MANHATTAN — City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, freshly shaved and showered, told reporters on the steps of City Hall that he was beaten and thrown to the ground by a police officer when he was arrested during a police sweep of Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning.
Rodriguez was released from 1 Police Plaza without bail at 8 p.m. Tuesday, after being held for 17 hours. Police charged him with resisting arrest and with obstruction of governmental administration.
The Upper Manhattan Councilman said he was arrested three blocks north of Zuccotti Park after arriving downtown just after 1 a.m. on Tuesday. He said he learned about the raid via text message from one of the Occupy Wall Street organizers and drove from his Inwood home to see what was happening.
He said he drove his car downtown from Dyckman Street in Inwood after 1 a.m., having promised his wife that he would not get involved in the melee, because he had an important academic appointment scheduled with his daughter and wife later on Tuesday.
Shortly after arriving downtown Rodriguez said he encountered a group of protesters clashing with police roughly three blocks north of Zuccotti Park. As he crossed the street, an officer grabbed him, threw him to the ground and hit him with a baton, he said.
Rodriguez added that a "high-ranking officer" he recognized stood no more than 50 feet from him when he was tackled in the middle of the street. Although he would not identify the officer, but said the individual formerly headed either the 33rd or 34th Precinct in Washington Heights and Inwood.
Rodriguez said he was then dragged into a police van filled with eight individuals, two of whom identified themselves as reporters, and left in the van parked outside One Police Plaza for two hours before being brought inside.
“Why was I left behind?” he asked.
Rodriguez’s account is strikingly different from that of police, who said he allegedly ignored the orders of two officers and tried to walk through metal barricades to get through a blocked off area near the Lower Manhattan encampment.
The Mayor’s Office disputed Rodriguez’s account of the incident and stood by the NYPD’s actions.
“I think that the allegations don’t square with the facts,” Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway told reporters Wednesday afternoon at a separate event, adding that his understanding was that the Councilman was arrested as part of a larger group that refused to follow police instructions.
Rodriguez’s legal counsel, Andrew Stoll and Leo Glickman, called the criminal complaint filed by the NYPD "fiction" and said they were looking into methods to address the issue, but stopped short of saying whether they plan to sue the NYPD.
"We will use everything it takes to uncover what happened here," said Glickman, who stressed that the incident was not an act of civil disobedience on the part of the councilman.
Stoll said Rodriguez was denied legal counsel for 13 hours despite their attempts to speak to him, something the lawyer said he has never experienced with the NYPD.
“We were given the runaround by the NYPD,” Stoll said. “He was mistreated because he is a Council member, because his voice can speak louder than many protesters there.”
Several members of the City Council stood in support of Rodriguez, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Jumaane Williams, Letitia James, Inez Dickens, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Robert Jackson, along with State Sens. Adriano Espaillat and Gustavo Rivera, and Comptroller John Liu.
Quinn said she was concerned that the arrest might point to a bigger trend of improperly arresting council members.
"It's odd to be in the same spot talking about a council member who also did not intend to be arrested,” she said referring to the September arrest of Williams during the West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn.
She demanded the NYPD and city answer questions including why the councilman was arrested several blocks from Zuccotti Park, adding that he had not resisted arrest when he was “pushed to the ground” by a police officer and later held in a van outside 1 Police Plaza for two hours before being processed inside the police station.
"We need answers to these troubling questions," she said, asking later if Rodriguez had been "singled out for being a City Council member."
For now, Rodriguez, who called himself a “supporter of the 99 percent movement,” said he is focused on lending the cause support in the coming days. Rodriguez has been a vocal supporter of the movement from its beginning and helped organize a march with State Sen. Espaillat from Washington Heights to Zuccotti Park.
Rodriguez called on city residents to join protests scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 17, the second month anniversary of the occupation.
“As a community and as a city … we have to create more affordable housing, we have to create better schools, we have to create more jobs,” Rodriguez said. “Our communities may have been left behind in the past, but we are building to make sure that everyone gets their fair share.”