When a pro-police rally and a Black Lives Matter demonstration faced off in Crocheron Park in Bayside on Sunday, July 12, several incidents of harassment and one assault took center stage. Only one individual, who claims he wasn’t responsible for any of those incidents, was arrested as a result of the bedlam.
The two separate demonstrations in Bayside took place on Sunday, with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstration kicking off first around noon. That demonstration began at Crocheron Park and marched to Bell Boulevard.
But Jessica, one of the organizers with Bayside’s BLM group who asked for her last name not to be used, said that they decided to head back to the park after about five protesters with Warriors in the Garden — a collective of activists dedicated to non-violent protest — told her they were encountering some pushback from pro-police demonstrators at the park.
The Warriors originally decided to leave the BLM march to Bell due to a “heavy police escort,” which they said they’ve had bad experiences with in the past.
But back at the park, the two sets of demonstrators started to engage in discussions that quickly escalated to verbal attacks. While the BLM protesters started reading out some police facts and telling the pro-police demonstrators why they should join them, with a fence in between the two groups, some individuals with the pro-police group on the other side began yelling and spitting at them.
This led the BLM protesters to come around the fence to tell police officers about what some members of the pro-police group were doing and see if they could file complaints.
Things quickly escalated from there.
As the two groups got closer, verbal attacks turned physical. Police tried to create a barrier between the hundreds of pro-police demonstrators and the few dozen BLM demonstrators.
But according to some BLM demonstrators, someone from the pro-police group managed to avoid the barrier.
An unidentified white man wearing a gray T-shirt with the words “NYPD” and no mask was seen slapping a woman marching with Bayside’s Black Lives Matter group.
Kristen McManus, a 37-year-old Bayside resident, told QNS she is the woman who was slapped.
She told QNS the man came up from behind the Black Lives Matter group and started harassing and spitting at some of the protesters. While they were trying to protect other Black and Brown members, he reached out and hit her across the face.
“After he did that, the crowd took after him, and he went running,” McManus said. “I tried telling the cops, but they didn’t stop him. I had cops surrounding me, but nobody asked if I needed medical attention or if I wanted to file a report. It was like being in a riot, almost.”
She said this happened at about 2:30 p.m.
“I only know because of my Fitbit, I had about 148 heartbeats per minute at that time,” McManus said. “It didn’t go down by much that whole day.”
The unidentified man was not arrested on the scene.
When McManus reported the incident the following day at the 111th Precinct, police told her she should’ve called 911 as soon as it happened.
“If you were hit and there’s a wall of police, and you’re saying that the man is right there and nobody turns to see … That’s the problem. That’s why we protest,” she said. “My hair is neon pink; I’m standing out in a crowd. You can see I’m asking for help and they’re acting like I’m invisible. If they’re gonna do that to me, how can we expect them to take care of anyone else?”
Jessica said when some protesters tried to get his motorcycle’s license plate, the police told them to stay back.
When asked if any arrests have been made in connection to McManus’ assault and if the man had been identified as of Tuesday, an NYPD spokesperson said there are no updates as of yet.
McManus said that when she filed a report the following day, police told her it doesn’t qualify as an assault because she didn’t make the call at the scene. But when McManus asked a representative from the Legal Aid Society, they told her that is incorrect and it is up to the district attorney’s office to make that call.
It is still unclear, then, how and why Yacine Diallo, a 21-year-old protester with Warriors in the Garden, was arrested a few minutes after McManus’ incident at Crocheron Park’s parking lot.
A video of the moment it occurred shows several police officers grabbing and beating him while he was on the ground before he was arrested, followed by cheers from the pro-police demonstrators.
Diallo, a Black man, told QNS he didn’t even see it coming.
Diallo said he was at the front of their group, making sure there was a “good barrier” between them, the police and pro-police demonstrators, when he heard a scream.
