Peaceful protests in East Meadow, New York, turned contentious Friday night when police were seen on video shoving a black protester to the ground.
A video of the protest that went viral on Twitter Saturday shows Terrel Tuosto of West Hempstead, a nearby town on Long Island, walking alongside Nassau County police officers.
Officers repeatedly tell Tuosto to “move to the side” of the street and he responds, “we’ve got this whole street.”
Officers tell Tuosto and other protesters again to remain on the southbound side of the street.
Tuosto responds, “I have the right to walk where I want to walk,” and continues to walk before an officer appears to stop abruptly in front of him, causing Tuosto to bump into the officer.
Officers are then seen restraining Tuosto and shoving him into the ground. Meanwhile, protesters can be heard yelling at police officers, defending Tuosto by saying he isn’t resisting arrest.
Police commissioner says officers have acted ‘professional’
Three protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in a news release. Police repeatedly made attempts to keep protesters off moving lanes of traffic, the release said.
“This safety precaution was met with strong opposition and resistance which resulted in the arrests of these subjects,” the release said, adding the arrests come after days of peaceful protests with very few arrests.
In an emailed statement to CNN, Ryder said the county police “has provided security for thousands of people at over 80 mostly peaceful protests over the past two weeks.” He also said in the statement that the department supports free speech.
When asked by CNN whether he believes excessive force was used by his officers, Ryder said his officers “have acted extremely professional and this is evident by the peaceful outcomes of these protests.” He said any complaints regarding Nassau County officers could be directed to Internal Affairs or the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.
Tuosto says he sustained injuries
Tuosto said police tried to keep protesters to one side of the street but said officers did not give protesters justification as to why they could not take up the entire road, as they had in protests up to that point.
Tuosto confirmed to CNN that he is the person in the video and said he sustained injuries to his knee – which had recently been operated on – as well as his back and neck. He claims officers held him down with a knee on both his back and his neck. Officers charged him with disorderly conduct, Tuosto said.
“They treat me as a criminal, but I am not a criminal,” Tuosto said. “They tried to scare us, intimidate us, discourage us. That’s not going to work.”
Tuosto said he spent six hours in a holding cell before he was processed and released. He told CNN he’s been protesting every day for the past two and a half weeks and said he believes part of the police’s response stemmed from their belief that they think the protests will die down soon.
“The sentiment I heard while I was with police officers (in the holding cell) was, ‘You guys had your fun the last couple weeks, but playtime is over,’” he said. “It could have gone a lot worse if there weren’t people and cameras there.”
CNN has also asked Nassau County Police for comment in response to Tuosto’s alleged exchange while in a holding cell.
Tuosto has a court date in September, he told CNN.