Charles Vavruska, education director for Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village), says he was hit by a car while protesting against Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s opposition to the Specialized High School Admissions Test in Bay Ridge on Tuesday.
“Carranza’s going to have to drive a tank if he wants to hurt me,” Vavruska, who was protesting as a citizen, not representing Holden’s office, told the Chronicle on Friday.
Vavruska made the cover of last Friday’s New York Daily News with the headline “Crash Test Dummy.”
“When you hit somebody on the sidewalk you think he’d stop and not leave the scene but I guess Carranza’s so privileged that he doesn’t have to obey the laws like everybody else,” Vavruska said.
The New York Post reported that protesters swarmed Carranza’s chauffeur-driven car after Tuesday’s meeting. Video shows him falling to the ground as the car passes him, but it was taken from the other side of the vehicle and does not clearly show any actual contact.
The incident occurred as DOE officials were leaving a meeting with residents of the SHSAT. They were in two cars. The first DOE car came by as angry protesters screamed, following the meeting. The protesters moved forward into the driveway of IS 31 in Bay Ridge, where the meeting was held, though a second car was coming.
“I fully expected it to stop but it sped up a little bit, it hit my leg, pushed me back,” Vavruska said.
He didn’t want to guess if he was hit intentionally.
“I don’t want to speculate on purpose,” he said. “I do think that Carranza has disregard for the parents in general. He’s always trying to ram through his warped ideology over the parents objections and the parents are out there protesting his warped ideology and he rammed them physically.”
He’s not suing the city but says he pressed charges against Carranza — one for leaving the scene of an accident, the second for aggravated harassment.
He claims a call he received from a media outlet was tied to the chancellor.
“They called me yesterday and I felt that it was set up by Carranza to intimidate me from filing charges,” he said.
Vavruska said he was called at 9:30 a.m. and he held a press conference to press charges at the 68th Precinct at 1 p.m., which he claimed was attended by CBS, NBC and ABC.
The DOE could not immediately be reached for comment.
Vavruska couldn’t provide a complaint number but said the 68th Precinct told him it would pass the matter on to Internal Affairs.
Police spokesperson Det. Denise Moroney said there is no evidence the car hit Vavruska.
“All evidence in the investigation into this incident thus far shows that the person in the video was not actually struck,” she said in an email. “The report by the school safety agent on the scene of this incident says that a protestor pushed past another school safety agent, raised his foot in front of the Chancellor’s vehicle bumper, and then threw himself to the ground. The protestor immediately got back up and continued to protest, including running after the vehicle as it slowly moved away. No injuries were reported at the time, and the school safety agent stated that the protester “simulated” that he was struck by the vehicle. If any party has any additional information regarding this event, they are encouraged to share it with the NYPD.”
The Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York released a statement Monday defending Vavruska, noting that the New York chapter of the organization has recognized Vavruska with consecutive annual awards for service to the community.
This article has been updated to include statements from the police and the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York and other information.