Immigration rights leader Ravi Ragbir was held at an ICE detention center in Florida on Friday as Mayor de Blasio said the city will investigate the NYPD’s handling of the massive protest over his deportation.
“We are definitely going to investigate what happened with our police officers because I am concerned to know exactly what happened, why it happened and if anything happened that was not appropriate in the handling of the protesters, that needs to be acted on,” de Blasio said during his weekly appearance on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show.
Ragbir, 53, was arrested at a routine check-in with ICE officials in Manhattan Thursday and set for removal to Trinidad and Tobago after 27 years in the U.S.
As he was transported out of the Javits Federal Building in an ambulance Thursday morning, hundreds of supporters filled the street and chanted his name as many clashed with police.
Eighteen people — including two City Council members who tried to block the vehicle — were arrested.
A police source said the ambulance drove Ragbir to Bellevue Hospital, but it was not immediately clear if he received any treatment.
Either way, officials quickly loaded Ragbir onto a plane bound for Florida despite an emergency petition filed by his lawyer in federal court in Manhattan, a well-placed source told The News.
A judge ultimately signed a temporary order blocking Ragbir’s transfer away from the New York region, but ICE officials claimed his plane was already in the air when they received the ruling, the source said.
A follow-up hearing has been set for next week. If immigration officials deport Ragbir in the meantime, they could be held in contempt, the source said.
Arrested Thursday for allegedly obstructing the ambulance, Councilman Jumaane Williams praised Ragbir as a beloved community leader Friday and said the emergency vehicle was uses as a “ploy.”
The detainment of immigration activist Ravi Ragbir (c.) sparked a protest that led to clashes with cops and two City Council members getting arrested.
“There were no sirens, there were no lights. That’s not an emergency vehicle, that’s a van with passengers,” Williams told The News. “There’s a picture of Ravi inside the van and he wasn’t sick.”
He said police were too rough with protesters.
“The fact of the matter is there was an immoral deportation taking place, there was nonviolent resistance to that and there was overwhelming force in response to that resistance,” Williams said.
In his radio interview, de Blasio blamed federal officials for ratcheting up the tensions Thursday, insisting the “original sin” came when ICE detained Ragbir despite his history of non-violence and ongoing court cases.
“What happened yesterday was troubling on a number of levels starting with the activities of the federal agents who, I think in a very provocative way, took someone who was a leading advocate, highly respected individual, and in manner I think that might have been meant to be provocative, acted to suddenly deport him,” de Blasio said.
“That was done by federal authorities. That was not done by New York City officials or New York City police officers in any way shape or form. I think that started a chain of events into place,” he said.
Video of Williams’ arrest shot by Buzzfeed showed him being bent over the hood of a car and grimacing in pain. He was later handcuffed and hauled away with a big tear down the back of his suit jacket.
Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez was also arrested Thursday, and his Twitter account quickly posted a photo showing an officer with both arms around Rodríguez’s neck. The caption likened the maneuver to a chokehold.
Protests erupt after immigrant rights leader detained by ICE
“I will always unapologetically stand for the rights of Ravi, his family, and that of many immigrants like him who have to live in shadows, whose voices are silenced, and their dignity violated,” Rodríguez said in a statement to The News. “Let us reflect on the anguish almost 13 million undocumented immigrants experience every day. This is a moment of reckoning. Let us find the courage to do better so we can be better.”
Lieutenants Benevolent Association head Lou Turco said the mayor should be looking into why the councilmen chose to block an ambulance, not the actions of the NYPD.
“I just don’t understand how the mayor is not conducting an investigation into how two city councilman think it’s appropriate to stand in front of an ambulance going to the hospital,” he said.
De Blasio, who has been arrested in decidedly calmer, more choreographed situations at past protests, said he believed the council members were engaging in “a conscious act of civil disobedience,” but that it had not gone the way civil disobedience usually had in his experience.
“I’ve been involved in plenty of civil disobedience in my day, and typically that is pre-negotiated with the police and everyone understands,” he said.
He said he believed the sudden nature of Ragbir’s detention was part of the problem.
Mayor de Blasio blamed federal officials for ratcheting up the tensions, insisting the “original sin” came when ICE detained Ragbir during a routine check-in with the intention to deport him.
“I think people understandably reacted with real passion to what they thought was an unjust situation and I think did spontaneous civil disobedience,” de Blasio said. “And I think that added to the confusion. But from everything I understand, it was a purposeful act of civil disobedience.”
Ragbir is executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. He was granted permanent residency in 1994, but it was revoked after he was convicted of wire fraud in 2000. He served a 30-month prison term but later asked the court to revise the original judgment, citing faulty jury instructions and poor legal representation.
In a statement late Thursday, an ICE spokeswoman said Ragbir had “exhausted” his petitions and appeals and would be deported.