By Michael McDowell
In the early afternoon on April 16th, Jill Nelson, a 67-year-old writer, left her apartment on Riverside Drive to run a few essential errands. Bundled up in a green down jacket, turtleneck sweater, jeans, and sneakers, she planned a quick trip to the drug store and supermarket, stuffing a hat, credit card, and some cash into her purse.
On Broadway and 162nd Street, she passed a boarded-up storefront, and wrote “Trump = Plague” in pink chalk.
Seconds later, she was in handcuffs, she told us.
“Before I could step back and see my handiwork, two police SUVs roared up on either side of me, and blocked me in,” Nelson told the Rag. “Four officers jumped out: ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing that? Do you own this building? Do you have a weapon?’
“They roughly cuffed me, took my purse, and shoved me into the back of an SUV. I was taken to the 33rd Precinct and put in a cell at about 1 p.m. I was never read my rights. They took mug shots, they fingerprinted me, I was searched by a female officer, and they itemized my belongings,” she recounted.
“I thought, are you kidding me? You’re arresting me for writing graffiti in chalk? Are you serious? Now I have a desk appearance ticket for August 14,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. Something so petty! It’s just so stupid and so enraging and a total waste of resources.”
Nelson has been charged with graffiti, a misdemeanor, and was held at the 33rd Precinct for more than five hours.
“They didn’t let me call my husband until 3 p.m., after I’d already been there for a couple hours,” she said. “This is in the midst of coronavirus. I did demand a mask and they gave me one, but they weren’t going to let me out because I didn’t have a picture ID,” Nelson continued. For a short trip to run a few errands, Nelson had left it behind at her apartment.
During a phone call that Nelson claims was cut short by an NYPD officer, she was unable to communicate her whereabouts to her husband, Flores A. Forbes, an associate vice president at Columbia University. Although Nelson says she was told that a squad car would be sent to her building to meet her husband, who had located her ID, Forbes waited for a car that never arrived.
“They began saying that they were going to take me downtown, take me to the Tombs,” Nelson said, referring to the Manhattan Detention Complex. “It was almost gleeful, I felt. This is going to be your punishment for being an uppity human being. An uppity female. And the guy is like yeah, you probably won’t get out of there until tomorrow morning.”
“I’ve known people who went to the Tombs, and they disappear for days.”
Eventually, Forbes arrived, having given up on the squad car and determined his wife was almost certainly at the 33rd Precinct.
“They had a plastic evidence bag and I saw my license, from my cell,” Nelson said.
When she asked if her husband was there, Nelson says she was told that he had left, and that she couldn’t have seen him anyway.
It wasn’t until 6:37 p.m. that Nelson was able to leave the precinct, and not without a stern reminder as to her impending day in court, she said.
“When I left, the desk sergeant, who was of African-American descent, said, you better show up, because if you don’t we’re going to come to your house and arrest you.”
On her way home, Nelson noticed that “Trump = Plague” had already been smudged away.
The boards that Jill Nelson had written on in chalk. Photo via Nelson.
Reached by phone, the NYPD told the Rag that the complaint was “sealed.”
In a subsequent email, an NYPD spokeswoman wrote that “there is nothing on file with the information you provided,” despite being presented with the information listed on the desk appearance ticket—the department’s own record—a copy of which Nelson provided.
Although New York City has recorded a precipitous drop in crime during the coronavirus pandemic, the NYPD has come under increasing scrutiny following videos depicting aggressive enforcement of social distancing guidelines. Photos shared on social media of the NYPD handing out masks to West Village sunbathers present a marked contrast to aggressive arrests of New Yorkers like Donni Wright, who was hospitalized following an encounter with an NYPD officer who had previously been named in seven lawsuits.
“It’s all part of a continuum, I feel. With those guys who got beat up, at least they’re alive. But the level of disrespect, of harassment, of abuse, it builds. My experience was one level, and theirs was another, but it’s part of the same piece of cloth,” Nelson said. “There’s moments in life where you realize, this is how most people are treated most of the time. It really was an experience of feeling like, this is how they treat everyday people. Who don’t have backup. Who don’t have husbands.”
Nelson, who spent much of her life on the Upper West Side, had never previously been arrested, and the experience has kept her up at night.
“I find that I wake up earlier, and I wake up during the night. I feel vulnerable, and I’ve had to push myself to not feel that way—to go on about my business with a sense of rigor and the right to do so,” she said.
She’s ready for an explanation, and an apology.
“After the first few days, I woke up one day and I was really angry. I thought, this shit is ridiculous. I want an explanation, I want an apology, and I want this desk appearance dismissed. I want any record I might have expunged, and I want to know what the police precinct is going to do to have better training for its officers.”
That her experience occurred during the coronavirus pandemic is all the more frustrating.
“When I was walking to the drug store that day, I saw families picking up food at a school. Don’t the police have anything better to do in this community? Like handing out masks?”
“One of the cops said, ‘do you do this often?’
And I said, ‘yeah, graffiti grandma.’”
“In the cosmic essence of horrors, this is minor, but these little things are part of a structure of taking people’s rights away, and making us acquiesce to whatever the powers that be tell us. I think it’s all a piece, a small part, it has a chilling effect, and I think that’s just what it’s supposed to do.”
I was ready to defend her based on the headline but her actions were just dumb. It’s one thing if you use sodewalk chalk to draw on the sidewalk, especially if it’s a positive message, but drawing on a building you don’t own is like drawing on a wall. I thought we were all taught not to do that when we were five.
Here’s the explanation she’s looking for: You do the crime, you do the time. Make the desk appearance and explain why you behaved like a child.
