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New York City promised changes to how it polices protests. However, a tough approach to a pro-Palestinian march is causing skepticism

Police arrest a pro-Palestinian protester (Via Kat West/Shutterstock)

Last year, New York City settled a lawsuit with Black Lives Matter protesters by agreeing to change how police handle demonstrations. Mayor Eric Adams praised these reforms as steps to improve the city.

However, some civil rights lawyers are now questioning the mayor’s dedication to the agreement after the New York Police Department’s forceful response to a pro-Palestinian protest last Saturday. Over 40 people were arrested, and videos showed officers using force against protesters and ordering them to clear the street.

Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, Adams defended the police actions, citing incidents where protesters allegedly spat at officers, blocked traffic, lit flares, and one person climbed a city bus with a Palestinian flag.

Under the lawsuit settlement, police must accommodate most street protests and use a graduated response system that emphasizes de-escalation. A city lawyer emphasized ongoing efforts to develop new training and protocols to comply with the agreement.

Students walk in the protest (Via Kat West/Shutterstock)

However, Adams argued that the protesters’ actions on Saturday undermined the graduated approach, which aims to prevent police from harshly cracking down on peaceful protests due to isolated incidents of lawbreaking.

“You don’t have the right to disregard the rules. You were instructed to protest on the sidewalk peacefully,” said Adams, a Democrat and former police captain. He added, “When you cross that line, there’s no gradation.”

Jennvine Wong from the Legal Aid Society, involved in the lawsuit, expressed serious concerns about whether the mayor is committed to fulfilling the city’s obligations under the settlement.

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