BROOKLYN — Some demonstrators protesting the lack of heat and electricity at a federal detention center in New York City attempted to get into the facility on Sunday, and witnesses said guards pushed them back and sprayed them with an unknown stinging substance.
A reporter and photographer for The Associated Press were at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn when a woman whose son is being detained tried to get into the jail. Protesters have been outside the facility in recent days following news reports that those housed there have been largely without heat or power for the past week and also haven't been able to communicate with lawyers or loved ones.
On Sunday, an inmate was able to call through the window of his cell, which faces out to the street, to his mother below. The woman, crying and upset, tried to get into the facility, where visits have been stopped.
She was followed by activists and media into the lobby, where any visitors have to pass through metal detectors.
Witnesses said officers used significant force to push the people out, with some of those attempting to come in being pushed to the ground. The AP photographer saw officers use some type of spray. Those affected were seen washing out their eyes with water or milk.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on the federal Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances around inmates going without heat and electricity at a federal detention center in New York City.
Cuomo, a Democrat, says "these allegations are a violation of human decency and dignity" and "raise questions of potential violations of law."
The Bureau of Prisons has acknowledged that the jail "experienced a partial power outage due to a fire in the switch gear room." The bureau had said a new electrical panel is being installed by an outside contractor and work is expected to be completed by Monday.
The jail administration did not return an email seeking comment on the clash Sunday.
Warning: Video may contain graphic language
Associated Press contributed to this report.