As one who voted for trump and will again, the cops overreacted. I fully support her right to weigh in against trump, misdemeanor or not, and and ignorant equation notwithstanding.
What crime? And how does what she did justify her treatment? What would have happened had she not had a husband in an important position? THINK!
It’s likely that these cops were bored racists who saw an opportunity to harass and humiliate an African American woman. On top of all that, she was expressing a viewpoint that offended them.
Let’s face it, Trumpism Is a kind of malignant legally toxic virus that has infected out body politic.
If this had been a rural road in the woods of Georgia and she had used chalk to write those words on the wooden frame support if a billboard, the local bullyboy racist pig cops would have been far rougher and might have beaten or even killed her if she “resisted”.
This “bust” was clearly a malicious waste of police time and resources in service to malevolent malignant and sadistically cruel misconduct.
She didn’t write on a building. Look at the photograph that shows the surface she wrote on. Duh!
“You do the crime, you do the time.”
Yes, unless, of course, your name is Michael Flynn, Bridget Anne Kelly or Bill Baroni. Policing and criminal justice are always carried out evenly, right?
She wrote two words on a boarded-up building. Yes, of course she didn’t own the building but it wasn’t written directly on the building. I’ve seen graffiti written on boarded up buildings in the past, so did the police have nothing better to do than arrest Ms. Nelson?
So you think she shouldn’t have written on the wall of a boarded up building. That is hardly the worst form of just vandalism. Seriously. Does she deserve to be arrested for it, especially during a pandemic, not allowed to call her husband, then she’s told a police car will pick up her husband and it never does, and then she’s not allowed to leave with her husband when he finally gets to the precinct? If she had been white, she would not have been treated this way. There is no doubt in my mind, and I am a white person.
Or would they have arrested her if she wrote I love Trump???
if she had been white, this never would have happened. This is a prime example ofthe systemic racism that exists in the NYPD – this is ridiculous – it was CHALK!
I don’t care who you are on this thread… we can all agree that a 67yr old White woman would NOT have been taken to jail for this ridiculous infraction with a friggin piece of chalk… period! I love all the indignant outrage of these comments, put forth by people who would have never attempted to say a word around this issue had the photo not been someone with melanin. It may be the UWS… but no less steeped in the same old systemic racist crap that persists. It’s also amazing to me that so many people who have a disdain for POC move to neighborhoods filled with POC, then actively disparage and/or try to get rid of them as soon as they move in. STOP already… we see you!
It’s was on an empty building for sale surrounded by an ugly green wooden fence. The kind that gets plastered with election flyers, posters, advertising, etc. They detained a 67 year old woman at high risk from Corona Virus for 5 hours at a high risk location when they clearly could have given her either a warning or summons or just overlooked it. Outrageous use of the police, who were probably either looking to get off the street to kill some time, or have been told to bust people for that as part of the latest version of the “broken windows” policy. She was also likely the wrong color.
Thank you Mike!
You are right. It is impossible to know definitively 100% your race, and I do not care about the color of your skin. The point is that you think “white” and that is deplorable. Your views appear to ignore any of the principles of civil disobedience and you appear to have no concept of proportionality! Sad.
Now thinking white is deplorable. Yes, it’s a proven fact. I think, therefor I am. I’m white, therefor I think white. I’m black, therefor I think black. I think anyone one who thinks this, doesn’t think at all.
“I was ready to defend her based on the headline”
Sure you were. Uh huh.
Chalk washes off when it rains. It’s hardly graffiti more like free speech
No. On someone else’s property it’s called vandalism.
Absolutely! No malicious destruction here.
Finally, a common sense response in this hilarious thread.
Natali? Is your real name KAREN???
the bootlicker has entered the chat
Natali, the building. was boarded up, as the photo in the article clearly shows. And there is no excuse for not reading her her rights.
You’ve been watching too much old TV.
No one who is arrested or cited for breaking this sort of low-level infraction is read their rights. Ever.
Disorderly conduct is not a significant charge, is not punishable by significant jail time, and it doesn’t warrant having one’s Miranda rights read.
You are read your rights when you are arrested for a crime for which the penalty may be a significant infringement on your right to liberty, i.e. time in jail.
You don’t know that she wasn’t read her rights. Just because she said that doesn’t make it true.
Jill Nelson is writer with years of respect. Google her. She’s not your adverage numb skull. Be careful before you malign some one you do not know.
White people gonna white people and defend over-policing of black and brown bodies after a week of watching fat white dudes stroll into state capitol buildings with guns and claim their rights to guns and free speech while intimidating and terrorizing the state reps who showed up to vote. This is why the United States is falling apart at the seams – there’s a certain group of white people who will cling to their sense of right and wrong or innocent and harmless depending on the skin color of the perpetrator. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?
Amen & thank you
Mr Smith, as a white lady allow me to just say, you nailed it: white people gonna white. And ignorant people -whatever their color — also gonna white sometimes. People like Natali and ZoomZ and Sheri and UWSHebrew need some serious education.
(We have our work cut out for us.)
Amen! And thank for modeling how to use your white privilege in support of people of color by refusing to condone, bond around or excuse the bullshit from other people raised to think they are white, honorary whites or people who sadly over-identify with white aggression, fragility and control we are all steeped in!👌🏾🙏🏾✊🏾
Thank you. I’m a white person who was totally offended by that comment and the example you used couldn’t have been better.
You’re certainly assuming a lot. How do you know if I’m white or not?!
I guess in your world everything is black or white. What a waste of your time.
There are plenty of black dudes with guns who do not vote the straight democrat line.
And there are plenty of fat white dudes with guns who do vote democrat.
if you really are the way you write your thoughts, you should take a deep breath and look at the world in a brighter way. We have one short trip. Enjoy it while we’re still here.
