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NYPD: Arrests made during protest seeking free transit, ban on cops in subways

Activists gather at Grand Central Terminal on Friday

Activists gather at Grand Central Terminal on Friday as they rally against the MTA on several issues, including policing and fare issues. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Protesters were arrested throughout Friday on a day of threatened disruption and sabotage of the New York City transit system — a demonstration calling for free transit for everyone and the banning of police from the subway system.

Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell, a spokeswoman for the NYPD, said Friday evening that the arrests were not confined to one time or location, and that the department would put out a summary, which would include the number of arrests, once the protests had ended.

"NYPD: Keep Your [expletive] Hands Off Black Kids,” "Cops out of ... schools and subways" and "Transit is a right" were among the signs carried into Grand Central Terminal during the evening rush hour and held aloft by picketers who surrounded the terminals iconic clock, according to posted photos on social media. Nearby, police officers appeared to be confronting some of the protesters.

Some of the picketers wore masks, according to the posts; it’s illegal to congregate in public in New York State while masked.

Other posts on social media show graffitied buses and subways, sabotaged fare-collection devices like turnstiles and other vandalism.

There were also protests Friday in Brooklyn, where picketers crammed into subway cars and onto platforms — and the police tried to follow and blocked stations where the disruptions were most common.

At the Bedford-Nostrand stop, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, the picketers crammed aboard a Church Av.-bound G train, pushing past commuters, tagging platforms with graffiti and getting off trains to write “FTP,” an abbreviated expletive against the police, on the platform walls and countdown clocks.

“This is a liberated train!” they shouted at the Classon Avenue stop. “Whose train? Our train?”

The crowd chanted against white people, repeating: “Why is it so hard for white people to stay in line?” criticizing them for what they said was gentrification and warning them to defer to nonwhites leading protests.

Dozens of NYPD officers above and below ground moved in the Brooklyn-bound direction to keep up with the group.

Even at subway stations in Manhattan without protesters Friday, there were an unusually large number of NYPD officers, in uniform and plainclothes.

An NYPD helicopter hovered above midtown near Grand Central.

A video of the group "Decolonize This Place” posted earlier this week to Twitter showed three hooded and masked people as one of them said: "The streets are ours. The trains our ours. The walls are ours. This moment is ours."

In a written statement Friday night, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chief Safety Officer Patrick Warren said the agency had “zero tolerance” for such behavior.

“This demonstration activity follows the dangerous pattern of previous activities that have resulted in vandalization and defacement of MTA property — clearly violating laws. Those actions divert valuable time, money and resources away from investments in transit services that get New Yorkers to their jobs, schools, doctors and other places they need to go. The MTA has zero tolerance for any actions that threaten the safety of the public and our employees, and impede service for millions of customers,” the statement said.

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