CROWN HEIGHTS — A violent skirmish in which a pair of police officers were beaten by protesters broke out on the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday night when the two lieutenants moved to arrest a CUNY professor who was trying to throw a trash can onto the roadway, NYPD officials said.
The clash left the policemen with injuries including a broken nose and cuts to the face and resulted in a Brooklyn man facing a host of charges, including attempted assault and attempted robbery.
The protesters, who were among thousands of others marching against police brutality on Saturday, were crossing the bridge into Brooklyn about 7:20 p.m., an NYPD spokeswoman said.
Most were clogging the main roadway, but some, including 29-year-old Crown Heights man Eric Linsker, a poet and part-time English professor at Baruch College, opted for the elevated pedestrian path, police said.
Two lieutenants with the NYPD's legal bureau saw refuse being tossed from the pathway and then spotted Linsker carrying a garbage bin toward the walkway's fence, according to the criminal complaint against him.
The lieutenants told him to drop it and he did, prosecutors said. But when they went to arrest Linsker, he moved his hands so they couldn't put handcuffs on him, they added.
Nearby protesters then came to his aid, trying to pry Linsker from the lieutenants' grasp while punching and kicking them, police said. One masked-protester punched one of the lieutenants in the face, breaking his nose, prosecutors said. The other lieutenant's face was scraped and bruised, police said.
They were treated and released at Lower Manhattan Hospital, police said.
The group also tried to steal the lieutenants' radios and NYPD jackets but failed, police said.
Linsker and the other protesters managed to flee the scene, but he dropped a backpack carrying new blue-handled hammers, Linsker's CUNY photo ID, his passport, a MetroCard, a debit card and a pill bottle filled with marijuana, prosecutors said.
Investigators eventually tracked Linsker down and arrested him on charges of assault, riot, criminal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest and unlawful possession of marijuana, police and prosecutors said.
Linsker was released and is due back in court on March 23.
His attorney, Martin Stolar, disputed many of the charges against Linsker saying he did not assault the lieutenants, was not part of a group large enough to be considered a riot and that his hammers are not illegal weapons.
"The top charge is ficticious. Somebody else did the assault, not Eric Linsker. He did not incite any type of riot," Stolar said.
"He doesn't deny or admit anything," the lawyer added.
Linsker has put out a book of poems, "La Far," with the University of Iowa Press and continues to write for various publications including the erotica magazine, Adult, which recently published his piece, "Thwaites."
"Linsker's poems examine the world's movement, language and identity in the internet era with a craft that is original and unnerving," Publishers Weekly said.
CUNY officials said they were looking into Linsker's time at Baruch and would cooperate with authorities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio quickly denounced the protesters' assault on police, saying it marked an "ugly and unacceptable departure" from the otherwise peaceful protests up to that point.
"What happened on Saturday night on the Brooklyn Bridge was fundamentally unacceptable," de Blasio said during a Monday press conference.
The mayor also said that if Linsker is convicted in the Saturday assault then he should lose his job at CUNY.
"He should absolutely be removed from his position," the mayor said.
Stolar said he was glad the mayor was waiting for the outcome of the trial, adding, "If it's the assault on the police officer he's worried about, he's got the wrong guy."
Saturday marked the latest violent clash between police and protesters since demonstrations began on Dec. 3 after a grand jury decided not to indict a police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
A 22-year-old alum of Bronx High School of science, Yotam Sayer sucker punched a detective during a protest on Dec. 4.
With reporting by Rachel Holliday Smith.