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NYC protests turn bloody, man arrested

By Sarah May
|
May 9, 2023

The controversy that has erupted following the death of a homeless street performer in the New York Subway turned violent Monday night when protests grew heated, as the Daily Mail reports.

Amid what reports suggest was a threatening and possibly violent schizophrenic episode on May 1, Jordan Neely was restrained in a chokehold by 24-year-old former Marine Daniel Penny and other riders, subsequently losing consciousness and passing away.

Controversy Swirls

The aftermath of Neely's death has sparked outrage among activists and protestors who suggest that the sometime Michael Jackson impersonator – who was Black – was targeted for violence by Penney – who is white.

On the other side of the coin are those who have hailed Penny as a hero who took matters into his own hands when Neely engaged in abusive and threatening conduct on the subway and placed everyone in the area in danger.

Prosecutors are reportedly in the process of weighing whether to charge Penney in Neely's death, and outspoken voices on the left – including those of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) have labeled the incident a murder and have attempted to portray Neely as an innocent victim, with the former calling the man's death a “public execution” and the latter stating that Neely was killed “for being a passenger on our subway trains.”

The reality, however, appears to be far more complex, given Neely's history of mental illness, drug abuse, and a criminal record that included 42 arrests, including instances in which he punched two female senior citizens on separate occasions back in 2021.

Protests Unfold

Given the fervently held opinions on each side of the issue, it is not surprising that demonstrations held on Monday by those claiming to seek justice for Neely grew heated and left at least one protestor bloodied.

During a rally near the lower Manhattan subway station at Broadway-Lafayette, protestors clashed with police attempting to maintain order in the area, as the Mail noted.

One demonstrator was seen being taken to the ground by police as blood dripped from a head wound, and a number of others were handled similarly, with one man being subdued by a police officer's knee.

According to CBS News, at least 11 protestors were ultimately arrested Monday night, with authorities revealing that a Molotov cocktail had also been found at the demonstration site, where multiple officers were reported to have been injured as well.

Alarming History

Though some have attempted to paint Neely as a recognizable street performer trying to overcome a traumatic personal background, the truth was reportedly much darker, with the man appearing on the so-called “Top 50” list – a compilation of homeless individuals in New York City most in need of psychiatric and other help, as the New York Post notes.

Maintained by the New York Department of Homeless Services, the list is made up of cases flagged by service providers who are aware of individuals in dire need of treatment and assistance.

Court records further revealed that Neely's history of mental disturbances included numerous instances in which he lashed out physically at people on the subway as well as on the streets where he often performed, as Fox News notes.

That conduct is said to have persisted up until the day Neely died, with a freelance journalist who recorded his final altercation reporting that the now-deceased man boarded the F train and began threatening fellow passengers, throwing garbage, and declaring that he was “ready to die” and cared not if he was sent to “prison for life.”

Penny's Lawyers Speak

As their client anxiously awaits word on whether he will be charged in Neely's death, attorneys for Penny released a statement explaining that the ex-Marine was simply trying to protect others from what appeared to be an imminent threat of serious harm, as the Mail added.

“Earlier this week Daniel Penny was involved in a tragic incident on the NYC Subway, which ended in the death of Jordan Neely,” the statement began.

After expressing condolences to Neely's loved ones, the lawyers observed that he “had a documented history of violent and erratic behavior, the apparent result of ongoing and untreated mental illness” and added that “[w]hen Mr. Neely began aggressively threatening Daniel Penny and the other passengers, Daniel, with the help of others, acted to protect themselves, until help arrived. Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely.”

Neely's family was unmoved, however, stating, “Daniel Penny's press release is not an apology nor an expression of regret. It is a character assassination and a clear example of why he believes he was entitled to take Jordan's life,” and it remains to be seen whether a grand jury set this week to be impaneled in the matter sees things similarly.