Vengeful village: Hell breaks loose at second Washington Square Park meeting

The battle for Washington Square Park continues as the war between parkgoers, residents, and all of those in between enters another round of discussions.

The Captain of the 6th Precinct and board members were left red-faced Saturday night after angry Washington Square Park goers rebuked police presence and enforcement of the 10 pm curfew and removal of sound amplifications.

June’s controversial Build the Block meeting was celebrated by restless residents for outlining a plan to combat noise pollution and condemned by park goers and musicians for having been ostracized from the Washington Square Park talks last month. However, on July 21 every opinion was voiced with resounding fervor.

A speaker faces off with Police Captain Spataro. Photo by Dean Moses

The meeting, held at Middle School 297 on 75 Morton St., began with Captain Stephen Spataro and board representatives of the Manhattan Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee and Human Services Committee taking a victory lap on behalf of the changes made at Washington Square Park over the last month, including proud claims that crime has decreased in the area.

However, as soon as the panel opened up for questions a barrage of criticisms and accusations of racist enforcement was hurled across the cafeteria.

“This is all about affluent, white residents thinking that the park is their backyard and siccing the cops on Black and Brown, poor artists,” one speaker named Ash said.

“The brutality I have witnessed for amplified sound—I was arrested for this and just three days my case was dismissed. Want to know why? Because it is bull. It has always been bull, why must we have a permit for music when there has been music forever? If you don’t like it go to the suburbs,” David Ortiz said.

Gia Lisa Krahne shared what she called a brutal arrest. Photo by Dean Moses

Another individual added that innocent bystanders are being caught in this battle.

“On June 5, I was the first person to be brutally arrested. I was not there to protest, five men pulled me forward and threw me face down on the ground and bloodied my friend that was next to me. It was 10:05 on a Saturday night. My cellmate was on a date, they had no idea what was going on,” Gia Lisa Krahne said. “I just want you to consider when you want this park safer, how it is happening.”

Caption Spataro responds to criticism on police enforcement. Photo by Dean Moses

Captain Spataro noted that officers gave warnings to those in the park past curfew and cited several officers who were attacked with bottles as cause for violence that night. However, with one furious rant after another, sharing story after story from those alleging both police brutality and racist action the captain was left speechless.

“We don’t make the law, we just enforce it,” he said.

Opposers also called out the NYPD for intimidation tactics, citing dozens of officers arriving at the park in riot care as a militant show of force. Spataro responded to a round of jeers by stating, “We don’t have riot gear, what we have is a helmet.”   

The searing resentment of a heavily NYPD-regulated park continued for several hours, causing the few attendees harboring opposing viewpoints to leave the meeting early. Discussions continued to spiral out of control as one irate man challenged board members face-to-faced, yelling, “You control the narrative!”

The meeting descended into a shouting match. Photo by Dean Moses

Some officials fled the table with Parks/Waterfront Committee member Georgia Silvera Seamans saying, “I found that to be very intimidating,” to which one crowd member responded: “That is empathy.”     

Soon thereafter the meeting was abruptly ended, and the officials swiftly fled the building as incensed Greenwich Village Park goers continued to fume over accusations of over-policing on Black and Brown musicians and artists.

amNewYork Metro reached out to the NYPD for comment.    

Caption Spataro received the brunt of attendees’ anger. Photo by Dean Moses