Video Shows Cops Arresting Homeless Advocate Aiding People on Street

A video obtained by Newsweek showed New York City Police (NYPD) officers arresting an advocate for the homeless who was aiding individuals were allegedly being removed from a Manhattan park by police last November.

"NYPD Lt. Jermaine Oden actually arrested Mr. [Derrick] DeMaria, a volunteer homeless advocate, announcing that the arrest was for having 'stolen' property in his possession," DeMaria's lawyer Paul Mills told Newsweek. "The property had just been handed to Mr. DeMaria by NYPD patrol officers under Lt. Oden's command, as independent video, and police body camera footage, proves."

Mills said DeMaria was collecting the property for the unhoused individuals in Tompkins Square Park in New York's East Village neighborhood on November 10, 2021, to retrieve later at a nearby storage facility in order to keep the property from being destroyed by police. In the video, officers with the NYPD watch DeMaria carry away bedding only to arrest him moments later on what Mills said were "false charges."

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, there were 48,691 homeless people in New York City as of December 2021. The organization also reported that the number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping each night in municipal shelters is now 16 percent higher than it was 10 years ago.

Upon DeMaria's arrest, Mills said, the Manhattan District Attorney investigated the incident only to find that there was "no basis" for the arrest, resulting in the charges being dropped.

DeMaria Arrest
This image, taken from a video, shows police arresting homeless advocate Derrick DeMaria. The arrest, which was allegedly for stolen property, occurred after police watched DeMaria remove the property of homeless individuals from the site of NYPD's sweep. Courtesy of @Copwatch_CPU

"In this case, an NYPD lieutenant, previously investigated for encouraging a patrol officer to submit a false report, appears to have encouraged, or ordered, yet another patrol officer to file a false arrest report," Mills told Newsweek. "When a city district attorney investigated, they found no basis for the arrest and dropped the charges."

DeMaria said he plans to sue the city for the arrest. The lawsuit, according to Mills, will seek $225,000 in compensation damages, punitive damages and attorney fees.

When Newsweek contacted NYPD about the body camera footage and a statement regarding the situation, it was issued the following comment:

"We will review the lawsuit if and when we are served," the statement said.

Mills told Newsweek that this situation warrants questions regarding the city's policing practices. He said the use of an alleged false report as a means of punishing those "engaged in activity that the city of New York wants to stop" poses serious issues.

"Even those who wish the unhoused to clear the area should agree that breaking the law; destroying private property, and making false arrests; are not necessary or appropriate for the purpose of cleaning up a sidewalk," Mills told Newsweek. "Not in New York City. Not anywhere in America."

Newsweek reached out to the Manhattan District Attorney's office which declined to comment.