Protesters Defy Curfew Again, Setting Up Potential Confrontations: Live Updates – The New York Times

Image
Credit…Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

Despite the previous night’s altercations, protesters defied the curfew again.

A week has passed since protesters, upset, angry and energized by the killing in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis, first poured into New York City’s streets.

On Thursday, despite a citywide curfew that was aggressively enforced by police officers the night before, thousands of people were still on the streets in large gatherings in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.

Once more, the police moved swiftly in some areas to enforce the curfew. In the Bronx’s Mott Haven neighborhood, at 8 p.m., a row of officers on bikes stopped hundreds of people from advancing, shouting at them to move back. At the same time, another group of officers came up behind the demonstrators, fencing them on 136th Street near Brook Avenue.

Minutes later, the police charged and began arresting people in the crowd, who had been demonstrating peacefully. Some with riot shields pushed protesters onto sidewalks with seemingly no provocation. Though many demonstrators tried to leave, with the police on all sides, there was no route for them to clear the area.

Then, around 8:30 p.m., the police charged again, swinging their batons and striking protesters. Dozens were arrested, forced to sit on the street with their hands cuffed, while one person was removed on a stretcher.

At around 8:30, the police stopped a group of demonstrators on Manhattan’s Upper East Side heading south from what was a peaceful rally near Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence, and began to make arrests. New York Times reporters at the scene observed at least 10 people with their hands tied behind their backs, sitting on a curb in police custody.

One man, who was pinned to the ground by the authorities, had his neck pressed against a helmet that he repeatedly asked an officer to move. The officer eventually did, telling him to relax and using an expletive in admonishing him to stop moving.

The tactics echoed those the police used on Wednesday against protesters, who, like those who were out past curfew on Thursday, were overwhelmingly peaceful.

Despite the prospect of more altercations with officers enforcing the curfew, which officials said was meant to curb looting but that effectively limited demonstrations, many protesters were undeterred in their desire to march and urge change in the criminal-justice system.

For some of them, the tensions of recent days had only fueled their commitment.

“I saw the videos and just had to come out myself and do something, anything, whatever I could,” Linda Shapford, 47, said at a memorial for Mr. Floyd that was held at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn on Thursday. “It just wasn’t a question after what I saw from last night.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, appearing in person before protesters for the first time, was at the memorial. As he spoke, he was met with disdain from demonstrators, who chanted “resign” and “defund the police,” then used a profanity to decry the citywide curfew.

The mayor and the police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, had defended officers’ aggressive actions in breaking up the Wednesday night crowds. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also lent his support, though an aide later said he had asked the attorney general to review any possible misconduct.

To many of the protesters who assembled on Thursday, the officials’ defensiveness was just more justification for staying in the streets pushing for change.

“The response has been way too dramatic,” Anjali Jamin, 31, said at a rally at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. “Cities don’t have control over their police forces.”

Ms. Jamin, a medical student, marched with a group of about 60 health care workers and students from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. At an “die-in” earlier, medical residents gave speeches and lay in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time that prosecutors said Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was pinned by the neck under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee before he died.

In Manhattan, hundreds of people again protested peacefully near Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence on the Upper East Side.

David J. Hamilton III, 35, addressed the crowd there, using his remarks to press Mr. de Blasio to urge the police to adjust their tactics and refrain from using tear gas against protesters.

Mr. Hamilton said that he initially felt “a little mixture of exhaustion and anger” after hearing about Mr. Floyd’s death and that of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency room technician who was shot by police in Louisville, Ky.

After debating whether to join for the protests, he joined a rally for the first time on Thursday.

“Floyd and Taylor, they are showing us that tomorrow is not promised,” Mr. Hamilton said. “If we are treating each breath as a gift, then we are definitely not out here wasting it.”

The mayor was criticized at a memorial where Mr. Floyd’s brother spoke.

Mr. de Blasio was met with hostility on Thursday at a memorial for George Floyd in Brooklyn, the first time he had appeared in person before protesters who have been marching in New York City’s streets for a week.

The demonstrators chanted “I can’t breathe,” “resign” and “defund the police,” and used a profanity to decry the 8 p.m. citywide curfew Mr. de Blasio imposed after several days of rallies touched off by the killing in Minneapolis of Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a white police officer pushed a knee into his neck for several minutes.

The mayor was introduced by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and the crowd immediately jeered him. A local pastor raised his hand in a peace sign, urging that the mayor be given a chance speak at the memorial, where Mr. Floyd’s brother Terrence spoke.

