Republican New York City Council Member Inna Vernikov was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a firearm after photos of her wearing a gun on her waist while counter-protesting a pro-Palestinian rally at Brooklyn College circulated across social media channels.
According to a spokesperson for the New York City Police Department, Vernikov turned herself in to the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn at 2:50 a.m. Friday and was released with a desk appearance ticket. While the council member recently secured a concealed carry gun license, a New York state law passed last year bans the possession of firearms at protests and rallies – even with a permit, as City & State previously reported. Vernikov, who is Jewish and a lawyer, has criticized people who’ve protested in support of Palestine in wake of Hamas’ attack on Israel last weekend. Two of her City Council colleagues, Farah Louis and Kalman Yeger, joined her at the Thursday rally.
Outcry has been swift. As news of Vernikov’s arrest spread, responses came from various levels of government. Several people hinted at potential future action to come.
On Friday afternoon, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams announced that she had referred the matter to the Council’s ethics committee. The ethics committee consists of Council Members Vernikov, Yeger, Carlina Rivera, Eric Dinowitz and Crystal Hudson. Vernikov will have to recuse herself, and because Yeger was at the protest with Vernikov, it's likely he will too, according to a council source. The criminal investigation would likely need to proceed first, they said, explaining that the council’s ethics investigation would be unlikely to occur concurrently as the committee's process can't interfere with the district attorney's process.
Amber Adler, Vernikov’s Democratic opponent running to represent District 48, also called on the City Council to expel Vernikov from the body.
This article was originally posted Oct. 13. It was last updated Oct. 16. Here’s a running list of many of the officials who have criticized Vernikov so far:
State elected officials
Gov. Kathy Hochul: “New York’s gun safety laws apply to everyone,” the governor wrote on X.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal: “This is the height of irresponsibility by an elected official during a dangerous and tense time for New Yorkers. I hope the Council Member will be removed from all committee assignments and swiftly brought to justice, including removal from office if convicted,” he wrote on X.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris: “We should probably change that. I’ll work with my colleagues to look into a common-sense gun safety proposal to address this gap,” he said in response to a reporter pointing out that New York doesn’t currently have a law restricting “the open carrying of long guns in public.”
Assembly Member and Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn: “I thank City Council Speaker Adams for swiftly condemning the unacceptable and dangerous act committed by Council Member Inna Vernikov in front of Brooklyn College,” she said in a statement. “I agree with the Speaker swiftly assigning this matter to the Council's Ethics Committee for a thorough and impartial investigation, where committee members may have to recuse themselves. We must all operate within the law, and that is especially true for elected officials, who should set an example. Flouting gun control laws during this time of public unease is especially wrong. The Brooklyn Democratic Party urges all to remain lawful and peaceful while exercising their civic rights, no matter your viewpoint.”
New York City elected officials
New York City Mayor Eric Adams: “Bringing a firearm to a protest or rally is against the law, and no one is above the law,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said on behalf of Adams.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams: "In this moment of tragedy and grief overseas and in our city, we must make room for one another’s grief and humanity, and provide space and support for people to cry out in their personal and cultural pain,” he said in a statement. “Council Member Vernikov carrying and showing off a weapon as a tool of intimidation and seeming threat of violence against protesters shows a dangerous dereliction of our duty as elected officials to help New Yorkers be and feel safe. I am relieved that she has now been charged for this action and surrendered her permit.”
New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams: “It is unacceptable and unlawful for a civilian to ever bring a firearm to a rally or protest, and especially important for elected officials to model a respect for the law that is expected of all New Yorkers. It is the responsibility of the NYPD and the Brooklyn District Attorney to enforce the law in what is a criminal matter, and the Council will respect that process. The Council is investigating the impact of Council Member Vernikov’s actions and the disposition within the legal process on her participation in the body. I am referring this matter to the Standards and Ethics Committee, which may require the recusal of committee members,” she said a statement.
