The New York Police Department (NYPD) said that St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ambassador to the United Nations, Camillo Gonsalves, was arrested and placed in handcuffs yesterday after he refused to identify himself, according to the Caribbean Media Corporation.
“The officer asked the ambassador to stop, he refused, he continued and entered into the location, and the officers followed him into the location,” the NYPD said in a terse statement.
But Gonsalves, the eldest son of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, told reporters he had stepped out of his official car as he returned to his office after lunch and passed through the same barricade he had used “for the past five years” when he was challenged by a police officer, CMC said.
According to CMC, in a verbal exchange that followed, with the Vincentian diplomat walking towards the building’s elevator, Gonsalves said the officer grabbed him by the neck and shoulders, spun him around and then demanded identification.
After asking “why” and asking if he was under arrest, the unidentified officer said “you are now” and placed him in handcuffs with assistance from other officers, Gonsalves said. He said police arrested him for “disorderly conduct”.
According to reports, other United Nations envoys and mission staff, including some from Dominica, St Lucia and The Gambia rushed to the lobby and told the officer he had made a mistake in arresting Gonsalves, who has diplomatic immunity.
“Separate and apart from any diplomatic immunities, I personally think the officer was wrong and committed an assault against me,” said Gonsalves, adding that he was handcuffed for about 20 minutes.
Gonsalves said it was only then that the officer “for the first time, inquired who I was”, the Associated Press quoted Gonsalves as saying. “I told him. He called for his superiors. The US State Department, as host country, was also called, and they sent representatives.
But after discussions involving Gonsalves, officials from the US Mission to the United Nations and other diplomats, “the NYPD were persuaded to release the handcuffs” and he went up to his office, CMC said.