Shaina Taub Describes Being Arrested on Her Stoop

Shaina Taub. Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

On Thursday, June 4, just after 8pm, NYPD officers arrested composer Shaina Taub and her husband while they were standing on the stoop of their apartment building on the Upper West Side cheering on a protest against police brutality happening on their street. “There were only six or seven folks on the side of the street in a line in a peaceful protest, and maybe three times as many cops in a line facing them, so my husband and I and our neighbors walked out and applauded them,” Taub told Vulture. After that, a police officer announced that New York’s nightly curfew had started. “The line of protestors stayed, and me and my neighbors went back across the street and we remained on the stoop continuing to cheer them.” As the cops started to arrest the protestors, an officer came over to her stoop and told Taub and her neighbors to go inside. “The group of neighbors started to go inside, and I said, ‘we are, we’re on our steps,’ but I was going inside,” Taub said. “And then I was grabbed from behind by an officer, forcibly pulled off of the steps.”

Taub is a musical theater actor and composer who has written music for The Public Theater’s musical Shakespeare adaptations of Twelfth Night and As You Like It, and is currently working on the lyrics for the stage version of The Devil Wears Prada. Much of her work has been political, and she had participated in protests earlier this week, but hadn’t intended to get involved on Thursday. “I wasn’t trying to make trouble in that moment,” she said. “I didn’t see him, there was no ‘you’re under arrest’ or anything, just my arms pulled behind my back with the zip-tie cuffs that they use.”

Then, the officers arrested Taub’s husband Matt Gehring, as one of their neighbors recorded the video. As the officer pulled Taub to the police car, she remembered him “snarling intense verbal intimidation” including calling her a “snowflake” as she tried to comply. “I got the sense that someone snapped, and I received his physical and verbal anger,” she said. Taub and Gehring were placed in a car with others who had been arrested that night, including a delivery worker who tried to explain to the cops that he had the ability to be outside as an essential worker and whose arrest was filmed on video. “He had something on his phone that he was told to show [as proof he could be out past a curfew], and of course they didn’t give him that opportunity,” Taub said.

Taub and her husband were kept for a couple hours at the police precinct and released later that night, near the same time as the delivery worker. She was shocked at “what felt like a concerted, opposite effort” the officers had toward making pandemic safety precautions. “I was wearing a mask and my husband was too, and in my entire evening, not a single officer I saw had a mask or any other PPE,” she said. “There was no PPE offered at the precinct to anyone, no hand sanitizer or anything, and the cells were so full it was impossible to maintain any social distancing.”

Since her arrest, Taub has been in contact with the New York Civil Liberties Union, with whom she has worked in the past. She felt like it was important to share the experience “to amplify the far worse brutality that is going on in communities of color, and to see how evidence of one tiny example of excessive force to help in larger cases on behalf of the people right now.” She also hoped that she could share her story to point people in the direction of actionable change, and said that her friend, activist Nelini Stamp, had directed her to the organization Communities United for Police Reform, which is currently trying to change the New York budget before it is finalized this summer, in order to reduce to NYPD budget and increase spending on education, housing, and other social services. Taub protested earlier this week, and plans to continue to do so over the weekend. “I’m planning to go to a March starting in Harlem tomorrow,” Taub said. “So I’m trying to make this not make me fearful, and still continue to show up.”

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Shaina Taub Describes Being Arrested on Her Stoop