NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As protests continue across New York, the state’s attorney general is hosting a public hearing this week on interactions between police and the public.
From NYPD vehicles lurching into crowds to Molotov cocktails being thrown at police cruisers, cameras have captured tense and sometimes violent moments between protesters and police in the wake of George Floyd‘s killing.
“This is a defining moment in the history of our nation. We take this investigation and its underlying causes very seriously,” Attorney General Letitia James said Wednesday.
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James is conducting an independent investigation, at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to review both police procedures and crowd actions during protests, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported.
The AG was joined by former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Barry Friedman, the director of the Policing Project at the NYU School of Law, at a virtual hearing Wednesday to hear from those impacted.
“Such a review can never take place without hearing directly from the people,” Lynch said.
“The right of Americans to peaceably assemble and to protest is crucial,” Friedman added.
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Hours of testimony — most from protesters — included 20-year-old Dounya Zayer, who was seen in a viral video being shoved to the ground by since-suspended NYPD Officer Vincent D’Andria. She said she suffered a seizure and concussion as a result.
“Where the hell is the humanity in watching these officers assault a human for no reason, because I’m not well and I know other protesters are not well? These are people who are supposed to be protecting us,” Zayer said.
“The officers involved don’t reflect most of the officers in the NYPD,” James responded.
“I understand there are good cops, but where was the good cop to help me?” Zayer asked.
“Ms. Zayer, I understand your pain and hope that in time you understand the purpose of this hearing is to get to the bottom of this and to try and reform the system, specifically NYPD,” James said.
“You have my commitment we will act independently and transparently to seek answers to ensure the truth is laid there and to demand accountability for any wrongdoing, she added.
There were many stories shared, like Zayer’s claim of aggressive policing. Others defended the police.
A Buffalo resident who called into the public hearing said in part:
“It’s our police officers’ jobs to maintain law and order and the police officers, I’m sure at many, many, many of these protests are outnumbered by thousands of people often times getting violent and not complying with officers simple requests,” the person said. “I’m not gonna justify police abuse of any protesters, but if the protesters are not in compliance with the officers basic requests then something has to happen to maintain law and order.”
The attorney general said her office received hundreds of online submissions and many requests to speak, so testimonies will continue for a second day on Thursday.
After review, a public report will be released.