There were multiple arrests at Grand Central after protesters gathered there Friday night.
The protesters then left around 5:15 p.m. and headed out onto 42nd Street and marched to nearby Bryant Park before heading down into the subway amid heavy commuter traffic, reports CBS2’s Jessica Moore.
The demonstration was organized by a group that called across social media for a mass sabotage of the MTA.
The action was led by an anti-police group that wants free subway rides and no officers patrolling the trains.
— Ali Bauman (@AliBaumanTV) January 31, 2020
NYPD barricades were set up outside Grand Central. Inside there was a large police presence, including K-9s, detectives and dozens of officers ready to make sure Friday nights’ demonstration remained peaceful. NYPD officers swarmed the station, guarding turnstiles and making arrests.
As hundreds of masked protestors formed a human wall and marched forward to shut down Grand Central Terminal, a major transit hub for tens of thousands of New Yorkers heading home at the end of the workweek.
Checking in on our subway riders this afternoon, and each of our transit officers who are working to keep our subway system safe pic.twitter.com/RWP8zv5mBx
— NYPD Transit (@NYPDTransit) January 31, 2020
Three masked members of the protest group could be seen in a Twitter video encouraging people to skip fares, damage turnstiles, and engage in a mass sabotage of the MTA, pointing followers toward a demonstration at Grand Central.
A woman named Brandy says she held a turnstile open for half an hour today, helping people evade the fare.
“We pay for the metro with our taxes. Why are we being charged then hounded if we don’t pay to use it? And of course, it’s disproportionately brown and black people being hounded and arrested,” Brandy said.
“I saw all the police officers and I get concerned,” said Connecticut resident Tina Mihocko. “Both of my sons are police officers in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and I’m definitely concerned for all them. I’m concerned for people on both sides.”
“Most of the people getting arrested in the subways are houseless people and people who are jumping the fare cause they can’t afford it,” said another woman outside Grand Center. “These issues are affecting actual lives and I think it deserves more compassion and understanding why police presence can be really dangerous for a lot of people.”
Members of the group were seen squirting paint on the OMNY readers, hanging banners inside the Oculus station, and pouring quick-set glue inside the turnstiles at 72nd Street and Central Park West. At the same station, there was anti-police graffiti splashed across the wall.
“No violence towards officers. That’s pushing the line. Gluing the machines shut, maybe,” said Midtown resident Chris Miseo.
As of Friday night, no police officers had been reported injured.
The NYPD said it knew about the planned protest and increased patrols Friday at subway stations across the five boroughs.
This morning, a group of individuals vandalized subway stations. We believe the same individuals will attempt to disrupt the evening commute in the subway by causing disorder, endangering commuters – and even attempting to physically assault our officers.
IT WILL NOT BE TOLERATED pic.twitter.com/okeinSuMuN
— Chief Terence Monahan (@NYPDChiefofDept) January 31, 2020
“This morning, a group of individuals vandalized subway stations. We believe the same individuals awill attempt to disrupt the evening commute by causing disorder, endangering commuters – and even attempting to physically assault our officers. IT WILL NOT BE TOLERATED,” NYPD Chief of Department Terrence Monahan said on Twitter.
“While the NYPD will always protect people’s right to protest, we will not accept illegal behavior that threatens the safety of others. Those who break the law will be arrested,” Monahan said in an accompanying video message.
The Police Benevolent Association warned New Yorkers to pay close attention, calling this “an end of all policing and destruction of public order.”
Many people CBS2’s Moore spoke with say society would be chaos without police on the ground.
“The police are here to help us. You can’t have criminals roaming around with weapons, so we actually need people like police to prevent worse things from happening,” said Lower East Side resident Irwin Meza.
“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. We are monitoring conditions as we cooperate with the NYPD and MTA PD to maintain service while ensuring everyone’s safety,” MTA Chief Security Officer Patrick Warren said.
Today’s anti-police demonstration is part of a worldwide protest, with similar scenes playing out in Montreal and other cities.
So far, there have been no reports of injuries to the NYPD.
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