Protesters described their violent encounters with the NYPD at a hearing held by state Attorney General Letitia James Wednesday. It’s part of her investigation into the police response to weeks of demonstrations.
When Dounya Zayer was forcefully shoved to the ground by a police officer, hitting her head on the pavement in a video that went viral, she suffered a seizure and concussion. Almost three weeks later, she’s still feeling the effects.
“I’m nauseous, my back hurts, I’ve had consistent migraines and I can’t hold down food. I can’t sleep,” said Zayer.
The incident took place on the first night of what would become weeks of protest often marked by clashes with police. The NYPD officer, Vincent D’Andraia, has been arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault, and suspended without pay, which Zayer said in her testimony Wednesday isn’t enough.
“Vincent D’Andraia being suspended so that, you know, the publicity can go away, and then they can bring him back to do the same thing over and over again," said Zayer. "Where the hell is the humanity in watching these officers assault a human for no reason?”
During the hearing, State Attorney General Letitia James heard protester after protester describe officers using seemingly unprovoked force, often causing serious injuries.
“Peaceful protest is a basic civil right," added James.
Many other protesters have detailed similar experineces to Zayer at the hands of police.
The panel also heard from numerous elected officials including Brooklyn State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who recounted being shoved with an officer's bicycle, pepper-sprayed then handcuffed at a May 29 protest at Barclays Center.
“As my eyes burned and I lost my ability to see," said Myrie. "The history of black men dying at the hands of police loomed large in my mind. And I feared for my life.”
Zayer explained the effect police violence has had on her and others, “I’m not well," she said. "And I know many other protesters aren’t well. And these are the people who are supposed to be protecting us. And they did nothing to protect anyone.”
The NYPD was invited to testify but declined. However, so many others signed up, the Attorney General added a second day of testimony. Under a directive from Governor Cuomo, she’s due to issue a report on her findings by the end of the month and is still encouraging protesters to come forward with complaints.