One of New York City's newly inaugurated mayor Bill de Blasio's first initiatives has been "Vision Zero," the city's efforts to get pedestrian traffic fatalities down to zero. De Blasio called the problem an "epidemic"; 7 pedestrians died in the city of 7 8 million in the first two weeks of 2014. "We simply have to do better," de Blasio said while announcing an interagency group that would include the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health, and the NYPD. The NYPD is already doing its part.
The New York Post reports:
Police were targeting jaywalkers in the area following the third pedestrian fatality this month around West 96th Street.
[84-year-old Kang] Wong, who lives a block away, appeared to not understand the cop, the witnesses said.
"The guy didn't seem to speak English. The cop walked him over to the Citibank" near the northeast corner of 96th and Broadway, said one witness, Ian King, a Fordham University law student.
"[The officer] stood him up against the wall and was trying to write him a ticket. The man didn't seem to understand, and he started walking away.
"The cop tried to pull him back, and that's when he began to struggle with the cop," said King, 24. "As soon as he pushed the cop, it was like cops started running in from everywhere."
I'll grant that it seems Wang, whether he actually speaks English or not, should have been able to gather that the costumed fellow trying to talk to him was an agent of state. Nevertheless, even under those circumstances, it should be obvious that police officers should not gang up on and brutalize an 84-year-old man, or anyone accused of what amounts to a non-violent act that happens to be prohibited by the government.
Wong's son, who said he was not comfortable speaking near cops, eventually told the Post that police called him about whether his father required medication but would not disclose what hospital he was at. Eventually he found out, but says the hospital wouldn't let him visit his father until later because he was considered a prisoner, not a patient. Wong was charged with jaywalking, obstructing government administration, and resisting arrest.
Cops have reportedly been issuing $250 jaywalking tickets in response to the pedestrian deaths. These fines may not amount to much for some, but as Brian Doherty explained earlier this month, they can trap poor people in a cycle of increasing government problems; fines grow, jail time is tacked on, and hours are spent fighting in court.
On the same day Wong was beat up by an unknown number of cops deployed to combat the scourge of jaywalking, de Blasio's spokesperson said the city wouldn't "sit by while lives are lost and families are torn apart." So the era of de Blasio's NYC begins. For the children families.
h/t Dan Pearson