New York police officers chased people through Greenwich Village on Saturday night, shoving them with bicycles and herding them away from Washington Square Park after a 10pm curfew was imposed on the site.
Violent scenes erupted as the new closing time was enforced, with at least 22 arrested and five police officers injured.
The park has long been a place where people congregate – musicians and picnickers during the day, and students and people wanting to hang out with their friends at night. There is also now a large homeless encampment in one corner.
It usually closes at midnight, but for this weekend and next the new 10pm closing time has been brought in, in a bid to stem complaints about anti-social behavior at the site.
Those in the park after the curfew was enforced were filmed jeering and shoving officers after being told to leave, with scuffles breaking out as NYPD officers moved to enforce the new rule.
Astonished onlookers watched as the NYPD charged people through the streets, in scenes reminiscent of New York’s more troubled previous decades.
Revelers were herded down Thompson Street, away from Washington Square Park, amid skirmishes with officers.
Police officers run along Thompson Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village, on Saturday night, herding people out of Washington Square Park and pushing them through the streets
The area was crowded with people on a warm early summer evening, as the NYPD moved in
Officers could be seen telling outdoor diners to get out the way as they chased the crowd away from Washington Square Park
The bustling streets, filled with outdoor diners on a balmy early summer evening, were turned into a near riot as people who had been in the park clashed with police.
Police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd afterwards, with some people throwing bottles at officers. One shirtless man was arrested after he was caught on camera trying to square up to officers with a metal barricade.
Officers could then be seen using physical force, including pushing and grabbing. Some were filmed using their bikes and batons to shove parkgoers who had formed a human chain.
Police used riot shields, batons and even their patrol cars in order to force parkgoers to leave
Riot police had to use physical force on Saturday night as they tried to enforce a new 10pm curfew in Washington Square Park in New York’s Greenwich Village
Police could be seen firing pepper spray at individuals at one point
Police could be seen physically struggling with parkgoers who refused to leave
Police formed a chain in order to force people out of the park following residents complaints
One man was arrested after he was seen threatening police with a bottle
The topless man was quickly placed into handcuffs after his behavior became threatening
The man was caught on video threatening police with a metal barricade before his arrest
Police parked vehicles at all the main entrances to the park to keep people out
NYPD officers formed a chain in order to force parkgoers out of Washington Square Park
One cop was hit after a garbage can was thrown at them while another pulled a shoulder, according to the New York Post.
Another officer is said to have suffered a possible broken finger while two other officers were hit with bottles.
‘After cops shut down the Washington Square Park arresting multiple people who refused to disperse, they chased remaining crowd through West Village. People ran through restaurants and streets, cops chased and arrested them,’ wrote video journalist ScooterCasterNY on Twitter.
‘[It was] total chaos with pepper spray, bottles thrown and cops chasing people.’
The police were accused of being heavy handed from the very start as officers in riot gear were seen marching into the public space to tell those gathered there to leave.
The park previously closed at midnight, but widespread drug taking, partying and other anti-social behavior led to complaints from well-heeled residents in the upmarket area, with Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing the curfew in response to the crisis last week.
At one point a shirtless man threatened riot-clad officers with a broken bottle before attempting to throw a metal gate at law enforcement. He was subsequently arrested.
Police and city parks department officials want to cut down on what they describe as disorderly behavior
Police used their vehicle to disburse the noisy and large crowds, in which people were refusing to leave
Cops with the NYPD could be seen with their batons drawn as they made their way through the park
Bystanders watched as police dealt with the crowds in the park, with many seen filming and jeering the officers
Video showed some jumping on cars, and police say items were thrown at officers. The park was closed two hours earlier than usual to try and tackle spiraling anti-social behavior
‘The NYPD is once again violently evicting everyone in Washington square park and violently arresting people,’ tweeted Josh Potash.
‘Cops at every entrance now, students, random people partying, unhoused folks, and other random folks are still being attacked in the edge of the park,’ he added.
Several police cars entered the park from different sides announcing over their speakers that the park was closed and that people still inside had to leave – or face arrest.
Those who decided to remain had to be forcibly remove by police before metal barricades were pulled across the entrances to the park in order to keep others out.
The park was cleared within 15 minutes of police arriving on the scene.
There were hand-to-hand scuffles between police and parkgoers on Saturday night
Officers used their bikes to try and push people out of the way, with some people who refused to leave toppling to the ground
Police announced their intentions over a loudspeaker and informed people they would be arrested if they did not leave
Parkgoers refusing to leave after the curfew pushed back against officers who used physical force to try to remove them, videos of social media showed
The police were adopting a no nonsense approach as they pushed ahead with clearing the city park at 10pm
‘Hell no! We won’t go!’ some chanted as police said the park was closed.
The park was originally shut down at the relatively early hour of 10pm last weekend after a neighborhood organization complained of noise, left over trash in the morning and parties that ran late into the night.
Crowds of rowdy people have been hanging out in the park until the early hours of the morning with loud music and anti-social behavior.
Later statements also alluded to ‘crimes’ that were occurring within the park’s boundaries.
Officers are pictured on the road outside the park as they continue efforts to clear the park
One man was arrested after threatening police with a barricade and a bottle
Police and city parks department officials instituted the temporary weekend curfew amid complaints of rampant drug use
Police are pictured having cleared out Washington Square Park on Saturday night
‘A lot of community residents have expressed concerns. Parks historically have had a closing time. This is an effort to make sure there is real respect for community concerns about noise and safety,’ said Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier in the week.
NYPD and the parks department have said the earlier curfew will be in place indefinitely.
Some park-goers claimed the reported issues were overblown, and moaned about the new closing time.
‘I think the curfew is stupid,’ Wayne Evans said to NY1. ‘I come here often at night, and I stay late, I stay until 1, 2 o’clock in the morning and people are just out here having fun. There’s no funny business.’
‘That’s ridiculous and it’s summer time, too,’ Omar Nurridin said. ‘I don’t think they’re going to really do a good job of enforcing that, or it’s a setup to give people a bunch of tickets.’
Crime in the 6th Precinct is up 62 percent in the last year, and now activities like drug use and prostitution plague the park, causing it to shut down on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at 10, two hours earlier than the usual midnight closure.
A chart shows crime levels are significantly up in 2021 compared to 2020 for most crime categories, though burglaries are notably down
A chart shows shooting shows statistics for shooting related crimes in New York City in 2021 compared to 2020
Many New Yorkers will likely support the Washington Square Park crackdown, amid fears the city is sliding back to the crime-ridden ‘bad old days’ of the 1970s and 1980s.
Figures from the NYPD’s Compstate website show serious crime rose by 23.4 per cent in May, compared to the same month last year.
Robberies rocketed to 1,082 over the 28 days to May 30, up from just 726 for the same period in 2020.
Felony assaults also soared over by 22.6 per cent the same period, from 1,443 in May 2020, to 1,769 in May 2021.
Mayor de Blasio has repeatedly been accused of being ‘pro-criminal’ by critics. They say his bail reforms – intended to avoid leaving people who can’t afford bail languishing in jail for months or years for petty crimes – releases suspects back onto the streets to go on to reoffend.
Morale among the NYPD has slumped amid lukewarm support from de Blasio. Crime on the city’s transit network – including its buses, subways and trains – doubled in May compared to May 2020, up from 78 last year to 154 this year.