On live TV, Guardian Angels rough up a man in Times Square then misidentify him as a ‘migrant’

Feb 7, 2024, 3:29 PM | Updated: 5:20 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Members of the Guardian Angels roughed up a man during a live interview on Fox News Tuesday night, then misidentified him as a “migrant” in a primetime segment meant to highlight disorder and crime caused by new arrivals to New York City.

The bizarre altercation played out as Curtis Sliwa, founder of the anti-crime patrol group, was speaking to Sean Hannity from Times Square, flanked by volunteers in their signature red berets and bomber jackets.

As some Guardian Angels began leaving Sliwa’s side to attend to an off-screen disturbance, the camera panned to show them confronting an unidentified man, pushing him to the sidewalk and placing him in a headlock.

“In fact, our guys have just taken down one of the migrant guys on the corner of 42nd and 7th where all of this has taken place,” Sliwa told Hannity. Throwing his hands in the air, he added: “They’ve taken over!”

The man is not a migrant, but a New Yorker from the Bronx, police said Wednesday afternoon. Though Sliwa claimed the man had been caught shoplifting, police provided no evidence to support the allegation.

According to a New York Police Department spokesperson, officers arrived to find a man “detained by bystanders” after he allegedly tried to disrupt a live interview. Police said the man was issued a disorderly conduct summons because he was acting in a loud and threatening manner on a public sidewalk.

The spokesperson did not respond to questions about whether any members of the Guardian Angels were under investigation for their role in the altercation.

The incident came after a brawl in Times Square between police and a group of migrants generated waves of backlash against the city’s asylum seekers. Some advocates for immigrants have blamed local officials and the police department for stoking fears of a “migrant crime wave,” even as the city’s crime rate remains largely unchanged since the arrival of tens of thousands of asylum seekers.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Sliwa said he had believed the man was a migrant because he was “speaking Spanish” and because other Guardian Angels had encountered him with other Spanish speakers on previous patrols.

“He was put down so he wouldn’t hurt himself or anyone else,” Sliwa said.

The Guardian Angels have been a fixture in New York since 1979 when Sliwa founded them to patrol the streets and subways during the city’s high-crime days. They have drawn criticism in the past, including allegations of targeting people of color. Sliwa also admitted years ago that he had fabricated some of the group’s early exploits for publicity.

City Councilmember Erik Bottcher, who represents the area around Times Square, said the group should not be detaining people without legal authority.

“Vigilantism is not the answer,” Bottcher said. “When civilians take justice into their own hands it can escalate conflicts and lead to even more dangerous situations putting everyone at risk.”

In May, a U.S. Marine veteran riding the subway placed a fellow passenger in a chokehold to stop him from yelling at people on the train. The subdued man, former subway performer Jordan Neely, died. The ex-Marine, Daniel Penny, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.

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On live TV, Guardian Angels rough up a man in Times Square then misidentify him as a ‘migrant’