Name one. “There are plenty of black dudes with guns who do not vote the straight democrat line.
And there are plenty of fat white dudes with guns who do vote democrat.”
Spoken by an extremely privileged, comfortable person. We should just accept our hell on Earth, since Heaven last always. NOPE.
She defaced property and slandered the current President, and what she wrote is inflammatory during a crisis that could lead to worse things by people who see it. Let her vent on social media, which I’m sure she has. Write an Op-Ed in the NYT. But don’t engage in a criminal act. I have zero sympathy for her. I would feel the exact same way no matter who was President, and no matter what gender or race was doing the graffiti. Very immature during this most serious time.
I hope you outraged about Trump being ignorant of infectious disease transmission to the detriment of the public’s health as you are about easily-removed graffiti.
True writing on a wall is technically not ok; however, there were other options. For example, they could have driven her to her home so she could get her ID & simply written a ticket. What took place was a flagrant abuse of police powers to put someone in his/her place. End of story.
This is NOT a criminal act. Or rather, it is no more so than jaywalking.
The word “crime” is usually reserved for felonies, not misdemeanors.
This was a gross overreaction by law enforcement. A warning, even a ticket, would have been sufficient. NOT cuffing, booking, detaining for five hours, and threatening to do more.
Unless you think every jaywalker should be treated like that, in which case you want to live in a Soviet-style police state.
Our president said so many inflammatory things, during a crisis that could lead to worse things by people who hear it. Very immature during this most serious time. I have to assume you have zero sympathy for the president as well UWSHebrew.
I’ve been meaning to ask, why do you use your faith or ethnic group in your username? I’m curious as it seems weird. Who are you? Why don’t you use your name?
Simple: to show that even though I am Jewish and live on the Upper West Side, that unlike the majority of my outspoken Jewish neighbors, I am not a Democrat, a liberal, a progressive, a communist, a socialist, someone who mocks the people in “flyover states”, someone who excuses people who belong to certain ethnic groups for some in their community who practice violent criminal behavior, and someone who loves this country, not demeans it and looks to place fault and blame it constantly. I am in the minority but I am here, and you would be surprised how secretly, without even letting their family members know, there are other Jews in the UWS who think more like me and less like, for lack of a better example (and sincerely, no disrespect to him), the WSR commenter Bruce E. Bernstein.
Out of nowhere, UWSHebrew personally attacks me. For the record, I’ve never made fun of anyone in “flyover country”, nor would i. And UWSHebrew seems to think that right wingers have some sort of monopoly on patriotism. Trump, in fact, mocks this country every day. Do we recall his “birtherism”? How unpatriotic was that?
But more importantly, UWSHebrew finally shows why he uses that name. It is to promote racism and, in fact, anti-semitism. The racism might be obvious (but nevertheless I’ll point it out). The anti-semitism is there, too, but it might be a little harder to see.
Overt Racism: here is what UWSHebrew said:
“[I use that name] to show that even though I am Jewish and live on the Upper West Side, that unlike the majority of my outspoken Jewish neighbors, I am not… , someone who excuses people who belong to certain ethnic groups for some in their community who practice violent criminal behavior…”
Is there any doubt which “ethnic groups” he is referring to? He has made it clear so many time before, and made it clear on this thread: Blacks and Hispanics.
So we should not “excuse” all Blacks because “some in their community” have committed violent crimes? This is collective guilt. What would we say if someone came on this site and blamed all Jews for Bernie Madoff? or all Irish for the old Westie gang? Really, this is a racist, racialist, and fascistic way of thinking.
Now for the anti-semitism:
“[I use that name] to show that even though I am Jewish and live on the Upper West Side, that unlike the majority of my outspoken Jewish neighbors, I am not a Democrat, a liberal, a progressive, a communist, a socialist…”
Think about what he is doing here. There are many tens of thousands of liberals of all faiths, and of no faith, on the Upper West Side. Sadly, there are not as many socialists as there used to be, but there are probably still many thousands. UWSHebrew disagrees with liberals and disagrees with socialists. That is his right. And he wishes to spend his time on WSR railing about liberals and socialists. Once again, he has the right to do this.
So why isn’t his name UWSConservative, or UWSRedbaiter? UWSLibertarian?
It is because he singles out and targets JEWS who are liberals and socialists. This is the old “Jewish Bolshevism” myth. And it is and always has been a mainstay of anti-semitism.
He probably singles me out because Bernstein is an obvious Jewish name, though I have never discussed my faith or lack of such, nor how i identify.
Well, I’m glad UWSHebrew “came out of the closet” on this issue. And I’m glad he did it on this thread, which is really all about racism.
Bruce Bernstein-I couldn’t agree more! Well said. There are so many other sites to rail on-for instance Breitbart News where UWSHebrew, an offensive name, would find lots of like-minded people. Well, they say it’s a free country. His views are the antithesis of everything the Upper West Side has stood for for generations.
1) Where did I attack you? I wrote “(and sincerely, no disrespect to him), the WSR commenter Bruce E. Bernstein.”
2) Too many people in NYC who espouse Socialist and Communist ideas are Jews. It makes me sick, yes, as a patriotic American of the Jewish faith and race; as America is supposed to be the antithesis of Communism. Every time I see someone wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt I want to vomit. All the millenials who wave the Soviet flag in Union Square on May 4th are a fifth column.
3) Too many in the Democratic party have welcomed and even promoted those who espouse Socialist and Anti-Semitic rantings (in the guise of Anti-Israel rantings), and that makes me sick.
I will not be silenced. I will not be shamed, by you or anyone else on WSR who is “horrified” by my statements.
