This story was originally published at The City.
Police officials said they found a Molotov cocktail at the scene of demonstrations Monday night in Lower Manhattan at a vigil held in honor of Jordan Neely, the 30-year-old homeless man who was killed on a subway car by another passenger in a fatal chokehold a week ago.
“We cannot have people coming out to protest with what we want to be a peaceful protest, bringing out dangerous substances like this,” Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said late Monday at a press conference, adding that police made at least 11 arrests at the protest.
“Agitators that come from outside our city with Molotov cocktails, we should all be concerned about that,” Mayor Eric Adams told THE CITY at an unrelated event Monday in Howard Beach, Queens.
The comments from city officials came in the wake of a violent crackdown on demonstrators Tuesday night, where eleven demonstrators, including a journalist, were arrested at a vigil for Neely.
The vigil started calmly, with a small group of demonstrators chanting Neely’s name on the Broadway-Lafayette subway platform and several dozen others gathered on the sidewalk above for speeches and chants.
But it quickly devolved into chaos, as dozens of police officers who had been lined up on the sidewalk started shoving into the group for targeted arrests. Officers pushed activist Dwreck Ingram into the street, shoved him to the ground and pinned him there, while another demonstrator with blood dripping down his forehead was carted off to a police van.
“This is a vigil for a fucking homeless man,” shouted 26-year-old Justin Pines after the first arrests. “Where were they when Justin Neely was being fucking killed?”
The protest and vigil came a week after Neely’s killing in a subway car stopped at the Broadway-Lafayette station in Lower Manhattan at the hands of Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old former Marine who put him in a fatal chokehold. Earlier in the day, Neely’s family had demanded Penny’s imprisonment and implored the mayor to speak with them about their son.
Mayor Eric Adams also told THE CITY Monday night — before his only public appearance of the day, at an event at a Queens catering hall — that he had tried to reach Neely’s family earlier to offer his condolences.
“Reached out to them several times to give them my condolences,” he said at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach, adding that he had tried to get in touch with the family today. Adams also noted that Neely shared the same first name as his son, Jordan Coleman.
During the height of the protests after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, police leadership often blamed “outside agitators” and claimed they found weapons of various kinds to justify violent crackdowns on protesters. The tactics have since been condemned by international human rights groups and state Attorney General Letitia James, costing $20 million in legal settlements and counting, according to the comptroller’s office.
The demonstrators who spoke to THE CITY Monday night were New Yorkers. Some had planned to attend the vigil in advance, while others, like 23-year-old Clover St. Hubert who were passing by on the train and felt compelled to join in.
“I’m a Black artist. I’m a Black mentally ill artist. It could have been me. It could have been any of my friends,” St. Hubert said.
As the protesters marched down Essex Street toward the NYPD’s 7th Precinct to meet those who’d been arrested earlier, they passed Cheyenne Taylor, 31, who joined in the chanting. While she had recently been placed in a safe haven bed, she said she knew Neely from six years living on the streets.
“He just got out of jail,” she said. “He only wanted food. He didn’t have to die.”
This article has been updated to reflect breaking developments.