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Brad Lander

Pols to Mayor: Cops Are Weaponizing Bikes. End this Now.

Police using their bicycles as weapons against protesters in Union Square last year. File photo

Cops must stop using their bikes as weapons to violently prevent protestors from peacefully marching in the streets, a coalition of local pols are demanding — including the city’s own Public Advocate, who was the victim of such an assault during a protest last week in Manhattan.

Not only should Mayor de Blasio immediately force the officers to stop, he should also take the bikes away from the NYPD's Strategic Response Group if they are only going to use them to hurt people, said one local pol.

“Bikes aren’t supposed to be weapons. They failed to cut the NYPD budget, so maybe try starting with something smaller: take their bikes away,” said State Sen. Julia Salazar, who represents swaths of Brooklyn.

On Thursday evening in lower Manhattan, police, armored in full riot gear, appeared to indiscriminately and without provocation ram their NYPD bikes into a group of people protesting during the weekly Black trans liberation march — including into Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, according to multiple videos taken by reporters at the scene.

“NYPD was trying to clear the street to make an arrest. Aggressively,” Williams tweeted. He also decried the "lack of leadership" inherent when officers act so brutally.

Reporters at the scene said the officers used the same aggressive tactics to other members of the press, and to shove protesters out of the street.

It was the latest instance of police violently shoving protestors, striking them with batons, plowing into them with squad cars, and again using their 50-pound bike frames to push back protestors, just like they did for months throughout the summer protests that began after the police killing of  George Floyd in Minneapolis — all gross abuses of power to detain and punish people for exercising their right to protest, especially when police take what should be a tool used for the free movement of people and turn it into a weapon, said another local pol.

“The weaponization of bikes by officers to kettle, shove, and hurt protesters, including our public advocate, that we saw last night was appalling. Bikes are for riding, not for hitting people,” said Brooklyn Council Member Brad Lander, who voted against the city's budget because it failed to make serious cuts to the NYPD portion.

Strategic Response Group cops have a controversial history — the group was founded as an anti-terrorism and protest tactical unit by former Commissioner Bill Bratton in 2015, and has since been dubbed "the goon squad” because of its aggressive conduct, according to a report by Ali Winston.

The SRG, which actually predates its current name, comprises more than 700 officers, and is known for bringing “hats and bats” (helmets and long batons) to protests. The squad policed the 2003 anti-war demonstrations, Occupy Wall Street, and 2004 Republican National Convention — during which more than 1,800 people were arrested and held for days without charges, resulting in an $18-million legal settlement, Winston reported.

As a result of the violence perpetuated for months by the "goon squad," activists demanded over the summer that Trek Bicycles sever its ties with the NYPD, after cops were caught on camera in May using their bikes to brutalize peaceful protesters. Trek declined. But Fuji bikes announced on June 5 that it would stop selling to police departments nationwide.

The mayor said on Friday during his weekly segment on Brian Lehrer’s “Ask The Mayor” on WNYC that violence by cops is not "acceptable," but that the multiple videos depicting such violence, including the one of cops shoving the Public Advocate, may not be the reality of what happened.

"The question is when we are debating over videos or quote unquote evidence of what happened, I really don't think we're getting a clear enough picture from anywhere, honestly, of the situations in which someone, in fact, their only intention was peaceful, versus in fact their intention was not so peaceful," de Blasio said.

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