VIDEO: Here’s What NYPD-Enforced Social Distancing Looks Like

NYPD social distance enforcement

The pandemic will be overpoliced.

A video shared by activist and journalist Shaun King shows police arresting a man on a crowded train platform. His crime? According to one witness, merely yelling at police that a subway platform was too crowded for people to spread out safely.

King’s video, which he says was sent to him by an essential worker, shows six police officers struggling with and then handcuffing a man in the 149th St.-Grand Concourse subway station in The Bronx. The witness who sent King the video told him that police entered the station and told the straphangers to spread out.

“So this gentleman decided to be our voice and tell them we couldn’t spread out because the platform was crowded…that’s when all the police rushed him and tried to arrest him,” the witness wrote to King.

The subsequent police takedown of the man is particularly physical, as several onlookers scream, “No!”

The video is the result of an intentional move by Mayor de Blasio to tell the NYPD to ensure that subway riders stay six feet away from each other, with the mayor vowing that officers would “pull people off the train” if officers thought it was too crowded.

On Friday’s “Ask The Mayor” segment on Brian Lehrer’s WNYC show, de Blasio specifically mentioned the Bronx as a place where he asked the NYPD to provide “leadership and supervision” at subway stations:

I know there were certain stations in the Bronx, 149th Street, as an example, where there were specific problems and my instruction to Commissioner Shea was send the NYPD in to make sure there is not overcrowding on the trains or the platform. Spread people out, tell people, you know, don’t get on that train yet, hold people from getting into the station of the stations too crowded – the kinds of things that can be done if there’s leadership and supervision on site.

The NYPD Transit division tweeted a response to King’s video, saying that the arrest took place last week and that it was done after officer “encountered an individual shouting profanities and causing alarm” on the subway platform.

Rider advocates teed off on the mayor’s decision to enforce social distancing measures so physically, calling the events of the video “outrageous,” and again called on the MTA to better ensure that employees in industries like health care, cleaning services and grocery stores can get to work.

“Overpolicing of essential workers during a pandemic is outrageous,” said Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein. “If the mayor can spare police resources to crack down on riders at a time like this, NYPD can surely do something about the epidemic of speeding and reckless driving above ground.”

As the coronavirus pandemic has swept through the city, there have been sporadic reports of packed subways and buses even as ridership has dropped to historically low levels and other riders report their stations and commutes are “ghost towns.” The MTA is running fewer buses trains as a result of the lower ridership, but the agency has also struggled to staff trains and buses as the virus has ravaged frontline workers like bus and train operators. Fifty MTA employees had died of coronavirus as of Friday, almost 1,900 are suffering from the virus and 5,200 employees are currently quarantined, according to MTA CEO and Chairman Pat Foye.

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