New York City Council Member Keith Powers: “It is deeply irresponsible for an elected official to bring and brandish a gun to a public event. New Yorkers do not view this type of display of intimidation as "responsible gun ownership," which is why so many of us work to strengthen city, state, and national laws,” he wrote on X.
New York City Council Member Tiffany Cabán: “In my career as a public defender handling over 1,000 cases and witnessing tens of thousands handled by my colleagues, I have *never* seen a desk appearance ticket issued for a gun possession case. Just sayin,” she wrote on X.
Later, she added “It should come as no surprise that I don’t believe @InnaVernikov should be thrown in Rikers, the way most New Yorkers facing felony gun possession charges would, but she is clearly unfit for public office, and the Council should immediately take steps toward expelling her.”
New York City Council Member Shahana Hanif: “@InnaVernikov brandished a weapon in my alma mater to intimidate students who were peacefully protesting. This disgusting display of vigilantism and willingness to break the law is proof she is unfit to serve as an elected representative. I'm calling for her expulsion,” she wrote on X.
New York City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli: “There’s a responsibility that comes with owning a firearm, and she’ll have to address these charges with the court,” Borelli told The New York Times. “I know she is sorry about what happened.”
New York City Council Progressive Caucus: “We have all seen pictures of Council Member Vernikov brandishing a firearm at a peaceful Brooklyn College protest this Thursday. This act of violent intimidation and unlawful action taken by an elected official has no place in our public discourse and cannot be tolerated in the City Council. Council Member Vernikov’s attempts to intimidate peaceful demonstrators, many of whom are students, is a despicable and violent act. Her willingness to endanger the lives of students cannot go unnoticed and without consequences. Openly carrying a weapon to a public university and a protest is not only despicable, it is illegal. We are calling on the Committee on Standards and Ethics to begin an immediate investigation for expulsion.”
Amber Adler, Democratic candidate running against Vernikov in District 48: “This is a serious time that demands serious leadership. My opponent’s PR stunt of openly carrying a gun in a sensitive location broke multiple laws and could have turned into a mass-murder on the streets of Southern Brooklyn had someone grabbed her unsecured gun,” Adler said in a statement. “There are consequences for committing crimes. No one is above the law. My opponent's actions are unhinged and have endangered every Jewish New Yorker and she should be immediately expelled from the New York City Council."
Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Time to go, Councilmember. You can’t say you stand for law and order, and then illegally and purposefully bring a gun to a protest rally. Elected officials are held to a higher standard, which you just failed. @NYCCouncil,” he wrote on X.
Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn: “I thank City Council Speaker Adams for swiftly condemning the unacceptable and dangerous act committed by Council Member Inna Vernikov in front of Brooklyn College. I agree with the Speaker swiftly assigning this matter to the Council’s Ethics Committee for a thorough and impartial investigation, where committee members may have to recuse themselves. We must all operate within the law, and that is especially true for elected officials, who must set an example. Flouting gun control laws during this time of public unease is especially wrong. The Brooklyn Democratic Party urges all to remain lawful and peaceful while exercising their civic rights, no matter your viewpoint,” she wrote in a statement.
Theo Oshiro, New York Working Families Party state officer: “Armed intimidation has no place in our city, much less near a place of learning. No one who deliberately brings a gun to a college campus to intimidate students should serve in public office. We call on Councilmember Vernikov to resign her position, and expect that the New York City Council will take appropriate measures if the Councilmember fails to do so," he said in a statement.
The Association of Legislative Employees: “ALE is outraged that CM Vernikov visibly displayed a weapon to threaten students. We have reached out to the Speaker's Office to encourage prompt action. The Council must stand firmly for protecting staff and the public & against rising threats of politically-motivated violence,” the union shared on X.
New York City Police Department Patrol Chief John Chell: “You can’t do that. You have a concealed license permit that you write, but you aren’t allowed to have it at a protest. It stokes fear in people. It could have caused a riot yesterday if you don’t know who she is, so you have to be more responsible in how you handle that permit, in how you handle that license,” he said on Pix11 News.
– with reporting from Annie McDonough
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated who was on the City Council ethics committee.