A video of police officers hitting fenced-in “Occupy Wall Street” protesters with pepper spray reached hundreds of thousands of views after it was posted this weekend, and one of the women who was sprayed spoke out Monday, calling the incident “completely unprovoked.” NY1’s Zack Fink filed the following report.
The video's been seen on YouTube hundreds of thousands of times since it was shot on Saturday. Anti-Wall Street protesters are shown barricaded in by police netting, and then officers approach and hit them with pepper spray.
Chelsea Eliott was one of the women doused by the police. She said she and other protesters had just left Union Square and were marching downtown when the trouble started.
“It was completely unprovoked. I never moved my hands. I didn't touch anyone, nor did I threaten to,” said Eliott.
Richard Aborn is president of the Citizens Crime Commission. He saw the video and offered his take.
"Frankly, it looks outrageous. It looks like an officer came over and maced these two women without cause, but the department has been saying there are facts that justify the use of this force. That was not shown in the video," said Aborn.
Officials at the New York City Police Department corroborate that, saying “Beware of video supplied and edited by protagonists who edit out precipitating events. Demonstrators were trying to prevent police from dispersing a disorderly crowd, and one officer resorted to the use of pepper spray once in a continuum of force that obviated the use of batons.”
However, civil liberties groups say pepper spray does not appear to have been warranted in this case.
"Pepper spray is not a tool to teach demonstrators a lesson. It's to be used only when they need to, only when there is a threat," said Donna Lieberman of the NYCLU.
Some who were not involved found the police tactics to be heavy-handed.
According to a witness who lives in the neighborhood, protesters were on the sidewalk and not obstructing the street, but police began arresting them. When he asked what was going on because the scene was disturbing, an officer told him to go home or he'd be arrested, too.
Eliott said she has no plans to sue the department
"I respect the police. They risk their lives for us. So, I don't want to sue, but that's wrong," said Eliott.
In all, police arrested 80 people Saturday. Eliott was not one of them.