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Protest in NYC continue as vote count in presidential race drags on

NYPD officers ride bicycles past garbage set on

NYPD officers ride bicycles past garbage set on fire during a protest in New York Wednesday night. Credit: Bloomberg / Mark Abramson

Demonstrators took to the streets of New York City on Thursday for a second day as vote-counting for the presidential race continued in a handful of swing states.

On Wednesday, hundreds of demonstrators filled Washington Square Park for a peaceful "Count the Vote" protest, but police later clashed with an apparently separate group of demonstrators — with the NYPD saying protesters lit fires and threw garbage and activists saying cops attacked and beat them.

The protests Wednesday and Thursday came as ballot counting continued in the contentious presidential election between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, with several key states yet to announce a result.

Around 9:30 p.m. Thursday, marchers in Union Square Park faced off against NYPD cops playing a recording ordering them to disperse. When some didn’t, hundreds of cops in body armor rushed the crowd, after a police supervisor in a white shirt shouted, "go! go! go!"

Several people were arrested, including one draped in the pink, blue and white trans flag and another who shouted "black lives matter" while being loaded into a police arrest van.

During the park raid, at least two empty water bottles were tossed from the crowd at the police.

Soon after, a man on trumpet played the civil rights spiritual "We Shall Overcome."

A police spokesman on the scene declined to say what the basis was for the raid or the arrests.

Clashes between cops and a smaller group of demonstrators continued late into the night, with hundreds of cops waiting on side streets and avenues to be called up from the blocks radiating from the park.

The march began early Thursday evening not far from the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village where protesters handed out socialist literature and quoted Black activists.

"When we come together all things are possible!" a drag queen in a turquoise dress said on a stoop next to the Stonewall Inn, the site of 1969 riots credited with catalyzing the modern gay-rights movement. "I believe in black queer power! I believe in black trans power!"

A group of hundreds began clapping and singing as more than 100 NYPD cops in body armor lined up on bikes on nearby Grove Street, ready to follow the group.

"We know this week has been filled with uncertainty but we are certain that we will win!" the drag queen said to cheers.

So-called "bike blockers" lined up perpendicular to Christopher Street to block in the protesters from cops and passing vehicles.

On Wednesday, activists posted video to Twitter claiming to show the NYPD using a controversial tactic known as kettling, in which police surround demonstrators and order a crowd to disperse while giving no means to do so and then conducting mass arrests.

The tactic is controversial because it has swept up bystanders and often provides no means to comply with a dispersal order.

Officers on foot and on bicycles being used as shields Thursday night threw protesters to the ground while chanting, "Move back!" to others.

At a news conference Thursday outside NYPD headquarters in Manhattan, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea displayed a poster with photos of knives, fireworks, spray paint, and other contraband he says cops confiscated from arrestees Wednesday.

Also on Thursday, Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes, who said she was at protests Wednesday night, denied the department used kettling. In 2014, the city settled a lawsuit stemming from arrests made during the Occupy Wall Street protests in which plaintiffs claimed they weren’t allowed to leave and were arrested.

"The term of kettling — I don’t even know what that is unless it’s related to cows," she said of a tactic the NYPD has been seen using at mass gatherings, including at protests during the 2004 Republican National Convention — in which bystanders were arrested — and over the summer during George Floyd protests.

Holmes said that people ordered to disperse are always given an opportunity to leave before arrests.

In a video posted to Twitter by the NYPD, a young woman is shown cursing Wednesday night at a police officer in body armor, calling him a fascist, and then spitting in his face. The officer then throws her into a wall and there is a melee during her arrest, the video shows.

The NYPD said that near Washington Square Park Wednesday, 32 summonses were issued to demonstrators and 20 received desk appearance tickets.

Two people were arrested on charges of obstructing governmental operations and criminal possession of a weapon, the NYPD said.

In Brooklyn on Wednesday, four protesters were arrested, the NYPD said. Thursday night, police made at least four arrests involving cops, some on bikes, others in riot gear, who physically struggled with demonstrators.

Ali Santos, 72, of Manhattan’s West Village, strolled past the rally Thursday outside the Stonewall Inn, blasting Kate Smith’s "God Bless America" on a Bluetooth speaker. She walked through a gauntlet of armor-clad NYPD cops and gave the thumbs-up.

The group headed east on Washington Square South Thursday and passed boarded-up storefronts secured in the run-up to the presidential election.

In a tweet Wednesday night, the NYPD said "individuals who attempted to hijack a peaceful protest" lit fires and threw garbage and eggs in Manhattan.

"We appreciate and value the importance of freedom of speech. Our top priority is and always will be safety," the NYPD tweeted.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at his daily news conference Thursday morning, said "the vast, vast majority of people simply want to see the election results counted fairly."

"Last night, we saw relatively few people out — certainly nowhere near some of what has been projected that was raising concern," de Blasio said, referring to fears that in the aftermath of the presidential election, there would be mass rioting and looting in cities across the United States.

"Anyone who does violence, clearly, will experience the consequences of it. You cannot do violence without consequences. It's as simple as that," de Blasio said.

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