“For all of us who know white privilege, we need do more,” Mr. de Blasio said, “because we don’t even fully recognize the daily pain that the racism in this society causes.”

But after struggling to be heard above the crowd, the mayor quickly cut off his remarks. The scene unfolded at Cadman Plaza, where the police used aggressive tactics on Wednesday night against protesters who defied the curfew.

Video

bars
0:00/0:46
0:00

transcript

De Blasio Booed at Memorial for George Floyd

Protesters jeered Mayor Bill de Blasio during his remarks at a memorial for George Floyd in Brooklyn.

“George Floyd cannot be allowed to die in vain —” Crowd: “George Floyd! George Floyd!” [crowd chanting] “I thank you for being here … … let me tell you something: All of us who have not walked a mile in the shoes of the black community, communities of color, for all of us who know white privilege, we need do more because we don’t even fully recognize —” [crowd boos] Crowd: “George Floyd! George Floyd! George Floyd! George Floyd!”

Protesters jeered Mayor Bill de Blasio during his remarks at a memorial for George Floyd in Brooklyn.

Terrence Floyd, wearing a face mask bearing an image of his brother and a Yankees cap, teared up for about two minutes before regaining his composure and addressing the crowd.

“I want to thank God,” he said, adding, “It wasn’t his fault. It was his will.”

“I thank God for you all showing love to my brother,” Mr. Floyd continued.

He also criticized some of the violence that has broken out at some protests.

“I’m proud of the protest, but I’m not proud of the destruction,” he said. “My brother wasn’t about that.”

After the memorial ended, thousands of those who had gathered left the plaza and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan — a goal of rallies on previous nights that was thwarted by officers who would not let protesters travel between the boroughs.

The group on Thursday swarmed the bridge’s north-side lane and pedestrian walkway, pausing regularly to take a knee as they crossed. Drivers in the opposite lane honked horns and raised fists in shows of support.

The mayor and governor defended the police’s actions against protesters.

Image

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

After a day and night of mostly peaceful protests that culminated with officers aggressively arresting demonstrators who remained on the streets after the 8 p.m. curfew took effect, Mr. de Blasio on Thursday emphatically defended the Police Department’s actions.

The crowds in Brooklyn and Manhattan who continued to rally against police brutality and systemic racism after the clampdown took effect on Wednesday were bigger than they had been the night before.

And the police moved more swiftly to disperse demonstrators from the city’s rainy streets and to arrest those who failed to clear out.

“When people are instructed by the N.Y.P.D., especially after curfew, they must follow those instructions,” the mayor told reporters at a news briefing.

Referring to officers aggressively dispersing crowds, he added, “It’s not an unfair action to say, in the context of this crisis, in the context of curfew, there is a point where enough is enough.”

Mr. Cuomo lent his support to the police, saying they were doing “an impossible job.”

Mr. Cuomo bristled when asked about the police using batons to disperse peaceful protesters, despite reporting and widely seen videos that captured just that.

“That’s not a fact,” he told reporters at a briefing. “They don’t do that. Anyone who did do that would be obviously reprehensible, if not criminal.”

Later in the day, a top aide to Mr. Cuomo said that the governor had asked the attorney general, Letitia James, to review the police’s altercations with protesters in Brooklyn.

Mr. de Blasio said he had not seen videos or reports of the police using batons to hit peaceful protesters, but he promised investigations if they were warranted.

Video

bars
0:00/0:50
0:00

transcript

‘The Protesters Have a Civic Duty,’ Cuomo Says

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York urged protesters to get tested for coronavirus, saying the state will expand its testing facilities to meet the demand.

You have 30,000 people who’ve been protesting statewide. You look at the video as far — as well as I look at the video. Many of them wear masks. Thank God. But there’s no social distancing. You look at the encounters with the police. The police are right in their face. They’re right in the face of the police. Twenty thousand protesters in New York City, 1,000 protesters on Long Island. These are big numbers. And yes, they’re young people and they’re superheroes, and nothing can affect me. We’re going to open the testing facilities for all people who are at a protest. The protesters have a civic duty here also. Be responsible. Get a test. Go to the website. Find out the testing site nearest you. We have 700 in this state. You can get a test — get a test.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York urged protesters to get tested for coronavirus, saying the state will expand its testing facilities to meet the demand.CreditCredit…Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

The mayor sought to strike a balance on how the nightly curfew would be enforced. He reiterated that peaceful protests would be allowed to continue even after curfew, but that the police would have the discretion to decide when to disperse crowds even if all was calm.

