Protester-shoving cop becomes first NY officer to face criminal charges

D’Andraia (right) faces criminal charges after he was caught on video violently shoving a protester. (AP pic)

NEW YORK: A New York City police officer was charged Tuesday after he was filmed violently pushing a woman to the ground during a protest against police brutality, prosecutors said.

Vincent D’Andraia became the first NYPD officer to face criminal charges over last week’s demonstrations that saw the force criticised for using heavy-handed tactics against largely peaceful protesters.

The rare charges come as calls for police reform spread across the US following the death last month of George Floyd, the black man who was killed when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

A spokesman for Brooklyn’s district attorney confirmed to AFP that D’Andraia, 28, was charged with misdemeanour assault, harassment, menacing and criminal mischief over the May 29 incident.

He added that jail terms were generally not imposed for such crimes.

“I am deeply troubled by this unnecessary assault. We will now seek to hold this defendant accountable,” Brooklyn district attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement.

Video captured on a mobile phone showed D’Andraia shoving the victim, 20-year-old Dounya Zayer, to the ground and calling her a “bitch” after she asked why she was being told to leave the street.

D’Andraia was suspended without pay last week after the clip came to light, according to a press release.

The New York Times reported that D’Andraia turned himself in to a police station ahead of Tuesday’s charges.

He was released pending a hearing on Oct 15.

Floyd’s death on May 25 sparked angry protests against police brutality and racism across the US.

His death was just the latest incident in a larger pattern of police use of lethal force that has seen officers acting with relative impunity for years.

Following Floyd’s killing, communities, states and even Congress have come up with initiatives to stem police violence, especially against the black community.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, heavily criticised for defending strong-armed police tactics during the demonstrations, has promised that all sanctions against officers will be made public.

Hundreds of people, some who even work for de Blasio’s office, marched on Monday to call for his resignation.

On Tuesday, he announced that a street in each of New York’s five boroughs would be renamed to honour the Black Lives Matter movement.

It comes after Washington mayor Muriel Bowser on Friday renamed an area near the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza”.