The incident points to the political tensions boiling over at the final stretch of a particularly divisive campaign season. While police normally prepare for potential unrest around elections, The Washington Post’s Mark Berman reported, fears are heightened among law enforcement leaders this year that any result at the polls — or no immediately obvious one — could spark physical confrontations.
Already, a number of violent brawls have broken out in recent weeks between groups rallying for or against Trump on city streets around the country.
Six people in San Francisco, including three police officers, were injured after clashes broke out on Oct. 17 between a small group of Trump backers and a much larger crowd demonstrating against them. A similar situation led to fights and two injuries a day earlier in Ithaca, N.Y. And in Denver, a private security guard was arrested this month after a fatal shooting during two dueling events: a right-wing “Patriot Rally” and a counterdemonstration organized by activists who aligned themselves with Black Lives Matter and antifa.
As of last week, New York officials began ensuring that police can be readily deployed in case of such conflicts, The Post reported. They have also conducted internal exercises preparing for a range of emergency situations, from a natural disaster around Election Day to violent protests.
According to the New York Times, the clash occurred when a caravan organized by the group Jews for Trump intersected with anti-Trump demonstrations in Times Square.
Jews for Trump said on its website that it had organized a Sunday caravan through the Hudson Valley and Brooklyn intended to show solidarity “with the beleaguered Red Zone community,” referring to several areas where schools and businesses have been ordered to close following an uptick in coronavirus infections. Many of the “red zone” neighborhoods affected by the shutdown are home to large populations of Orthodox Jews.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s attorney and the city’s former mayor, said he was driving down Fifth Avenue when he saw a group of anti-Trump demonstrators confronting several vehicles with Trump banners near the southeastern corner of Central Park.
He continued following behind the caravan for about 20 blocks, as videos captured Giuliani being screamed at by protesters through an open car window.
“They were assaulted by a bunch of goons,” Giuliani told The Post in an interview. “We’ve lost control of all hatred, and it’s driving a lot of irrational behavior.”
Giuliani said he did not see any physical fights but heard the people on the street yelling expletives, including at him. One protester grabbed an American flag and a Trump-Pence 2020 banner hanging from a vehicle before fleeing into the park, he said, appearing to scratch that car in the process.
In videos of the scene posted to Twitter, a group of people appear to throw eggs, curse and give the middle finger to cars passing by with Trump banners and American flags. In another video posted an hour later, which appears to have been filmed farther west along 42nd Street, a group chanted “New York hates you” at marchers holding Trump flags.
Then, in Times Square, tensions broke out into violence.
Videos on Twitter appeared to show several fights break out among those in the crowd, which included people in red gear with pro-Trump messaging, one man swinging a baton and another yelling expletives about communism. “Go vote Biden,” someone can be heard shouting from off camera moments later.
A New York Police Department spokesman told The Post that around 2 p.m. Sunday, 11 people were taken into custody for disorderly conduct following the brawl.
Of those detained, four men and two women are expected to be charged with harassment, disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration, the police spokesman said. A homeless man who allegedly threw eggs in the faces of two police officers was charged with assault on an officer and resisting arrest. Four other people were given court summonses for disorderly conduct and released, police said.
Rodney Harrison, the NYPD’s chief of detectives, wrote on social media that police were still investigating an incident on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in which an individual appeared to throw projectiles at cars with Trump flags driving toward Manhattan on the highway below.