“When I went to see what happened, I saw a police officer come at me, then five came at me, and I didn’t know what happened,” Diallo said. “While I was on the ground they kept punching me.”
Diallo, a Bronx resident, was arrested and taken to the 111th Precinct at about 2:36 p.m. He said police officers did not tell him why he was detained and refused to give him medical attention when he asked.
“They said, ‘You are detained so you can’t ask,’” said Diallo, who was never arrested or in a police car before Sunday. “A police officer told me I was going there for my own security. I’m like, ‘How are you putting me in jail for my own security?'”
He was released at about 7 p.m. Fellow Warriors in the Garden members waited for him and called a Legal Aid Society representative to help.
According to an NYPD spokesperson, Diallo was arrested for “attempting to hit an unidentified victim with a closed fist.” The spokesperson said he’s charged with inciting a riot, attempted assault, and disorderly conduct and harassment. He was also given a desk appearance ticket.
Diallo said he was only told about one charge: inciting a riot.
“I have to go to court, so I’m working with my lawyer,” said Diallo, adding that he’s been resting and figuring out what to do now. “What they did to me, they will do to another person.”
Steve Behar, a lifelong resident of Bayside who was marching with the Black Lives Matter protesters and was at the scene of the arrest, claimed the cops targeted Diallo. He also said he told one of the officers the unidentified white man on a motorcycle was causing the trouble, but they told him they “didn’t see it happen.”
“His name was Officer Morales, and his response was, ‘I didn’t see anything’ — as if they need to see something to investigate,” Behar said.
Behar and Jessica added that a few moments after Diallo’s arrest, a police officer pepper sprayed two other Black women with the Black Lives Matter group. Video of that moment is not available.
In the moments leading up to the incidents in the park’s parking lot, Behar described a tense encounter between the hundreds of Blue Lives Matter and the few dozen Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
“They started screaming racial slurs, telling Asians and Hispanics to ‘go back to their country,'” Behar said.
Jessica, with Bayside’s BLM group, said she witnessed some questionable behavior from the police officers working the protests that day. One instance was when she told their police escort they were turning back to the park, which she claimed was met with frustration from the officers in charge.
“One officer said to me, ‘What, you lost control of the crowd?’ And we said ‘No, you lost control of us.’ Some of the cops were mad and I heard one say, ‘I wish I could punch them in the face,'” she said.
After the incidents took place and the pro-police march was about to begin, Diallo and Jessica both claimed they heard one of the commanding officers tell police officers to turn on their body cameras.
“We were like, ‘Are you kidding me?'” Jessica said, adding that the whole time, police officers were staring them down — something they did not do to the pro-police group.
McManus and Diallo don’t understand how a man physically assaulted a woman hasn’t been arrested.
“How did he get to walk away?” Yacine said. “I’m ‘inciting a riot’ and they have someone on video hitting a girl who got away. This is a joke.”
Jessica and McManus said they’ve tried to ask around for the man’s name but have had no luck.
The two Bayside residents said when they posted about the incidents that took place in the parking lot in a Bayside Facebook group, they were met with some derogatory comments and censoring from admins.
“Someone commented, ‘Don’t talk s— if you can’t back it up,’” Jessica said.
Jessica, who said she’s received death threats for being part of the Bayside Black Lives Matter group, told QNS that the incidents won’t stop them from bringing more attention to issues of police violence and systemic racism to the neighborhood.
“I speak as an ally, and even that is infuriating to all of Bayside, Queens,” she said. “We’re not gonna stop protesting in this area because that happened. If anything ,they just solidified the fact that we need to do it more.”
McManus, a Queens native who works at a school in Elmhurst, agreed.
“What happened to me is very minor compared to what Black and Brown people have happen to them by cops and racists on a daily basis,” she said. “This is only going to make me go even harder.”
QNS reached out to the NYPD with a list of questions regarding Sunday’s events, but has not received a response.
Check back with QNS.com later for more updates.