In other words, you have no experience outside of NY but you think you can tell people when free speech ends.
The law is crystal clear; you cannot express free speech via defacing private property, which is a criminal act.
Slander is an untrue statement about a person made orally. Ms. Nelson’s behavior was not slander. The statement she wrote, Trump=Plague is political speech and certainly president’s of all parties have had to endure far worse. While graffiti is illegal and her actions may not have been wise, the NYPD did not act in a manner that will win them any community relations points. Your statement that her choice of words might inspire others towards more serious criminal behavior is pure hyperbole. Carrying an AR-15 into a government building, legal or not, is far more likely to incite violence. It must be difficult to have conservative political views on the UWS but don’t undermine your position even more by making statements that are demonstrably untrue or exaggerated.
Sir, at long last, have you no sense of decency? Have you no sense of perspective or proportion?
The other response was correct, what she did is not slander, but it is inflammatory and reckless during this crisis where passions are high. You’re angry, fine, protest in a legal, responsible manner. She is pompous and immature.
the only person in this whole pandemic crisis who is “pompous and immature” is the president. It’s certainly not Jill Nelson, who is an award-winning novelist and journalist.
being an award winning journalist and pompous and immature is not mutually exclusive.
Pompous and immature? I think you’re confusing Ms Nelson with yourself. I have never heard anything so idiotic as your responses here. I’m ashamed to be associated with the same religion.
Bruce old chap,
Have you no sense of avoiding writing what you just did?
This is not 1954 and not the Un American Activity hearings.
Leave it to Mr. Biden to steal lines.
You are too smart and educated to do the same.
Cheers, stay safe, sane & creative.
You’re right, this isn’t 1950’s HUAC. It’s actually FAR WORSE.
These cops risked a death sentence for an absurdly minor property “crime” (and one that involved political speech, no less).
That is incredibly poor police judgment worthy of disciplinary hearings.
Exactly. They should face grave consequences for this outrageous behavior.
ZoomZ are you serious? Does the word hypocrite mean anything to you?
Yes, the word hypocrite to me means
ZoomZ “old chap”:
of course i recognize who i was paraphrasing.
and anyone who thinks Ms. Nelson “got what she deserved”, as you state in a post below, indeed has no sense of decency.
And if you think that, you might be educated… but you are not very smart.
Well said, Bruce.
Unbelievable! My advice. Get a good lawyer.
This is absolutely outrageous! I have been to Central Park several times and seen some who are not observing social distancing. Where were the police, I wondered. Now I know! Uptown arresting middle-aged African American women who are writing down in chalk what almost every New Yorker thinks! You bet she needs an apology and the NYPD needs to say what in the world they are doing.
67 is middle aged? 🙂
This is outrageous behavior by the police. Disturbing. It was chalk for crap sake!
(But do always carry official photo ID whenever leaving your home. It can be the difference between receiving a summons, or being held, even if the charge is ludicrous)
Why is there not a digital verion of NY State ID, that can be carried on one’s phone?
I often do not take a wallet when I leave home, but always have a smartwatch or smartphone, on which could reside a digital ID.
I’m not much for graffiti, but I tend to think that this person was treated with gross disproportionality in comparison to the anti-social cyclists who daily endanger pedestrians’ lives with reckless behavior; or to the people who allow 150-lb pit bulls to run off-leash in the park, defecating hither and yon.
This stinks of highly seclective enforcement.
I am glad that this lady wasn’t a jogger in Georgia though, or things could’ve really gotten out of hand.
You can use LastPass or a similar app to carry encrypted copies of all your ID on your phone. Will the police accept them? Probably depends on the cop, why they stopped you, and who knows what else. But that’s what I do.
How do I get 5min of my life back. What a waste! I laugh at Karen’s (look it up) like you wasting tax dollars for not abiding by the law…”Something so petty! It’s just so stupid and so enraging and a total waste of resources.” Taking peoples rights away? You have the right to free speech, you do not have the right to deface property. This is what is wrong with society, thinking you have the right to do whatever you want…blame it on the police..until you’re really in trouble and call on them for help. You should apologize to the police and think how you can contribute to society rather than break it down.
Right back at ya. Way to read half the story. And you misspelled Black. It’s b l a c k not b l u e. Revealed.
The only people I know who have a positive impression of the police are people who literally never interact with them. The NYPD deserves every disrespect it gets.
I am just horrified to hear that NYPD would arrest someone for writing something in chalk. Chalk?! I don’t think a white person would ever get arrested for that. And they endanger her life by taking her into custody and holding her, possibly exposing her to people with Covid. This is utterly infuriating.
You said it!
This is really shocking behavior on the part of the police. They should not waste their time prosecuting people for writing with chalk in tiny letters on plywood. No one deserves this treatment but I also want to note that Jill Nelson is a fantastic writer, an Upper West Side luminary and her memoir about the Washington Post in on my syllabus. She is a national treasure.
What’s shocking is you and others excusing a person who should know better than to engage in a criminal act and then complain that she was arrested for said criminal act. Without the NYPD announcing their presence to those who wish to commit violent crimes, this city would be doomed. We all know how sometimes the smallest thing can escalate to something beyond control. If this virus crisis happened under Obama and a 67 year old white woman wrote in chalk “Obama = Plague” on a boarded up storefront, I would feel the same way. It is a call for incitement and social unrest. In this case, bravo NYPD.
I wish you didn’t use the word “Hebrew” in your name
because you always make the most obnoxious, offensive comments and make the rest of us Jews look bad.
This woman wrote in chalk—on a boarded up storefront—for God’s sake! She didn’t permanently damage anything!
Her punishment was wildly disproportionate to her “crime,” even if it was a crime, which I’m not so sure about.
