Williams and Foy on why their arrest is only the tip of the iceberg

Kirsten John Foy and Jumaane Williams. (Azi Paybarah)
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The city councilman who was handcuffed and detained by police officers at a parade in Brooklyn yesterday said the NYPD has been spreading a lie to justify their actions.

"I was actually handcuffed while on the phone with one of the police, trying to explain to them what was going on," said Councilman Jumaane Williams, a Democrat from Brooklyn, at a press conference this morning on the steps of City Hall.

Williams and Kirsten John Foy, a director of community affairs for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, were handcuffed but later released without charge after an altercation with police officers at the end of the West Indian American Labor Day Parade.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said it was a member of the police department who was the victim in the altercation.

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"[A]n unknown individual punched a police captain on the scene," Browne said.

Williams, who was accompanied at the press conference by virtually the entire prospective 2013 mayoral field, as well as a number of city and state legislators and one member of Congress, called the claims that an officer was punched "a bald-faced lie."

"I defy the police to find one shred of evidence of any police officer punched in the face in that incident," Williams said. "I defy you to give the press any shred of evidence."

One of the mayor's closest allies in city government, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, said it appeared the NYPD acted inappropriately when they handcuffed and detained Williams and Foy.

"From all of the information that I have been able to pull together, and everything that I have been able to learn, there is nothing, nothing, that indicates councilmember Williams or Mr. Foy did anything wrong," Quinn said.

Quinn said the incident was "completely distressing" and "unacceptable."

At the press conference, both Wiliams and Foy showed off their city-issued identification, which they said the NYPD officers on the scene initially refused to accept as valid.

Two poster-size photographs taken by bystanders yesterday were held up. One showed Williams on the phone, another showing Foy presenting his wallet with his identification, to police officers.

"There was no reason during the conversation to use that type of force when they were merely trying to identify themselves," said State Senator Eric Adams, a Democrat from Brooklyn who is a former NYPD officer.

"Jumaane should not have to walk around with a special negro badge that allows him to move through the city," said Adams.

Some of the officials who gathered at the press conference used the incident as an opportunity to criticize what they say have been overly aggressive police tactics in minority neighborhoods and recounted numerous other run-ins between police officers and law-abiding minority residents.

"We have family members as well who are victims of this," said Representative Yvette Clarke, of Brooklyn. "We are quickly moving to an apartheid situation here in the city of New York when we don't recognize the civil liberties and civil rights of all New Yorkers."

City Council member Letitia James of Brooklyn said one of her staffers, Daniel Goodine, was arrested last year at the same location as Williams and Foy, for trying to get to a bathroom. (Goodine told me he's actually a volunteer.)

Goodine said he was detained for about thirty minutes, but later had to appear in court. He said he refused to plead guilty to disorderly conduct and was found not guilty of any wrongdoing by a judge.

"When I read the article last night, it was so identical that I could not go to work today, I had to come and see Mr. Williams, because I felt the same pain," he said. "I felt that pain all over, last night."

Williams and Foy refrained from criticizing NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly personally, but said the incident was not an isolated matter. They said in addition to an apology, they would like to "police procedure and policy changes." In particular, they urged an end to the practice of stop-and-frisk, and of the arrests of disproportionate numbers of minorities on low-level marijuana charges.

The NYPD press office did not respond to a request for comment.