'Professional Agitators' on NYPD 'Wanted' Flier Arrested After Filming Stop
HARLEM — The Harlem couple labeled "professional agitators" by the NYPD and put on wanted posters for filming stop-and-frisks were roughed up and arrested again for recording a car checkpoint on West 145th Street last week, they said.
Christina Gonzalez, 26, and Matthew Swaye, 35, said they were returning from a Bronx mall at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday when they noticed several vehicles stopped just off the 145th Street Bridge near Lenox Avenue.
Gonzalez took out her camera and began filming.
With the incidences of stop-and-frisks down, the couple, who regularly film police conducting the tactic, said motor vehicle checkpoints are just as obtrusive to an individual's rights.
"They can call it different things but it's just another form of stop-and-frisk," Gonzalez said.
Swaye said it seemed like the cops were arbitrarily stopping motorists Thursday night.
"It didn't seem like a checkpoint where they are looking for someone with a tail light out. It was just they were going to stop a bunch of cars with a certain demographic and go through them with flashlights," he said.
The YouTube video of the confrontation has been watched by more 260,000 viewers.
The video shows Gonzalez questioning the officers.
"Is everything all right out here? Something going wrong, officers?" Gonzalez is seen asking the cops on the video.
When she got no response, Gonzalez pressed on.
"Officers, hello. A citizen is trying to ask you a question," she said. "Is everything all right?"
An officer responds to Gonzalez, "It's a vehicle safety checkpoint."
"Safety? Whose safety is in danger right now?" Gonzalez cracked.
The officer responded: "I have nothing else to say to you."
Gonzalez, however, demanded an answer.
"You work for me," she said. "You have nothing else to say to me?"
That's when the officer asks Gonzalez to step away, but she refused.
"No, I'm not standing down there," she shot back. "I'm going to stand on my sidewalk where I have a right to be."
The officer tells Gonzalez she is interfering and asks her for identification. Gonzalez responds by saying that she does not have to produce identification.
Another officer is heard saying that it is for the couple's safety.
"I haven't done anything wrong. I don't have to give you my ID," Gonzalez said.
One officer then seemingly grabs Gonzalez as the camera is swung upside down.
"I asked for your ID," the officer says.
Gonzalez is heard asking Swaye to film the incident, and then yells when police go to arrest him.
"Cuff his ass up," the cop says.
The couple was charged with obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and said they spent about 25 hours in custody at the 32nd Precinct and at central booking.
They are scheduled to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court on June 11.
Swaye claims cops erased the video of Gonzalez being arrested from his cell phone. Gonzalez said she had another SD card that was confiscated.
Both stand by their ability to film the officers at work and even be rude in the process. Gonzalez said she was several feet away from the officers.
In the 1970s, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a group of journalists and citizens called Black v. Codd that determined that filming or photographing officers was not a cause for arrest.
Neither was seen on the video insulting officers.
"I've never been assaulted like that for filming," Gonzalez said. "This guy snatched the camera out of my hand and I remember my face going toward the ground and all of these knees in my back. As soon as the arrest happened, the checkpoint was over. There were no more cars."
Representatives from the 32nd Precinct declined to comment.
Last June, Gonzalez and Swaye attended a meeting at the 30th Precinct station house in Harlem only to find a flier with their mugshots and home address.
"Be aware that above subjects are known professional agitators," read the flier, which also featured an NYPD shield and a seal of the NYPD's Intelligence Division.
The NYCLU called the flier "disgusting" and Rep. Jerrold Nadler compared it to McCarthyism.
A few days after discovering the fliers, the couple said police showed up in front of their home to intimidate them. They have since beaten several cases related to their stop-and-frisk protest activities.
Both Swaye and Gonzalez said they have no plans to stop their activities.
"It's my neighborhood and I have a right to ask what is happening," Gonzalez said. "These arrests are a way of putting fear in your heart and making people not want to speak out against anything."