Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

The Ithaca Police Department arrested two protesters on Sunday at a rally against police brutality outside the police headquarters on Clinton Street.

October 12, 2020

IPD Officers Arrest 2 Protesters at Sunday Rally for Black Lives

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The Ithaca Police Department arrested two protesters on Sunday at a rally against police brutality outside the police headquarters on Clinton Street. IPD charged the first arrested protester, a 15-year-old, for vandalizing the area with graffiti. The second protester arrested was a 32-year-old, also charged with the vandalization and resisting arrest, according to an IPD media release.

Officers made the arrests at around 5:20 p.m., and while the two people were in custody, the protesters on the street chanted, “How do you spell fascist? IPD!”, “We won’t leave, let them free!” and “Cops and Klan go hand-in-hand!”

Some protesters said that they did not believe that these two people were involved in the vandalism that had occurred earlier in the afternoon, and were unsure why they were singled out by the police officers. Protesters spray painted the words “die” and “pigs” in multiple areas of the sidewalk and on the side of the headquarters building.

Both protesters were released from custody by 6 p.m.

This is the 20th week of protests against police brutality in Ithaca since the weekly demonstrations first began the week after the May 25 police killing of George Floyd. Protesters gather every Sunday afternoon at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Ithaca Commons.

IPD attempted to arrest a third protester, who then escaped from IPD headquarters, sprinting out of the building and along Six Mile Creek. Around a dozen police officers chased him. Protesters obstructed the path of several officers, who pushed through the group. IPD officers were unable to catch the person.

Officers at the scene declined to comment on the protest or the arrests.

The two other arrested protesters were released from IPD’s custody roughly 30 minutes apart from one another.

“We were totally peaceful,” said Lucas Bonnet, the second person arrested, shortly after being released. Bonnet said he could hear the protesters from inside the police headquarters. The IPD media release referred to the protest as “non-peaceful,” but did not cite any incidents other than vandalism.

An Ithaca resident and Tompkins County native, Bonnet said that he has attended nearly every protest against police brutality since they began.

Police made both arrests while the protesters huddled tightly together. Several officers reached into the group and pulled each of the protesters out, according to footage of the arrests. Protesters followed the officers toward the door of the IPD headquarters, demanding their badge numbers and names, which they did not provide.

Erin, a protester, was frustrated by what she saw as the IPD’s overreaction to the vandalism.

“They’re arresting people for defacing property, but we’re protesting because they aren’t arresting cops for actually killing people,” she said.

Shortly after the two protesters were released from custody, the group marched back to the Bernie Milton Pavilion at 6:30 p.m., walking along the road and blocking traffic on Green Street for about five minutes.

“We stop traffic to make people aware of what’s going on,” said Zeb, a protester. “There are people here who have been abused by the police. As small as Ithaca is, this is still a problem for us.”

At the Ithaca Common Council’s Oct. 7 meeting, students and local residents spoke in favor of a letter published in early September by the Tompkins Antiracist Coalition. The letter demanded immediate defunding of the IPD by 80 percent, bringing its budget from approximately $12.7 million to $2.5 million. The letter calls for the reallocation of former IPD funds to community groups such as the Great Ithaca Activities Center.

The letter also demanded a commitment from city officials to continue IPD cuts over the coming years, demilitarization of the IPD and a ban on the department’s carrying of automatic and semi-automatic police weapons.

In the release, IPD chief Dennis Nayor said, “This act of vandalism is reprehensible, and criminal acts of this nature will not be tolerated.”

The chief added that IPD officers have been “thoroughly accommodating and highly professional” during the 20 weekends of protest, “making this act even more deplorable.”