And Trump did make this plague so much worse than it could have been. South Korea got its first case around the time we did, and things are back to normal there already. He has completely failed us. We have thousands of deaths, illnesses, lost jobs, decimated retirement accounts, and can’t even safely leave our homes, all due to his stupidity. He has ruined so many lives! He deserves any criticism he gets…and then some! And somehow I doubt that you’d make the same comment if someone had written, “Obama=Plague.”
I will always keep Hebrew in my name. As to your personal feelings of shame that I am not just like you, tough.
Have you seen people who are not social distancing? THEY are the ones who are keeping the epidemic going. THEY are the ones who are causing our healthcare workers to become sick. THEY are the ones who endanger society. Not someone writing in chalk on a plywood wall. Your priorities are out of whack.
some bad behavior does not excuse other bad behavior. You may be surprised to know that I am entirely against the NYPD enforcing social distancing anywhere, in any neighborhood. At most, go somewhere, and encourage (hand out masks!) mask wearing. But to write tickets or arrest someone I think is a serious over reach of their job, even though they are just “following orders” (where have I heard that before?). Just like it is not the job of the US Army to “rebuild communities” in Middle Eastern countries, it is not the job of the police to have anything to do with mask wearing or social distancing.
Fantastic writer she is – indeed!
And this time around, her not so fantastic writing got her into the trouble she created for herself and it is well deserved.
thanks for pointing out who Jill Nelson is, Anya. She is indeed a superb writer.
But Ms. Nelson makes a really important point: just imagine how the Black and Brown young people, who aren’t famous writers, who don’t have husbands with powerful positions at Columbia, get treated. Just imagine.
You boast that Jill Nelson is “indeed a superb writer”.
Have you ever even heard of this woman before? Have you read any of her stuff?
I confess that I’ve never heard of her before. I have no doubt that you’ve never heard of her either.
But at least I’m not touting familiarity of her work as proof that I’m some kind of UWS liberal intellectual.
Ms Nelson might very well be a “superb writer” but I’m not familiar with her work so I’m not qualified to render an opinion.
And neither are you.
I used to read Jill Nelson all the time in the VIllage Voice. Sherman seems to think he knows a lot about my life. He doesn’t.
Are you a good friend with Bruce E. Bernstein? Do you know what he has read? I ask because Jill Nelson is very well known on the UWS and to New Yorkers of a certain generation. She was a regular contributor to the Village Voice (I think was on staff) and involved with the National Association of Black Journalists. Her brother is a famous documentary film maker. So, yes, many people do know her work. Her dad was a dentist on the UWS. Again, no one should be held for five hours for writing tiny letters in chalk on a piece of plywood. But, yes, Jill Nelson has authored many books, taught and is well know to many on the UWS.
All those accolades put a greater burden on her to not influence younger generations who will think it’s ok to deface property not belonging to them. There are numerous studies done that chronicle the effect graffiti has on communities. None of it is positive. It took years for the City to reverse the tide of urban blight of which graffiti was a major component. Her actions might seem petty but they send out signals to others who might it many steps further. There are people in Wash Hts who said that this was not an isolated incident; this have been numerous other incidents of the same behavior. So let’s stop crying for Ms. Nelson.
She basically got what she deserved.
Forget her age and that she’s African American.
If she was 23 and white, she’d have been treated the same.
But – being 67, she should have known better.
And, how many of us carry a chalk in our pocket or purse?
And talking about taking people’s rights from them – how about the government taking our rights away for us to be outside, to walk with friends 4 feet apart and not 6, etc.
These are not laws legislated by congress, these are laws made up by insecure politicians, feeling the strength they posses over us now.
(1) She committed a violation. Occasionally the police enforce the law against these minor infractions. (They also issue jaywalking tickets.) To argue that they shouldn’t means it’s ok for anyone to deface someone else’s property. (2) The way they allegedly handled the whole process is wrong. (3) It pays to carry ID at all times.
No, that is not what it’s arguing. Do you hear yourself?
A) It was CHALK
B) people are DYING and you think this is a priority?
c) SHOW me the last time a jaywalking ticket was issued in new york city — and I’ll show you you a black guy with a desk appearance ticket.
“If she was 23 and white, she’d have been treated the same.”
Nonsense is correct.
I mean, your comment is Nonsense.
I second that emotion.
I notice that Zoomz is very confident that the NYPD treats Blacks and whites in the same way. Of course, that provably WASN’T true in the Bloomberg era of racial profiling. But i assume you were speaking out loudly against that, and that you are appalled and vocal now when people urge bringing racial profiling-based stop and frisk back.
But now you KNOW that the era of disparate treatment is over. Certainly you’ve studied the issue, and spoken to anti-racist and anti-incarceration activists to examine their evidence. Certainly you’ve read various books on the issue, such as The New Jim Crow, and can refute all of them. Certainly you have read anecdotal evidence and reports of whites being treated the same way as Ms. Nelson was.
because, if you haven’t done these things, from whence your confidence that if she was “23 and white”, she would have been treated the same way?
The essence of your argument is that someone can justify bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior. It’s a twisted society when minorities should be let off the hook because bean counters like you want more whites arrested to settle some score.
How come the guy who draws on the UWS sidewalks all the time isn’t charged with graffiti?
Also, in reading the graffiti law, I don’t think writing non-gang, non-hate speech in chalk (as opposed to spray paint or indelible marker) qualifies as “intent to damage.”
This is messed up.
Also – they didn’t read her her rights.
As for the case being sealed… what’s going on there?
Do any cops or lawyers read the WSR and want to weigh in anonymously?
