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5 Protesters Arrested for Trying to Break Past Rockefeller Tree Barricade

By Noah Hurowitz | December 15, 2015 12:48pm
 Police lead away protester MJ Williams, who is bleeding from a cut she sustained on her face when police wrestled her to the ground.
Police lead away protester MJ Williams, who is bleeding from a cut she sustained on her face when police wrestled her to the ground.
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Keegan Stephan

MIDTOWN — Five protesters were arrested at Rockefeller Plaza on Monday night when they marched through the fenced-off area near the Christmas tree, leading to a scuffle in which at least one activist was injured, according to police and protesters.

Officers clashed with the group of about 30 activists just outside the plaza at about 8:30 p.m., and a police spokesman said the protesters may have been trying to disrupt the famed tree.

“They were trying to get through the barricade, so take it for what it’s worth,” said a police spokesman. “I don’t have any indication of what they were planning, but obviously it was something with the tree.”

But according to attorney MJ Williams, who was arrested on Monday, the activists have marched through Rockefeller Plaza in recent rallies without incident, and chose the plaza as a crowded area where many people would hear their message.

“We were not anywhere near the tree,” she said. “We choose places that are well populated because these stories need to be heard.”

Williams was injured in the scuffle when an NYPD commander wrestled her to the ground, cutting her face on the pavement, she said. Williams told DNAinfo that medical personnel treated her at the Midtown North Precinct, before heading to Mount Sinai Hospital for a tetanus shot upon her release.

Police charged Williams with criminal trespassing and obstruction of governmental administration and slapped the other protesters with charges including criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, according to authorities.

The rally was part of a “People’s Monday” march organized by the group NYC Shut it Down, which organizes weekly protests to call attention to people of color who have died at the hands of police. Starting in Grand Central Terminal, the march on Monday was in the name of Laquan McDonald, the 17-year-old boy who died last year when a Chicago Police Department officer shot him 16 times during an encounter that was caught on video.  

The case and subsequent outcry led to the firing of Chicago’s police superintendent, and protests have continued with the aim of unseating Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.