When a large group of Bushwick Community High School students met up to travel to their friends funeral in Coney Island, all hell broke loose as New York Police Officers descended on the peaceful group and arrested 33 of the teenagers, holding some of them for almost two days. But the kids, upset over what they say are wrongful arrests and devastated that they could not mourn their friend, are protesting what they feel is the latest incident of the symptomatic cruelty they endure at the hands of the NYPD.
The group of students had gathered at Bushwick Park on Monday to attend the funeral of Donnell MacFarland in Coney Island. While walking down Putnam Street to the train station, an undercover police car and several "paddywagons" blocked the group’s path.
According to those involved, police ordered the teens to put their arms against the fence and then arrested every single member of the group, which included children as young as twelve years old. The police arrested the group for assembly without a permit, and claimed that shirts worn by the group, featuring a photo of their deceased friend, were gang related.
"Donnell’s wake was in Coney Island, but a lot of our friends in Bushwick didn’t know how to get there," explained Asher Calendar, one of the incarcerated teens. "We were walking on Putnam like ordinary every day people when the cops showed with their guns out, shouting ‘Get against the wall!’"
One of the arrested teens, Daryl Green, had bruises up and down his arms from the handcuffs.
"I told them that the cuffs were too tight, but they just tightened them even more," he said "They treated us like nothing."
According to Otima Martinez, the arrested teens were not read their Miranda Rights and were questioned about McFarland’s murder.
The police released the students who were under the age of 15, but held several of the older teens for over 24 hours without food. "They told us they didn’t care if we were hungry," said Green.
On Thursday, students who had been released from police custody held a meeting at the headquarters of Make the Road By Walking, a community outreach organization near Bushwick Community High School and the 83rd Precinct.
Students, parents, and community leaders spoke about the injustice of the arrests and provided a list of demand as to what should be done to make amends. The demands are that the city must drop the charges against the teenagers, the police department must apologize for the incident and remove the involved officers, and an open dialogue with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly about police misconduct and racial profiling.
"How can you be unlawfully gathering at a funeral?" asked Councilman Charles Barron of East New York, "This incident comes down to a leadership problem. Through inaction, Police Commissioner Kelly has given the police a signal that black and Latino life has no value. I’m warning the police, warning the mayor, warning the commissioner, we’re not going to take this for much longer."
Later in the day, the group held a march in front of the 83rd Precinct. The Precinct did not return calls for comment.