NYPD to investigate pepper spraying at protest

Officers carrying plastic handcuffs wait in front of Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, Monday, Sept. 26, 2011, in New York. Hundreds of protestors have been occupying the park and demonstrating daily in the financial district since Sept. 17. AP Photo/Louis Lanzano

NEW YORK - The Police Department will look into a complaint that an officer wrongly used pepper spray at a demonstration against Wall Street last week, Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday.

Internal affairs will investigate the claim made by a 25-year-old woman and others, Kelly said. Video from Saturday's Union Square incident shows an officer blasting a cluster of women with pepper spray. Two of the women crumple on the sidewalk in pain. One screams.

Kelly says the video leaves out tumultuous conduct by protesters who illegally tried to block streets. There have been about a hundred arrested since the protests began more than a week ago, mostly on disorderly conduct charges. A handful were arrested on more serious charges of assaulting a police officer and obstructing governmental administration.

The city's Civilian Complaint Review Board received a complaint on the pepper spray and is also investigating, but the board does not have the ability to enforce any type of disciplinary action against officers.

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An online group that says it is part of the protest in lower Manhattan posted the officer's personal details online, including the names of his family and the address where his children attend school, with the threat "Before you commit atrocities against innocent people, think twice."

Kelly said the move was "despicable."

The officers union issued a statement saying the man's motivations in using the spray were out of concern for the safety of officers under his command and the safety of the public.

"The limited use of pepper spray effectively restored order without any escalation of violence, use of force or serious injury to either demonstrator or police officer," according to the statement from the NYPD Captains Endowment Association.

The group "Occupy Wall Street" has been camping out in a privately-owned plaza several blocks from the actual Wall Street and has no specific message or specific demand. Some demonstrators have said they were against Wall Street greed, others say they are protesting global warming and still others say they are protesting "the man."

The company that owns the plaza, Brookfield Properties, said it was intended for general public use and passive recreation. "We are extremely concerned with the conditions that have been created by those currently occupying the park and are actively working with the City of New York to address these conditions and restore the park to its intended purpose," the company said in a emailed statement.

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