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NYPD arrests 11 people including photojournalist at protest demanding arrest for Jordan Neely’s death

Demonstrators held vigil and protest demanding justice one week after fatal subway chokehold

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 09 May 2023 16:25 BST
Family of Jordan Neely Demand Justice and Prison Time

New York City police arrested at least 11 people and discovered what officials called a Molotov cocktail during a vigil and protest marking one week after the death of Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old homeless street performer who was placed in a fatal chokehold inside a Manhattan F train.

Photojournalist Stephanie Keith, who has contributed to The New York Times, Bloomberg and Reuters, among other outlets, was filmed being arrested and placed into a New York City Police Department van near protests at Houston Street and Broadway on 8 May. A press pass and camera equipment are clearly visible in widely shared footage of her arrest.

“I was flabbergasted,” she wrote in an Instagram post after her release later that night. She said she was standing with other photographers, apart from police making arrests. “For some reason they chose me from that situation,” she added.

“I said, ‘I’m press’ and they said, ‘You’re not, you’re arrested,’” she told The New York Daily News.

People who were taken into custody violated several laws, including using a loud microphone and blocking the street, according to Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey and Chief of Patrol John Chell, speaking at a press conference later that night.

Ms Keith was detained for “interfering” with arrests, Mr Chell said.

Footage of her arrest shows her attempting to cross the street before several officers surround her; Mr Chell tells her to “get on the sidewalk” followed by “lock her up”.

Police also recovered a “Molotov cocktail” on the ground after protesters were moved away from the area, Mr Maddrey said. No arrests have been made in connection with the object, which appears to be an empty bottle of Topo Chico with an unknown liquid and rolled up paper.

“Agitators that come from outside our city with Molotov cocktails, we should all be concerned about that,” Mayor Eric Adams told The City during an unrelated event in Queens.

“I want to make it clear: we respect people’s right to protest, we respect their First Amendment rights, but we will not tolerate people breaking the law,” Mr Maddrey said. “More importantly, we will not tolerate people bringing weapons and dangerous substances to peaceful protests.”

The protest was held one week after Neely was fatally choked on a train arriving at the Broadway-Lafayette subway station. Daniel Penny was filmed wrapping his arm around Neely for several minutes.

The city’s medical examiner determined the cause of death was homicide. No charges have been filed, and police and the Manhattan district attorney’s office are investigating.

On Monday night, a small group of demonstrators gathered on the sidewalk near the entrance to the Broadway-Lafayette station in Manhattan. A group also gathered on the platform below.

Dozens of officers arrived on the scene, breaking up a group gathered on the street. One man was pinned to the ground, and another demonstrator with a bloodied face was photographed by Ms Keith as he was loaded into a police van.

Demonstrators later walked from Houston Street and Broadway to NYPD’s seventh precinct station house.

In a statement on 5 May, attorneys representing Mr Penny said the 24-year-old former US Marine and other passengers “acted to protect themselves, until help arrived” and “never intended to harm Mr Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death” four days earlier.

Neely “had a documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing and untreated mental illness” and “began aggressively threatening” Mr Penny and others on the train, according to the statement from Mr Penny’s attorneys with the firm Raiser and Kenniff.

Earlier on Monday, attorneys for Neely’s family condemned the statement as neither “an apology nor an expression of regret.”

“It is a character assassination and a clear example of why he believed he was entitled to take Jordan’s life,” according to attorneys Donte Mills and Lennon Edwards.

The attorneys also urged Mayor Adams to “give us a call.”

“The family wants you to know that Jordan matters,” they wote.

Mr Adams told The City that he has tried to reach Neely’s family “several times” to “give them my condolences”.

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