Gay Men Claim Police Violence, Anti-Gay Slur, False Arrest in Brooklyn

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Ben Collins, Antonio Maenza, Josh WIlliams, Councilman Daniel Dromm, and FIERCE's John Blasco (with AVP's Sharon Stapel with her back to camera) at the June 11 press conference. | GAY CITY NEWS
Ben Collins, Antonio Maenza, Josh Williams, Councilman Daniel Dromm, and FIERCE's John Blasco (with AVP's Sharon Stapel with her back to camera) at the June 11 press conference. | GAY CITY NEWS

At a June 11 press conference outside One Police Plaza downtown, members of the City Council, LGBT advocates, and supporters of police reform joined three gay men as they recounted allegations that NYPD officers recently assaulted and falsely arrested one of them outside the 79th precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

According to 24-year-old Ben Collins, one of the three, the men, heading home at about 4 a.m. on June 2 to the Brooklyn apartment they share, were walking along Lexington Avenue near the 79th precinct at Tompkins Avenue when an officer “falsely accused” Josh Williams, 26, of publicly urinating. When the three men responded to the officer’s command that they walk over to him in the precinct parking lot, Collins said, the officer, joined by others, “thrashed” Williams and then “slammed him” against a squad car. After handcuffing him, the officers pepper-sprayed Williams, according to Collins.

Collins also said that when they asked for a name and badge number from the one officer who remained after the others had led Williams away toward the precinct, that officer called him a “faggot.”

Elected officials, advocates rally around three snared in incident outside Bedford-Stuyvesant's 79th precinct

The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP), which organized the press conference, posted a video that a third man, 24-year-old Antonio Maenza, made of roughly three minutes of the incident. The video begins with officers surrounding Williams, who is on the ground, securing his wrists before leading him away. Another officer is warning Collins and Maenza, “Get outta here, or you’re going to get arrested, too, fucking asshole… You wanna go with him, you stupid fuck?”

By about the 2:30 point in the video, Williams has been led away and the one officer who remains in the parking lot is engaged in a shouting match with Collins and Maenza over their demand that he identify himself. The exchange is loud and heated, with the men calling the officer a “fat fucking pig” several times. At approximately 2:49 in the tape, as the officer is walking away from Collins and Maenza, he can faintly be heard saying something, which the men allege was “Fuck you, you fucking faggot.” After multiple reviews of the tape, Gay City News cannot definitively confirm that quote, though the final two faint words could be “fucking faggot.” Immediately afterward, Collins is heard shouting back at the officer, “What did you say to me, motherfucker, you wanna call me a faggot?”

The video clip ended just seconds later, and Collins said that after that officers chased Maenza and him down and took them into custody. According to Collins, when the men asked why they were being arrested, the officers responded that “they will find something to charge us with.”

According to Cynthia H. Conti-Cook, an attorney with the Brooklyn law firm of Stoll, Glickman & Bellina who represents the men, Williams was charged with public urination and resisting arrest. Collins and Maenza were charged with obstruction of governmental administration. Williams, she said, suffered lacerations to his wrists and spent approximately seven hours in a hospital during which time police restrained both his wrists and his ankles.

Calling on police to drop all charges against the men, Conti-Cook said, “Last weekend my clients learned what residents in the 79th precinct –– and all over New York City –– already knew. That they are just as likely to experience violence, threats, and verbal abuse from the police as anyone else on the street. That police often act as is there is no oversight or accountability because there is so seldom any oversight or accountabi­lity.”

Conti-Cook’s clients did not take any questions at the press conference, and in a very brief statement, Williams said, “We did absolutely nothing wrong.”

Shelby Chestnut, a community organizer and public advocacy staffer at AVP, noted the group, in its survey of clients last year, found that 40 percent of those who interacted with the NYPD reported police misconduct, and that the problem had worsened from the year before.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who is gay and represents Jackson Heights, termed the police’s action at the 79th precinct “a crime” and charged that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is aware that the abuse Williams, Collins, and Maenza experienced “is the reality” of the LGBT community’s relationship to the NYPD.

“Even I have been disrespected by the New York City Police Department, even after showing my credentials as a New York City Council member,” said Dromm, who explained he was at the press conference representing two of the three other lesbian and gay members of the Council –– the Lower East Side’s Rosie Mendez and Jimmy Van Bramer of Sunnyside.

John Blasco, the lead organizer at FIERCE, an advocacy group made up of LGBT youth of color, questioned a central tenet of the response to the recent wave of violence aimed at queer New Yorkers –– the assignment of additional police in neighborhoods frequented by community members.

“What makes anyone think more police would make us feel safe?,” Blasco asked. “For most of us, that creates fear.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian who prevailed on the NYPD to increase its visibility in LGBT neighborhoods, he said, has to do more to consult with community members.

Others on hand for the press conference included Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, who is spearheading the drive for a package of police reform measures, Robert Pinter, who launched the Campaign to Stop the False Arrests after he was falsely convicted of prostitution at a Manhattan video store in 2008, and representatives of Streetwise and Safe, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, and the Safe OUTside the System Collective of the Audre Lorde Project.

