police officers put him in a chokehold in Brooklyn.

The protests in New York City touched off by the killing of George Floyd have received extensive attention, including scrutiny of the use of force by police officers.

But what about the aftermath?

More than 2,000 people were arrested, most for low-level offenses such as violating the official curfew or refusing to disperse.

Many said they waited for hours in cramped holding cells while the police tried to figure out how to process them. Others described how they were arrested even as friends nearby were let go. In some cases, processing officers appeared unsure why protesters were detained.

Most of the charges will ultimately be dismissed, prosecutors said.

Still, protesters offered wrenching accounts of their arrests. This article highlights five of them.

To corroborate the demonstrators’ stories, The New York Times reviewed video of the arrests and spoke to witnesses. It was not always possible to confirm all aspects of the protesters’ statements.

Senior police officials have defended how they handled the protests, saying that officers targeted only a small number of people who sought to commit violence, including looting. The officials have said officers who used excessive force against protesters would be punished.

The Police Department has pointed to examples of injured officers and destruction of police property during protests.

“I think the officers used an incredible amount of restraint in terms of allowing people to vent,” said Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea in June.

The Police Department was asked to comment on each of the five arrests described in this article, and to provide supporting documentation or incident reports connected to the arrests.

The department said it would not, contending that it could not discuss details of any of the five arrests because doing so would violate the privacy rights of the people involved. It said those arrested and charged with violations under the penal law are entitled to the sealing of their records after their cases are closed, regardless of the outcome.

“The N.Y.P.D. demands accountability in all of its operations,” Devora Kaye, spokeswoman for the Police Department, said in a statement. “It is also critical to review the totality of the circumstances that lead to interactions where force is used.”

Courtney Taylor said she had never been to a protest before the death of Mr. Floyd. But at an event on June 1, someone handed her a megaphone. In the following days she traveled to Brooklyn after work to lead marches.

“I didn’t graduate high school,” she said, “So I would never think I would be leading a protest for Black Lives Matter.”

On June 5, Ms. Taylor was helping to lead a protest that marched through Downtown Brooklyn and Flatbush. After curfew she was with a smaller group that had split off from the original group, marching down Nostrand Avenue. They were chanting and playing music when the police surrounded them, she said.

“We don’t know if the song is what ticked them off, but they just came at us,” said Senayda Racinos, 22, a friend of Ms. Taylor’s who was also arrested that night.

Ms. Racinos and Ms. Taylor recalled that they tried to talk with the officers, but all of the demonstrators were arrested.

“They surrounded me because I was the leader,” Ms. Taylor said. “It was very traumatizing.”

Ms. Racinos said few officers appeared to have their body cameras turned on.

Ms. Taylor was cited for violating curfew.

She said she was still perplexed by what happened. She said that she disagreed with violent protests and looting, and that she had taken pains to expel agitators.

“I was a bit confused as to why everything went down the way it did,” she said. “It was a lot of commotion for no reason.”

Ms. Taylor, who is from Brooklyn but lives in Newark, said she was released from the precinct around 1:30 a.m. Volunteers paid for her to spend the night in a hotel, she said.

“It really does make me nervous when I’m leading a march and I see cops line up, because you never know what’s going to happen,” Ms. Taylor said. “I’m risking my life to fight for my justice.”

On the night of June 4, Dr. Mike Pappas said he decided to volunteer during a protest in the South Bronx as a medic. He recalled that he packed a bag with medical supplies, painted red crosses on his shirt and bags and headed out.

As curfew neared, Mr. Pappas said he noticed a growing police presence behind demonstrators. Then, as protest leaders turned the group down a side street, they found their path blocked by another line of police.

Mr. Pappas said an officer approached and told him, “Come with me, man, everything’s going to be fine.”

“I know the feeling of a police officer holding your arm when you’re going to be arrested,” said Mr. Pappas, who was dressed in scrubs.

He offered to show the officer his ID and explained that he was an essential worker and was permitted to be out after curfew, he said.

“‘You were standing in the road, you’re no longer a medic, you’re a protester,’” Mr. Pappas recalled the officer’s saying.

At the precinct, Mr. Pappas said he was struck by the disorganization. During intake, Mr. Pappas said, he was asked repeatedly to explain the contents of his pockets and record his possessions.

“They must have asked me 30 times how much money I had on me,” he said.

While waiting for the intake process, Mr. Pappas said he saw several officers come in and out of the station house, high-fiving and fist-bumping each other. They called out numbers to each other, he said, joking about how many arrests each officer had recorded that night.

