Legal Aid demands probe of NYPD’s ‘unlawful’ detention of pro-Palestine protesters

NEW YORK — Dozens of pro-Palestine protesters arrested on college campuses in New York City last week were “unlawfully” jailed by the NYPD — and the Department of Investigation should launch a probe into the matter, the Legal Aid Society said Monday.

In a letter to DOI obtained by the Daily News, Legal Aid wrote that a review by its lawyers found that “at least” 46 demonstrators arrested during the NYPD raids at Columbia University and City College last Tuesday were jailed even though they were arrested on low-level charges like trespassing. Defendants facing such charges should by law not be detained, but given desk appearance tickets and released, said the letter, addressed to Jeanene Barrett, DOI’s inspector general overseeing the NYPD.

Additionally, Legal Aid alleged “dozens” of the arrested protesters were kept in custody for more than 24 hours. The letter charged that’s a violation of a 1991 court case that established a requirement for defendants to be arraigned within 24 hours of an arrest.

Legal Aid wrote in its letter that the NYPD’s overall “reckless and militaristic response” to the campus protests should be part of DOI’s probe, too.

“The OIG-NYPD must immediately launch a probe into these widespread abuses of authority,” Legal Aid criminal defense practice chief attorney Tina Luongo said, referring to Barrett’s office.

A Legal Aid spokesman said the group hasn’t yet been able to confirm an exact number of protesters allegedly kept detained beyond the 24-hour limit. The NYPD press office didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

DOI spokeswoman Diane Struzzi confirmed Barrett’s office has received Legal Aid’s letter and is reviewing it.

In total, 282 protesters demonstrating Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza were arrested on the Columbia and City College campuses last Tuesday as part of NYPD raids involving hundreds of officers. The officers stormed the campuses after demonstrators broke into Columbia’s Hamilton Hall and occupied the academic building following a weeks-long encampment protest on a campus lawn.

During the raids, an officer accidentally fired a gun — a detail NYPD didn’t initially disclose — while other officers used pepper spray and were seen in videos tackling protesters to the ground.