Mr. de Blasio, who campaigned on a promise to reform the city’s police force, the largest in the United States, has focused on defending the department while also vowing to investigate reports of misconduct.

The mayor said the police should apply as much restraint as possible.

“I want the absolute least use of force,” he said. “Ideally, no use of pepper spray or batons. There are certain situations where it’s necessary.”

There were few reports of looting or vandalism on Wednesday, the mayor said. He said he would set aside $500,000 to help small businesses that had been ransacked on previous nights.

De Blasio is facing one of the toughest moments of his tenure.

Image

Credit…Simbarashe Cha for The New York Times

The aggression displayed by officers against the protesters has created a new crisis for Mr. de Blasio, who has praised the police for their “tremendous restraint” toward protesters.

Former allies have denounced his leadership. New Yorkers have called for his resignation and that of the police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea. Onetime aides have bickered online about Mr. de Blasio’s performance, and their perhaps self-interested desire to distance themselves from him.

And when it seemed like Mr. de Blasio’s day could not get worse on Wednesday, an assailant stabbed a police officer in the neck, setting off a gunfight that left two other officers wounded, and pulled the mayor to a Brooklyn hospital for an early-morning news conference.

Mr. de Blasio is facing what may be the worst moment of his tenure since the 2014 fatal shootings of two police officers by a man seeking retribution for the police killing of Eric Garner on Staten Island.

“The most charitable assessment is that his mayoralty is currently on life support,” Neal Kwatra, a former adviser to both Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo, said in a text message.

Mr. de Blasio said his detractors did not fully appreciate what the city was dealing with.

“For anyone out there who is concerned or criticizing, I’m not sure they understand the depth of the reality of what we’ve faced,” he said on Thursday. “We have to keep the peace. We have to keep order. We have to protect our democracy and our democratic rights. We’re striking that balance all the time.”

He was wearing a mask because of the coronavirus. A police officer pulled it down and maced him.

Andrew Smith, a 31-year-old Brooklyn resident, was among the those who attended a protest near the corner of Bedford and Tilden Avenues last Saturday.

He wanted to do his part to prevent police brutality, as well as the spread of the coronavirus, so he made sure to attend the rally wearing a mask. His was black, red and white, the colors of the national flag of his native Trinidad.

At one point, officers near Mr. Smith and other protesters wanted to clear a path for a police vehicle to depart. A video showed Mr. Smith with his hands raised in the air as an officer, who was also wearing a mask, put his hand on Mr. Smith’s chest.

Mr. Smith said in an interview on Thursday that he told the officer not to touch him.

“I guess he took that as offense,” Mr. Smith said.

Then, as a widely circulated video showed, the officer pulled down Mr. Smith’s mask and sprayed him in the face with mace.

“It hurts,” Mr. Smith recalled later. “Hurts like hell. It’s blinding.”

“He got a clean spray in there,” he added. “I didn’t swipe at him or the spray, so I kind of got a good amount of it.”

The incident was among several that were captured on video and have prompted investigations of possible misconduct by New York City officers against protesters.

Mr. Smith, a hedge fund recruiter who wears contact lenses, said that he had wanted to continue protesting that day but that volunteers providing medical care had told him to seek treatment.

“My skin was just burning from the mace so I had to go take care of that,” he said.

Alain V. Massena, a lawyer for Mr. Smith, said that he and other lawyers were cooperating in investigations being conducted by the state attorney general’s office, the Police Department and the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. Mr. Massena said his client was also considering filing a lawsuit.

After being sprayed by the officer, Mr. Smith said he went home to recover. He rejoined the protests the next two days before realizing that he might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

“His hands touched my face, you know, as he grabbed for my mask,” Mr. Smith said of the officer. “You don’t know what he’s been touching or where he’s been.”

Since Tuesday, Mr. Smith has been avoiding protests and marches for fear of inadvertently spreading the virus to other people at those events. The decision to stay away “is aggravating,” he said. He added that he was “hopeful I can get a Covid test and get that squared away sooner than later.”

“I could be at potential risk,” he added. “I’d rather be respectful of folks and try to support in other ways.”

Reporting was contributed by Anne Barnard, Gabriela Bhaskar, Julia Carmel, Jo Corona, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Alan Feuer, Michael Gold, Christina Goldbaum, Corey Kilgannon, Jeffery C. Mays, Andy Newman, Sharon Otterman, Azi Paybarah, Jan Ransom, Dana Rubinstein, Eliza Shapiro, Daniel E. Slotnik, Ashley Southall, Matt Stevens, Anjali Tsui and Ali Watkins.