Captain Louron Hall, the NYPD’s 104th Precinct new commanding officer, told QNS officers didn’t stop last Tuesday’s protesters from taking flags off of Maspeth residents’ homes — which resulted in them burning them — because they didn’t witness it as it was happening.
“We were instructed to allow people to exercise their first amendment rights, but also to make sure no violence or vandalism took place,” Captain Hall said.
The protest was scheduled to take place from Brooklyn to Maspeth, and had about 100 individuals marching against police unions and QAnon on Tuesday, Oct. 6.
Before the protest began, Captain Hall said the 104th Precinct received information that it would begin at the 108th Precinct and head toward the 104th.
That evening, the Jefferson L train station stop was being skipped while police barricaded the exits and entrances. Before the protest took off, an altercation between maskless police officers and a protester inside of his pickup truck took place, which culminated in the driver getting a summons for leaving their car door slightly open.
Throughout the march toward Maspeth, where protesters claimed President of the Sergeants Benevolent Association Ed Mullins either lived or had property, several police cars as well as police on bikes trailed them.
Captain Hall said that because police officers trailed behind the protesters, they didn’t witness when some of them began to take the U.S. flags from residents’ homes.
“I will tell you this, if officers would have seen the actual taking of the flags, they would have intervened in the way they did when they set them on fire,” Captain Hall said. “The mere burning of the flags, regardless how poor it looks, is their first amendment right. [But] officers took issue with it because of the danger it poses to everyone.”
Before protesters could light a large fire, police on bikes swooped in, causing the protest to disband.
The following day, many community members expressed frustration with the demonstration online, with some noting that the protesters went to the wrong house in pursuit of Mullins.
Local Councilman Robert Holden, who was mentioned that night for not supporting calls to defund the NYPD, took to Twitter to address the protest.
“I will not allow anti-police rioters to steal and burn the flags we proudly display in front of the homes we worked so hard to own. I proudly support the [NYPD] and will continue to fight for public safety and the quality of life in our district,” he wrote.
Juan Ardila, who’s running for Holden’s City Council seat, was also scrutinized by some community members for seemingly posting support of the protest earlier that night. However, Ardila later explained that he wasn’t aware of the flags being taken from residents’ homes in a Facebook post.
“Let me be clear: In no way do I support these actions nor would I ever participate in them,” he wrote on the post. “Before the vandalism occurred I posted a clip on my social media, as I believe all New Yorkers have the right to peacefully protest and have their voices heard. However, upon seeing footage of the behavior exhibited by the protestors, I removed it from social media as I do not condone destructive behavior as a form of protest.”
Ardila added, “Our communities are crying out for change but that is never an excuse for vandalism or harassment of our neighbors in Maspeth and throughout the district. Period.”
Captain Hall said his officers asked community members to make a report if their property was stolen, but haven’t received any formal complaints.
“The taking of people’s property is not condoned,” Captain Hall said.
Other community members and Black Lives Matter groups who participated in the march maintain that the conversation should be about police unions, QAnon and “people over property.”