A defense attorney for a Brooklyn man charged with making "terroristic threats" argued Tuesday that the protester merely was using "artistic license" when he indicated that he and others could burn Manhattan's Diamond District on Saturday.
"Israel Burns is a fierce advocate for criminal justice reform and more specifically, police reform. He is also an artist and as such employs metaphor and allegory frequently in his social media posts," New York attorney Kenneth E. Belkin wrote in a letter to Fox News.
"Mr. Burns takes artistic license with his words and as a street poet, merely reports what he sees. What he and all of us have seen for the past week, is NYC [New York City] burning both literally and figuratively."
Burns received attention after telling Fox News this past Saturday that he and others might commit acts of violence during ongoing protests surrounding George Floyd's death.
"Today, I'm giving a demonstration from Barclay's Center at 6 p.m. to City Hall, and that's the first stop -- and we're hoping [Mayor Bill] De Blasio and [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo come out and talk to us and give the youth some direction," he told Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich.
"But if they don't, then [the] next stop is the Diamond District," he said, referring to a block on Manhattan's 47th Street known for jewelry shops. "And gasoline, thanks to [President] Trump, is awfully cheap. So we're giving them a chance right now to do the right thing."
He also showed an "#FTP" hashtag apparently written in marker on his arm. "You know, I'm a leader of this FTP movement. It means a lot of things. It can mean free the people, it can mean for the people, it could also mean fire to property -- and that's very possible."
Belkin argued, however, that Burns' comments didn't break the law. "Those words do not legally amount to a terroristic threat or a false report of an incident, as he is criminally charged with doing," he said.
He also accused law enforcement of a "brazen act of police brutality" in arresting him. "He did not resist, yet in a brazen act of police brutality, the police in front of a large group of protesters (with their cameras out) squeezed the handcuffs on him with such force that it broke the skin on both wrists, causing him to bleed and fear losing circulation in his hands," Belkin wrote.
Fox News has not confirmed this and the NYPD did not specifically address this accusation while commenting on the letter.
The NYPD confirmed that Burns, 34, was charged with making a terroristic threat, falsely reporting an incident and aggravated harassment.
An NYPD spokesperson told Fox News: "On Saturday, June 6, 2020, at approximately 1530 hours [3:30 p.m.], in front of 620 Atlantic Avenue (Barclays Center), the individual made terroristic threats during a live interview with a Fox News correspondent. He was subsequently taken into custody without incident. The investigation is ongoing."