Protests Against Police Brutality Met With Police Brutality Across the Country, Advocates Say

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As waves of protests broke across the country, demonstrators decrying police brutality were tear-gassed, beaten with batons and shot with rubber bullets in widespread incidents of police violence. Thousands were arrested and some remain hospitalized after taking to the streets to protest racism and the police killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, who died on Memorial Day after police knelt on his neck and body for nearly nine minutes.

Several incidents occurred in New York City. On May 30, officers in a police SUV appear to drive at a crowd of protesters in Brooklyn, knocking several to the ground. The day before, an officer was seen on camera, violently shoving a woman to the ground during a demonstration. The woman, Dounya Zayer, was treated at hospital and said she suffered a seizure and a concussion.

On Tuesday, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office charged the officer, Vincent D’Andraia, in a criminal complaint with misdemeanor assault, criminal mischief, harassment and menacing, according to a statement.

Cellphone video showed Officer D’Andraia, 28, knocking the 20-year-old victim to the pavement and calling her a “bitch” after she asked why she had to get out of the street. 

Prosecutor Eric Gonzalez said he would not tolerate excessive force being used against people exercising their right to peacefully protest. “This is especially true of those who are sworn to protect us and uphold the law,” he added. 

The officer, who has been suspended without pay, surrendered to authorities early Tuesday. As many as 40 other NYPD cops may face charges from prosecutors, The New York Times reported.

D’Andraia is the first NYPD officer to be arrested in connection with police violence at demonstrations.

The additional scrutiny of police actions comes as political pressure mounts for to hold officers accountable for the use of excessive force.

In Buffalo, New York, a 75-year-old man remains hospitalized in serious condition after being shoved by police. Cellphone video showed Martin Gugino stumbling backward last week and slamming his head on the sidewalk. Blood could be seen streaming from his head.

The initial news release from the Buffalo Police Department said the man, later identified as Martin Gugino, “tripped and fell” during “a skirmish involving protesters."

“He’s bleeding out of his ear!” a person can be heard shouting in the video. Officers walked past the man lying motionless on the ground.

Days later, amid a public outcry, two officers involved were charged with assault. They pleaded not guilty Saturday during a virtual arraignment. Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned the delay in charges being filed.

"There's no tolerance for delay in justice in society anymore. Justice delayed is justice denied," the governor said after the arrests. Allegations of police violence and viral videos have also led to to police arrests in Pennsylvania and Atlanta.

In Minneapolis, 20-year-old Ericka Khounedaleth said she and two friends joined a peaceful protest on May 31. The three women handed out water to demonstrators as they sat inside Khounedaleth's car, she said. 

When police began firing tear gas, she tried to maneuver her car out of the way, but became stuck in traffic, she said. Officers surrounded her car, guns drawn and jerked her out of the vehicle and threw her to the ground, she said. 

The women were tear-gassed as they lay on the pavement, she said. "I can't breathe and can barely see," she said she told the officers. The women were arrested and issued citations for rioting and unlawful assembly, she said. She called their treatment by police "barbaric and unnecessary," saying they were simply trying to leave the chaotic scene.

In Seattle, where police fired tear gas on demonstrators and a man drove his car into demonstrators and then shot a man, Mayor Jenny Durkan called Monday for defunding the police department as accusations of brutality against demonstrators mounted. Durkan said officers had been too quick to resort to force against protesters.

Photographer Alex Garland was working Sunday in Seattle when he said he heard the unmistakable sound of a gunshot.

He ran toward the noise, he told Inside Edition Digital, and saw a black man bleeding from the arm. Garland helped wrap the man's arm with medical supplies he carries in his backpack. The 27-year-old man had been shot after a man drove into demonstrators, exited his car and opened fire, police said.

The victim suffered a broken arm caused by bullet wound, authorities said. The alleged shooter was arrested at the scene.

The incident occurred amid many outbreaks of violence during Seattle demonstrations, with participants saying they were targeted by police for doing nothing but peacefully protesting.

A journalist was struck by fireworks as she reported live from the scene. Members of the press have increasingly reported being attacked by police, and sometimes by those in the crowds of protesters.

There have been more than 328 “press freedom violations” between May 26 and June 6, according to the latest count from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a collaboration of advocacy groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

In Louisville, a television journalist broadcasting live shouted "I've been shot!" after being struck by projectiles fired by police. Asked by a station anchor who the police were targeting, she said "They are targeting us." The department later apologized.

In Minneapolis, a photographer lost an eye after being hit by a rubber bullet fired at her face at close range, she said. Other journalists have displayed severe bruises sustained after they said they were directly attacked by police, despite wearing press credentials and screaming that they were journalists.

Garland described the behavior of Seattle police toward the weekend gatherings as "deplorable."

"It is disgusting to watch them use the munitions they are using against people sitting with their hands up," he said. He said he observed officers launching gas canisters and disgorging pepper spray at peaceful demonstrators. 

The photographer said he had not been injured, and wears a helmet and a gas mask. Before heading to work, he writes the phone number of his lawyer on his arm.

"They're certainly targeting people," he said of police.

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