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Washington Heights councilman beat down by city police

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 11/28/2011, 4:08 p.m.
Washington Heights councilman beat down by city police

The arrest of City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez during the raid on Zuccotti Park last week has raised several questions about whether the Latino politician was treated fairly.

Rodriguez was arrested along with dozens of others when NYPD officers launched a nighttime raid against the nearly two-month-long Occupy Wall Street protest. Officers raided the area after Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the protesters forced out.

Hundreds of protesters had called Zuccotti Park home, setting up camp with tents and heaters over the last two months.

In an interview with the AmNews, Rodriguez gave details of his arrest.

"I was going to be there as an observer," said the Washington Heights city councilman. "I started walking three blocks down to the park and I was stopped by a group of police officers. I identified myself but I don't think they even let me finish my sentence. I was pushed back with a baton and they threw my body on the floor and the officers jumped on my body."

As a result, Rodriguez suffered bleeding on the left side of his face and head and suffers from pain even today from where the officers twisted his arm. He was arrested with several other people, he said, including two news reporters, and held in a van for nearly two hours. After that he was taken to NYPD headquarters, where he was detained for nearly 18 hours.

Rodriguez said that he told officers several times who he was and was denied the right to see his lawyer and or given the right to speak with a supervisor. He was charged with resisting arrest and with obstruction of governmental administration. The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment on the arrest.

"I was frustrated," Rodriguez said. "We are supposed to build a good relationship with the community and our police. It is clear that the NYPD is not working with City Council members who want to work with NYPD. It is unfortunate that this happened."

Upon news of Rodriguez's arrest, critics began to say that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn did not act fast enough in getting Rodriguez out of jail. Several city council members, who went unnamed, reportedly said that had he been someone else, representing a more coveted area of the City rather than his Washington Heights neighborhood, Quinn would have acted faster.

After the ordeal was over, Rodriguez said that he was told that Quinn's office made efforts to get him released. In a statement from Quinn's office, a spokesperson said the Speaker's officer worked tirelessly to get Rodriguez out of jail.

"From the very instant, approximately 2:30 a.m., that the Speaker's office became aware of the arrest of Council Member Rodriguez, senior staff members and the Speaker herself became actively engaged with the Mayor's office, the Police Commissioner's office and the Office of the District Attorney to ascertain Ydanis' status in the system and to learn the extent of his injuries," said Council Communications Director Jamie McShane. "This work continued throughout the day and over the course of dozens of conversations. The Speaker's office did not rest until the council member was released."