NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In the aftermath of a demonstration last month that resulted in the arrests of two City Council members and an activist, the City Council on Wednesday held hearings on how the protest was handled by police.
As WCBS 880’s NYPD lawyer Oleg Chernovski testified under oath that police had not been contacted by, and did not coordinate with, Immigration and Customs Enforcement in its Jan. 11 effort to deport immigration activist Ravi Ragbir.
ICE agents took Ragbir into custody on Jan. 11 during what was supposed to be a routine check-in. His detention sparked a large protest, which ended with the arrest of councilmen Ydanis Rodriguez (D-10th) and Jumaane Williams (D-45th).
The councilmen were both handcuffed on allegations that they blocked an ambulance carrying Ragbir out of 26 Federal Plaza.
“What I can tell you is that the officers at the scene took enforcement action based on probable cause to arrest for violations of the law that they witnessed,” Chernovksi said.
Williams responded: “I got that, and that’s part of civil disobedience. The response was overwhelming force.”
Replied Chernovski, “And that’s under investigation.”
At the time of their arrests, the NYPD Lieutenants Benevolent Association put out a letter to its membership accusing the councilmen and protesters of blocking the ambulance and jeopardizing “the wellbeing of a potentially critically ill individual.”
The letter by union President Lou Turco called Rodriguez and Williams “reckless.”
“I am calling on Mayor (Bill) de Blasio to immediately initiate an investigation into the reckless actions of two NYC Council members who placed their selfish political agendas before the wellbeing of a person in obvious need of medical attention,” Turco wrote. “The actions of these two civic representatives were so myopic that they escalated their irresponsible and self-serving behavior by physically resisting arrest.”
As for Ragbir, he was ordered freed from jail last week by a federal judge. But he told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott last week that his troubles were far from over.
“Even though I’m out here with my family, my wife Amy, and speaking to you, they told me I have to go back to them on Saturday, February 10, to be deported,” Ragbir said last week “So the noose has not loosened around my neck, and it is still the same intensity; the same anxiety – not only myself, but everyone is feeling around me.”
Ragbir’s legal status in the country was stripped away in 2006, because of a past conviction.
ICE said Ragbir’s case has been reviewed extensively for more than a decade and he has exhausted his appeals.