ITHACA, N.Y.—The City of Ithaca has released a trove of information and material related to the arrests made throughout the day on Oct. 22, 2020, when seven people in total were arrested by the Ithaca Police Department after protests outside of a press conference held by Congressman Tom Reed and a subsequent demonstration outside of IPD headquarters on Clinton Street.

To review: on Oct. 22, 2020, one person was arrested after a press conference by Congressman Tom Reed, which then sparked another, small protest outside of Ithaca Police Department. However, when another person was arrested during that protest, it inflamed another, larger demonstration of dozens of people calling for the release of both people. The protests were peaceful, albeit raucous, but the demonstrations then led to several more arrests throughout the night, as well as physical altercations initiated by police and the aforementioned use of pepper spray. Ithaca Police Department, Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office, the New York State Police and Cornell University Police Department were all involved. (Coverage from that night here)

The arrests, as well as the rare use of pepper spray by IPD to disperse the crowd, were the culmination of months of rallies held by protesters, sometimes more than once a week, calling for defunding the Ithaca Police Department, canceling rent payments, stopping evictions, and other similar causes. It is the only time pepper spray has been used on the protesters and the most arrests made at a single event since the protests began in May.

In the wake of the events of Oct. 22, Mayor Svante Myrick asked the New York State Attorney General to review the force used that night by IPD in response to the protestors. Today he has announced that the AG has declined to take on the investigation, citing jurisdiction and staffing issues.

According to a list of answers from Myrick additionally released with the footage, the 51 videos cover a series of events on Oct. 22, 2020: the first arrest, of Massia White-Saunders, on Meadow Street following the Reed press conference, as well as the arrest of two additional protesters shortly afterwards (certainly activist Genevieve Rand and someone else); the treatment of the people who had been arrested while in custody (Rand, a trans woman, has alleged that she was intentionally misgendered by officers while in custody, and similar treatment was alleged by others arrested that day); the events leading to the protest being deemed an unlawful assembly by IPD; the dispersal of the demonstrators, using pepper spray, and the dialog between officers and those who remained afterwards; the release of the final person who had been arrested that night and the end of the protest.

On the central question of whether or not IPD was justified in its use of pepper spray, a display of force not often seen in Ithaca, Myrick said he had wrestled with the question and eventually turned it over to the Community Police Board for a review, one that has not yet been completed. Still though, upon his own review of the videos, Myrick blamed protestors for their conduct leading up to the use of pepper spray.

“I look forward to the CPB’s report,” Myrick said. “In the meantime, having reviewed all this material, I believe the rhetoric and behavior of some of the protestors was dangerously unproductive and intended to provoke violence from onlookers.”

You can see the full list of videos here, and the montage video produced by the city, which they call the highlights of the 51 videos, is watchable below. Additionally, the six page Q&A with Mayor Svante Myrick, which goes into much further detail on the events of the night and his point of view, is available in full at the bottom of this page. The Ithaca Voice also produced and released a video from that night’s events recorded by two reporters, which can be seen at this link.

This is a developing story. The Ithaca Voice is combing through all 51 videos and will have more related information throughout the day, both here and in subsequent articles. 

Mayors QA Report 1.21.21 by Matt Butler on Scribd

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com