Sidewalks are not private property…
This 67-years old person walking around with a chalk, looking for others’ property to damage in order to *express herself* or something – how is it normal?
corporations pollute the public’s visual environment with advertising in virtually every square foot of NYC. The motive is economic profit, not protected political speech.
That is a huge crime – and a tort, called public nuisance.
And you and the cops focus outrage on one small chalk talk? That is indefensible.
That guy should be ticketed or arrested as well. Can’t stand him and his entitlement on Broadway and 72nd – 73rd.
The property owner put up what looks like a nicely painted and above average looking sidewalk shed. Contrast that to what that neighborhood used to look like during decades of decay and filth when buildings were boarded up in a shabby way. Behaving like a vandal to deface another person’s property is not acceptable. Just because many of you like the message doesn’t make it tolerable.
This is absolutely insane. SHE WROTE IT IN CHALK!!!!
To be arrested, put in a cell, fingerprinted and searched for God’s sake? Anyone who thinks this is ok cause she “defaced private property” is delusional. If she spray painted it, yeah, that’s defacing it. But it was written in chalk.
The police are really out of control.
PS Trump does equal plague. And I suspect the posters who think the punishment fit the action (cause calling writing in chalk which will be washed off in the rain a crime is a major stretch) are probably pro-Trump.
Have you read the law? Did it specify exactly which writing implements enable defacement and which don’t?
No, it didn’t. And you don’t get to decide, lawmakers already did.
But you’re welcome to offer your own private property to anyone to write what they please – in chalk, pee-based invisible ink, radioactive paint, etc.
The levels of cognitive dissonance reached here by some people who claim to want order, peace, respect, etc. are staggering.
Her husband works for Columbia – see if she can go on campus and write on some buildings there (the university property.)
CHALK!! SHE WROTE IT IN CHALK. If a white 67 year old woman did that nothing would have happened. Even if it had been on the wall of a Columbia building.
I’ll say it time and time again, broken windows policing only causes more harm. Cops have discretion to leave people alone but they’re pressured by higher ups to behave this way, especially towards people of color. I’ve written in chalk and gotten reprimanded by the building owner, had the cops pull up, and only told me to wash it away with water, I know that I was treated differently than Jill because I’m white. This is outrageous and I hope the cops are dealt with accordingly. We stand in support with you Jill!
sounds made up Will. methinks you’re trying to be a white knight, no pun intended.
In what way could Will share his testament that you would accept, UWSHebrew?
She might think that her actions are harmless because she’s using chalk on a sidewalk enclosure and obviously many of you feel the same way. It’s still vandalism and it’s not that great a leap to predict that others who see her doing that will think it’s ok to paint graffiti on a building. Younger vandals who don’t care about much won’t care that they just defaced a nice building. Wonder how you’ll all feel when the blight creeps into your neighborhood. This incident occurred in Washington Heights – why is it in the WSR?
She says she wasn’t read her rights. And what rights are those, in the absence of interrogation? Everybody who is arrested is suddenly a legal beagle.
I saw this headline on my computer screen before I scrolled down to see the photo. My first thought was, “the writer must be black.” I scrolled down to see the photo and was so disappointed that I was right.
I’m white, of a similar age, and live in the 60s. I’m fairly certain if I did the same thing, illegal or not, I would not have been arrested given the neighborhood and my race.
It’s amazing during this pandemic to continue to see the disparity of treatment by the police between races. Ignore social distancing while white in Central Park – no problem. Do it in another part of town while black – get arrested.
We are supposed to look the other way regarding defacing private property (graffiti) based on age, skin color, message and gender? No thanks.
Come on people. It was chalk which can easily be washed or wiped away. Maybe what she did was not right but I bet the cops were Trump supporters. They could have given her a warning or a ticket. What a waste of time and resources.
How can they give a ticket to someone who doesn’t have an ID? That’s the point of taking her to the station where they can establish her identity and then issue her a desk appearance ticket as you suggested. That’s how they prevent people who intend on committing a crime from simply not carrying ID and walking away.
I’m sorry but i cant imagine that any of you high and mighty haters who are so coldhearted can be anything but white.
When I read stories like this about America, it amazes me that you don’t realize that you’re living in a literal police state. And I’m dismayed at how many of you seem to know it but think it’s a good and just thing.
I lived through the dark days of a decrepit, filthy, and crime-ridden NYC and don’t want to gradually return to those times. It’s necessary to use whatever measures are necessary to stop vandalism and crimes that you probably think should be tolerated. Do you think it’s ok to also look the other way when kids empty water buckets on cops? I’m often critical of cops when it come to productivity but support their doing their job for any violation/crime. You can’t pick and choose what should be enforced.
I agree completely with the sentiment of her graffiti.
She should not have written it even in chalk on a private building. The police had every reasonable cause to stop her and tell her she shouldn’t be doing it and confiscate the chalk.
And what they actually did to her was outrageously far over the line of any reasonable response, and calls for serious training for the officers involved. Why would they do this? It’s bizarre and disproportionate.
Some commenters here seem to have a really unreasonable idea that anyone who commits any infraction of the law regardless how trivial or small has earned almost any police response regardless how enormous and violent. Human beings make lots of mistakes and sometimes those mistakes are criminal. That doesn’t make them stop counting as human beings.
Horrifying. Jill, your community stands with you. This intimidation by NYPD is soaked in racism. I am so sorry this happened to you ❤️
I hope she writes it on the sidewalk for the rest of her life!
Legally, I don’t know how this would stand up in court.
“Graffiti” is defined in Penal Law §145.60(2) as the etching, painting, covering, drawing upon or otherwise placing of a mark upon public or private property with intent to damage such property. In other words, the acts of using a paint pen, a liquid aerosol container, a permanent marker, a pencil, a knife or a chisel to carve a marking out of property are all equally illegal under the graffiti statute.