He said he was taken to a holding cell with 16 other protesters. It was around 85 degrees, he said, and the group was given two small bottles of water to share. Few others besides Mr. Pappas were wearing masks.

Mr. Pappas was issued a desk appearance ticket for disobeying the mayor’s curfew — which, he pointed out, his status as an essential worker permitted him to do.

“Whichever way you split it,” he said, “I was allowed to be there.”

Anthony Mendez said he felt guilty after the death of Mr. Floyd for never having protested before. On June 3, he said he went out to demonstrate: “That night I decided, you know, let me go out there and actually do something about it.”

Mr. Mendez recalled that he joined a group marching through Downtown Brooklyn and wound up at Cadman Plaza, where disorder broke out as police charged the crowd after curfew. Mr. Mendez broke away from the area with a different group and continued marching, he said.

“We were weaving in and out of different streets,” he said, until riot police caught up to them, hopping out of unmarked cars and trapping the group on a block by guarding both intersections.

Mr. Mendez said he was tackled first by one officer, and then three more piled on top of him.

“I’m being handcuffed, but I have guys kicking me,” he said. “So many things were running through my mind. Am I going to end up as another statistic? Honestly, I was scared for my life.”

Mr. Mendez was put into a police vehicle and transported to the 84th Precinct. He was rattled, he said, when the officers congratulated each other.

“They’re high-fiving each other,” Mr. Mendez said. “Like they’re pumped from a game.”

He said he was held in a cell for six hours and then given a citation for disobeying a government order.

His foot was injured from being tackled, but he said he planned to go back out when it healed.

“It only made me want to go out more, protest harder, scream louder, actually make a change and be part of the cause,” he said.

“This is the most sustained amount of time that I’ve been protesting one thing,” said Ms. Ramirez-Raftree, who has lived in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn for six years. She is half- Salvadoran and half-white, and said she felt driven to use her own privilege to demonstrate.

On the night of June 3, Ms. Ramirez-Raftree joined a group of protesters intending to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, but the group was blocked in Cadman Plaza by a line of police in riot gear.

The group stopped, and people dropped to their knees, hands over their heads as they chanted, she recalled.

They then turned around and, Ms. Ramirez-Raftree said, officers charged.

Ms. Ramirez-Raftree said she saw one officer using his riot shield to aggressively push a small woman.

“I kind of upon instinct tried to protect her and put my body weight against the riot shield,” she said.

She said the officer then turned his attention to Ms. Ramirez-Raftree and began pushing her. She fell to the ground, she said.

Another officer came over and helped put Ms. Ramirez-Raftree into zip-tie handcuffs, she said.

After Ms. Ramirez-Raftree was handcuffed, she was escorted to a city bus where she waited for more than an hour with other protesters who had been arrested, she recalled.

“There wasn’t a lot of organization,” she said.

The zip-tie cuffs grew painfully tight as the night wore on, she said. When officers finally removed them, she had large, red welts that were visible for more than a week afterward.

At the precinct, she said she was detained for six hours in a cell with around a dozen other protesters. She was given a desk appearance ticket for disorderly conduct.

“Seeing just how blatant the police were with everything, it kind of just spurred me to go out again,” she said.

Patrick McElravey began protesting for the Black Lives Matter movement when it first started, back when he was in college in Vermont, and joined the George Floyd protests at their start.

On June 3, Mr. McElravey rode his bike to join a group that ended up at Cadman Plaza, the same night that Ms. Ramirez-Raftree was arrested.

As officers advanced on the crowd, Mr. McElravey got on his bicycle and began coasting away, but couldn’t separate himself from the crowd before being overtaken by a group of people being pushed by police with riot shields.

Mr. McElravey said he found himself trapped. Then the officer who had been aggressive toward Ms. Ramirez-Raftree ran at Mr. McElravey and pushed him against a car, he said.

A video of incident shows an officer ripping the bike from Mr. McElravey’s hands and briefly placing him in a chokehold, a dangerous policing tactic that is now illegal in New York City, before securing him with zip-tie handcuffs.

Mr. McElravey was taken to the 84th Precinct in the same van as Ms. Ramirez-Raftree.

On the bus, he questioned an officer about what had happened.

“The officer who was standing there said, ‘Nobody thinks this is right,’” Mr. McElravey said.

Later, he said he asked a second officer the same question, when another officer interjected: “We’re not paid to feel.”

Mr. McElravey was released around 5:30 a.m. and given a court appearance ticket for failure to disperse. He was surprised, he said, because he had been trying to comply.

“He threw me into the car before I could turn my bike around,” Mr. McElravey said.

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