Handcuffing of subway vendor in Brooklyn prompts outrage

A now-viral video shows members of the NYPD arresting a street vendor who was selling churros at a Brooklyn subway station is drawing criticism and outrage.

But the NYPD said the vendor was not arrested and that its officers were just enforcing the law.

The video caught the attention of New York City leaders and activists who say they are concerned about the way police are enforcing laws on the city's transit system. 

On Monday, Elsa, the vendor, broke down in tears as she described how cops have taken her food carts with churros 10 times before. She said she knows it is illegal but said she has never been handcuffed before.

The incident brought out elected officials, the Riders Alliance and others to protest at the Broadway Junction Station where it happened, right in front of the transit police district headquarters.

The incident came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the MTA to add 500 new transit cops to its ranks to address homelessness and "quality of life" issues. 

"What those cops are dong does not in any way make me feel safer. It does not improve my quality of life," activist Sofia Newman, who captured the video, told reporters on Monday. "It makes it harder for marginalized and underserved people of color."

The law is clear: no one is allowed to sell food in the subway.

NYPD Transit Chief Edward Dellatorre tweeted: "Regarding the vendor our officers approached at the Broadway Junction station: she was not arrested, she received a summons. She's received 10 summonses in the past 6 months."

Officials said that police vouchered the woman's property as arrest evidence but only issued her a summons and then released from custody within minutes.

In a tweet, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, "Over-policing our subways isn't going to solve anything.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer added, "This kind of enforcement isn't going to make anyone safer."

"To consistently blame the police officer is inaccurate and wrong ," Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins said. "Police officers are enforcing laws, and if elected officials don't like the laws, then they should change the law and stop hiding behind the officer."