Since chalk is quite arguably non-damaging, the case likely would be tossed.
However, she is IMO guilty of antisocial behavior. 1. When she left her home, she carried chalk, with intent to deface something. Though she claims she was just going to the drugstore 2. She complains in the article about this arrest occurring during a pandemic, and that she had to ask the police for a mask. Meaning, when she left home, during a pandemic and as a member of a high risk group, she did not have a mask! 3. She complains about people’s rights being taken away, but what about the rights of the property owner to have a nice clean wall.
The police overreached – a warning would have sufficed. But she also should not be writing on other people’s walls, with chalk or anything else. And she needs to wear a mask!
It’s not the non-damaging nature of the chalk.
It’s the lack of intent: – the ordinance requires ” intent to damage such property”
The woman’s “intent” was to express a political idea, not to damage property.
What makes you think she left home with chalk (and therefore the intent to deface)? I see random bits of chalk nonstop on UWS… or more accurately, my small kids who *love* chalk find it on nearly every walk; I spend a lot of time trying to prevent them from picking these bits of chalk up and making their own “graffiti”. I’d always wondered why there’s so much chalk laying around on UWS sidewalks until I started noticing repair/construction crews using it to demarcate sites and merchants/restaurants using it to write daily signage. Take a look for yourself, once you notice it, you’ll see it everywhere. I’m willing to bet Jill Nelson happened upon—rather than equipped herself with—the chalk used here. It’s a frightening state of affairs when a harmless act of protest instantly merits an aggressive response like this… almost as if someone were actively hunting for anything that might help meet a quota, no matter how ridiculous the “infraction.”
I would LOVE to know if the building owner regards Ms. Nelson’s actions as “defacement” but since her statement (all 12 characters of it), was gone before she was released from police custody, seems they would not have had time to weigh in either way.
you people are insane!
She defaced property.
I don’t care if it is chalk or her own blood. It is not her right to do that.
And then of course the cultural elite radicals defend her. And then they throw the race card in as well. So taking this to an extreme if I was a skinhead and I put the swastika sign on that said shed would I / should I be arrested? And why should I? Of course you should. And ONLY because you are defacing said property and it is not yours. Do it on your property and you are within your right. Called Freedom of Speech. It has nothing to do with loving or hating Trump. She was wrong. Sorry she went thru that horrible process but girl grow up…oh I think that is way too late in her case and what does it matter if she is a famous writer , Jerry Seinfeld or a bum on the street? Lets have respect for what is not ours. How can anyone think differently?
Wow, anyone who actually processed the entire article and not just the parts you’re talking about can certainly think differently. Many people here just completely glossing over the police behavior, which is at the core of the article. And those attacking the police behavior are not necessarily defending her actions. It is pathetic how people have become so incapable of holding two thoughts at the same time. Practice.
Exactly all this righteous indignation for the law while conveniently ommitting due process.No word on why her rights were violated except to point out she may be lying. Nauseating hypocrisy.
Commomsensically, she should have been issued a ticket and someone should have contacted her home to verify her identity.
Congrats on your youthful and harmless act of resistance, Jill Nelson. Ironic, but not unexpected, that the cops would treat you badly. Ironic because Jill is the editor of the book ‘Police Brutality: An Anthology’ whose twelve essays address race relation in the US. This experience could be the Afterword in the next edition of the book.
So you’re suggesting that this was a planned act meant to create new literary material and boost her visibility? Interesting angle.
Two white men shoot a black jogger in Georgia and
no charges are brought against them for over two months. Here a black woman writes a few words on public property and she is arrested and thrown in the cell for over five hours! Where is justice?
I’m shocked to hear such hateful words coming from the mouths of neighbors of mine (if these posters are indeed UWS neighbors and not just randomly trolling for fun from God-knows-where). The world is a sad and scary place right now.
Pink chalk but no ID? Priorities are a bit skewed
Does noone else think it odd that a woman out on a quick errand would carry around chalk but not id? I mean if you had kids under 10 it would be normal but chalk is dusty and unless you intend to go around writing on walls, why would it be part of your go pack?
I was wondering about that too.
I mean, if her graffiti was some spur of the moment impulse that’s one thing.
But how many 67 year old women walk around with pink chalk?
She clearly planned on doing this beforehand. I’m not saying the police were justified in their treatment of her – and we don’t know all the facts yet – but she was foolish for doing this.
I’m sorry did I miss the part about chalk not being chalk? Ridiculously racist arrest and mind-boggling rationalizations from folks I’m not proud to call my neighbors. Ready to sidewalk chalk with the Notorious Graffiti Grandma in Teddy Roosevelt park where children chalk up the Nobel Prize obelisk every day.
This is so infuriating.I expected to read everyone coming to Ms Nelson’s defense and was shocked to see the opposite. The police were crude and wrong. Threatening her with the Tombs and remaining over night – it is so absurd. A peaceful protest in chalk. Kudos Jill Nelson!
Outrageous overreach by the cops. Writing in chalk which will disappear in the first rain? Slander? Trump slanders whole communities and fails to act competently against COVID causing thousands to perish. Trump=Plague indeed.
Hard to understand the police mindset………
aside from lacking in any humor..every bit of behavior is measured as some degree of crime..
Where are the freedoms that we supposedly have? She could write whatever the fck she wanted about DumbTrump…it’s her point of view. Doing it in the bldg. is the issue. Now, the NYPD exagerares a lot…they probably knew that she was a journalist, and since Police agents hates the media…that’s it! But it’s FREEDOM OF SPEECH…Id write “Fck Trump and his people”…
The only reason this happened is because it was in upset Manhattan, where the police goes on overdrive with the rudeness and lack of CPR (courtesy, professionalism and respect).