At publication time, the NYPD had not responded to several requests for comment, but NY1 News subsequently reported that Kelly had reviewed the video and the incident was under review by both Internal Affairs and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

Simon says:
NYPD TARGETS GAY PEOPLE IN PROSPECT PARK Gay cruising has a long history in Prospect Park but recently the NYPD must have decided to stamp it out once and for all: Raids of the cruising area now occur on a daily basis and involve tactics that make one believe Brooklyn is located in a country like North Korea or Iran -- some cops position themselves at the exits while other cops comb through the paths with bright flashlights. The goal is to catch (and issue summonses or even arrest) "faggots." If they are not combing through the area on foot, there are constantly police vehicles passing through with their lateral floodlights shining. The homophobic targeting reported in the article is, in my opinion, very much in accordance to the general repressive targeting of LGBTQ people by the city's police department. How can we celebrate this month's Pride events without resolutely speaking up against such homophobic targeting and demand it to cease immediately and once and for all? Cruising has historically been and always is an integral part of Queer culture. Deal with it!
June 11, 2013, 7:21 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Drama sheer Drama. This film will never win an academy award for cinematography, that's for sure. I know police entrapment first hand but, it looks to me that a few participants were drunk and disorderly. And I doubt very much that it was any of the police officers.
June 11, 2013, 8:17 pm
diego says:
Does anyone else think it strange that the article fails to mention that they guys ended the video by calling the one lone cop a "nigger".
June 11, 2013, 8:30 pm
Thomas V says:
I agree with Perley and Diego and there was certainly enough bad behavior to go around, and the officer will likely be disciplined for using the foul language that was distinguishable on the video. People are under the misguided notion that they can verbally abuse police and it is ok and the police somehow will act robotic and just dismiss it every time. Very sad comment on our the state of our society. No one has to own their behavior but the police somehow need to own everything.
June 12, 2013, 10:41 am
Anthony of NJ says:
First of all, why are all 3 men, or should i say boys, be involved with this lawsuit. Yes they were all there to witness what happened, but only ONE was arrested. I am a gay man and don't believe that anyone of authority should be using the word "faggot" but adult men shouldn't be calling police officers, "fucking pigs". If i was that officer I would have arrested that kid as well. They were all drunk and you can tell that they were. Immaturity plays a big part in this situation. I have great respect for AVP and what they do, especially with all the bias crimes that are happening right now in NYC, but i feel this is a battle for Josh Williams, who was arrested in this situation. Why are the other two boys involved. 15 min of fame, perhaps?
June 12, 2013, 12:21 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Thank you, Thomas V. And I agree with your statement, also. Policemen are human beings who are loved and worried over by someone special in their lives, also. As for the cruising amid spotlights in Prospect Park. I've never been there but, as I've stated many times, I am thoroughly familiar with the Ramble in Central Park. I also know from reading the local newspapers that there have been many hard core crimes committed against gays both in and around the confines of the cruising areas. I'm not a spokesperson for the police, nor do I wish to be, however I have found that the captain of a precinct is the person responsible for the patrolling of the immediate area under his command. Has anyone with a cool head questioned him about what is happening, and also tried to get the gay men to cooperate with the police in keeping the violent crimes responsibly and accurately reported for everyone's safety sake? I myself did with the Central Park Police for the past 20 years, and I now have an excellent over 200,000 word 565 page manuscript that will soon be a published book on the open sales market. Think about it.
June 12, 2013, 12:27 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Further; In one of my 7 already published Louie/LuLu books the hero/heroine Louie/LuLu asks her friend, an NYC Police Detective just who it is that he's protecting her from. To which he replies, "Yourself, LuLu. Yourself!"
June 12, 2013, 12:40 pm
Simon says:
Well Perley, you're raising a very good point regarding the questioning of the captain of the precinct covering Prospect Park (I believe it's the 78th precinct). I think that would be a very good journalistic exercise for the Gay City News...
June 12, 2013, 12:46 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Thank you, Simon.. But, not a publicity seeking activist trouble maker, or a writer who has personal axes to grind, as that will only lead to an ugly confrontation that will result in nothing having been accomplished at all.
June 12, 2013, 2:08 pm
paulschindler says:
Anthony, as the article states, all three men were arrested.
June 12, 2013, 3:04 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
And as evidence clearly shows; they all three deserved to be.
June 12, 2013, 3:36 pm
james228 says:
I hope more details would be known to public and further investigation for what has happened.
June 16, 2013, 10 am
Addision says:
Yeah - I'm sure there's a lot of culpability on the part of those gay boys. Glad they got arrested and I hope their allegations fall on deaf ears.
June 17, 2013, 3:36 pm
Josh says:
Everyone seems to be missing the point. True, all three boys were drunk and behaved horribly, but the police are supposed to be held to a higher standard (to prevent abuse of their powers). The sheer fact that the officers failed to identify themselves when asked is reason enough for their discipline. You are owed that by law. If you asked an officer to identify himself after a conflict and he refused, you would understand what a breach of justice this is. Along the same lines, the language the officers used is a much bigger issue than the language the boys used. What's the motto of the NYPD, again? "CPR - Professionalism, Courtesy, Respect."
June 18, 2013, Noon

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