By Melissa Koenig
An Elmont man was among nearly 30 people arrested in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Black Lives Matter protest in Lower Manhattan at which 11 New York City police officers were injured, officials report.
Jonathan Peck, 28, an aspiring actor, producer and writer, helped organize the protest “building upon the beliefs of Reverend King in standing up, marching, protesting and speaking on the injustice and oppressive systems in America,” Peck said. The goal was to “remove disparity amongst the people” and to demand that police departments be defunded and demilitarized, until they are ultimately abolished.
But that night, police report, a group of protesters near City Hall started harassing a woman filming them on her iPhone. Officers formed a circle around the women to protect her, they said, and protesters began throwing glass bottles at them. Other officers then used their microphones and loudspeakers to direct the protesters to leave the area.
“On such a day that we’re honoring Martin Luther King, [we have] demonstrations that consist of violence, throwing bottles, breaking property, calling for the death of officers [and] to burn the city down,” New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told NY1 following the protest. “I really can’t think of anything that is more [the] antithesis of what Martin Luther King stood for.”
Peck, however, said in an Instagram post that Shea “took the entire night out of context to fit [his] little army’s narrative.” From what he saw, Peck told the Herald, about 10 to 15 protesters approached the police that night “to voice their distaste of them and their actions.” That continued for a few minutes, he said, before officers demanded they leave and “came at the crowd in what was a very violent capacity.”
Videos posted to Twitter that night showed officers pushing protesters back with batons and forcing Peck to the ground. He claims he was standing at the edge of the sidewalk “observing the madness” at the time, and did not run or fight back.
Peck said he has suffered from an inflamed chest wall, which makes it difficult to breathe, as a result of the altercation. He plans to use that as evidence in a lawsuit against the NYPD.
“After eight months, plenty of arrests, countless injuries, not once have I swung back because what happens as a Black man? I am a criminal, a felon, but never a defender, an actual protector and server of myself and my community,” Peck wrote on Instagram, referring to the five times he has been arrested in Black Lives Matter protests since George Floyd was killed at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis last May. He told the Herald he has suffered a sprained ankle and bruised hip as a result.
“I live in a country that doesn’t and hasn’t recognized Blacks/brown/Black trans as human, and has done everything in the most subtle of ways to continue that,” Peck continued in his social media post, but added, “Blacks and browns continue to endure. We always have and we always will.”
Peck was charged with disorderly conduct and was released without bail, and is due back in New York Criminal Court in April.
Twenty others were also charged with disorderly conduct that night, and seven received desk appearance tickets — three for obstructing governmental administration, one for misdemeanor assault and three for resisting arrest.
Six of the 11 police officers who were injured refused medical attention, including a captain who was struck in the head by a glass bottle, and five were treated for minor injuries at local hospitals.