Sue for false arrest.
I’m with her. If you’re equating this truly petty crime with the larger civil liberties issues she’s discussing, well, maybe you’re part of the problem.
Hmmm interesting comments. Only in NYC kids only in NYC. I would think most would say put her in jail (or more humanely give her a ticket). Look, if i have a building and some one writes on that building “God Loves All His Special Children” and a cop sees it. Should I not be arrested for that? Of course you should. If I write “I love Hitler” of course you should. Why? Because it is my property. Nothing to do with freedom of speech! I think the cops went a bit far, but come on I get conspiracy theories on here now. They set her up now. They were just waiting for her with binoculars now. OMG! Really? You hate the cops till you need them and then you cry when they are not around. She broke the law. End of statement. Black, yellow, white or green.
Why would you be arrested if someone else writes on your building “God loves children blah blah blah”? If you write “I love Hitler” on your building why would anyone else be arrested?
Please check your pronouns and try again…
People are so politically charged these days that each person bends the arguments as they see fit, as if the act of defacing private property is admissible solely depending on what the message was. Grow up, people. And I mean you 67yo lady as well. Express yourself online, in your books, to your friends, from your window, but don’t complain when you get into trouble because you chose to cause trouble. Or who else here leaves home concerned enough to carry a piece of chalk in their pocket but not their own ID? Stick to the facts: if you’d like your walls defaced with her “art,” invite her over. But stop blaming the NYPD for doing its job. Her level of entitlement is quite something; she demand an apology for what, not being left alone while defacing private property?
That is so awful and frightening. This is America, NewYork City, not some dictatorship country…OR IS IT?
It appears justice is about to be served so as you quote “show up, because if you don’t we’re going to come to your house and arrest you.”. Basically tell it to a judge, your not above the law regardless of the time.
Not exactly the brightest chalk in the box.
I guarantee you if she was white she would not have been arrested. Come on. It was chalk on plywood. Let’s face fact – a black woman speaking her political voice is what triggered these cops. AND those that defend them.
What I’m wondering is: where did the pink chalk come from?
I must be missing something because I don’t understand why people are asking about the color of the chalk. Pink chalk comes from the same place blue and green and yellow etc. chalk comes from. A box of plastic container at the toy or stationary store. What’s the big deal about pink chalk???
My point — she had the PINK CHALK on her. Weird. And as for this thing about color… if someone were scrawling all over YOUR building, I am sure you and your neighbors would not appreciate it. Write whatever you want on the sidewalk or other public property.
The irrational, bullying stance of the NYPD members who overwhelmed a respected member of the community for blowing off a witty bit of
steam in the midst of a seeming;y endless plague is beyond comprehension. Could it be that she offended the NYPD cops with her anti-
Trump graffiti? She was denied her rights’ not only should she have been read her Miranda rights, she should have asked for an attorney. Who’ll speak out for her? Columbia?. The Community? The mayor?
You’re incorrectly introducing a perceived rights violation. If she had her ID at the time of the incident, she would have been given a desk appearance ticket and been on her way. Her identity had to be established which is why she was taken to the station. That act alone didn’t trigger the need to read her the Miranda warning which wouldn’t have been required in the first place to write a ticket for a Class A misdemeanor. A Miranda warning is required ONLY when in custody AND being interrogated which she was not. She had plenty of time until providing information for this article to find out whether she was entitled to a Miranda warning. Yet the first words out her mouth are about police brutality (rough cuffing; shoving her into the SUV) and that she was denied her rights in an attempt to convince others that she was wronged by the police who did their job properly.
I disagree with you on so many other matters, but you are actually reasoning rather clearly here and shedding some necessary light.
Still, you know, the problem here is the reality and the
perception of highly unequal enforcement of the law.
No doubt Ms. Nelson was somewhat in the wrong, but was the police response fair and proportionate — that is, according to Ms. Nelson’s account of it? For you know full well that their response can “vary.”
Who cares if she is respected. I don’t care if you’re a Nobel prize winner or an ex-con, don’t participate in criminal activity. Why should ANYONE get a pass? Not you! And not me!
If she were white she would have been reprimanded and given a ticket.
Clearly, as a vicious criminal, Ms Nelson deserved to be locked up, to protect defenseless boarded-up buildings from desecration.
If she wanted to break the law without seeing the inside of a jail cell, she should have lied to the FBI, instead. That’s a crime that carries no jailtime.
Ms. Nelson’s crime was writing her message in chalk rather than spray paint. A little rain and the graffiti would be washed away.
Meanwhile, trump continues to show disdain for all the people who have died and are suffering because of his ineptness.
Let’s see how “outraged” everyone would be if a white 67 year old woman said the same about Obama (thousands died of swine flu under his watch)…no doubt there’d be none. That man was a disgrace of a President as evidenced by all the dirty/illegal actions committed by him and his admin…Fast & Furious, Benghazi, IRS scandal, Russian collusion farce (Steele dossier, FISA lies, Mueller investigation, Paris accord (didn’t have the authority to bind the USA to an int’l treaty w/out senate approval), stirring racial conflict (Gates, Gray & Brown)…etc., etc., etc.
I just retired out of NYC and couldn’t be happier. And oh by the way, let Cuomo & DeBlasio ask for all the federal assistance they want. As long as the state and the city do not comply with immigration laws, they should receive nothing. Let them self-fund their illegal “sanctuary” policies.
Yet still hanging on to NYC. Revealed.
Glad you’re gone, Cray Cray.