New York City Police Chief of Department Terence Monahan, the highest-ranking uniform-wearing member of the NYPD, took a knee alongside those protesting the death of George Floyd at Washington Square Park on Monday night. Floyd died of suffocation on Memorial Day in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after video showed a white police officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes.
Thousands of demonstrators defiantly remained on the streets of New York City well past the 8 p.m. curfew put in place Tuesday by officials struggling to stanch destruction seen on other nights and growing complaints that the nation’s biggest city was reeling out of control.
Mayor Bill de Blasio doubled down on a citywide curfew, moving it up from 11 p.m. the night before, but rejected urging from President Donald Trump and an offer from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to bring in the National Guard.
“Everyone, time to go home so we can keep people safe,” he said on WINS-AM radio shortly after the curfew took effect.
Protesters continued winding through the streets, mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn, throughout the evening following the May 25 death of George Floyd and other recent racially charged killings.
“I’m surprised,” said Risha Munoz, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where at points they were greeted with cheers and horns by onlookers in building windows. “I didn’t think they were gonna let us go on, but we just kept on moving and we’re not stopping.”
“Something has to break, and it’s not going to be us,” said Evan Kutcher, one of hundreds of demonstrators who stood outside the Barclays Center chanting Floyd’s name Tuesday evening.
Police began making arrests around 9 p.m. and shut down parts of the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan, blocking it off to huge crowds of protesters. The police department announced it would not allow vehicle traffic south of 96th Street in Manhattan after curfew, though residents, essential workers, buses and truck deliveries were exempt.
“We’re going to have a tough few days. We’re going to beat it back,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said in announcing that the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew would remain through Sunday.
A man was fatally shot by police around 10 p.m. in Crown Heights. An NYPD spokesperson said officers responded to reports of shots fired, where they found a man who had been shot. Another man hiding nearby pointed a gun at police, and as many as 10 officers shot at him, the spokesperson said. The NYPD is investigating the shooting.
Protests continued in New York City and across the country Tuesday following the death of Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on Floyd’s neck even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
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While de Blasio insisted the city would put a stop to the violence and vandalism that have marred largely peaceful mass demonstrations surrounding Floyd’s death, both the Republican president and the Democratic governor laid into the city’s handling of the mayhem thus far.
“The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job last night,” Cuomo said at a briefing in Albany. “Look at the videos. It was a disgrace.”
He said the mayor was underestimating the problem and the nation’s largest police force wasn’t deployed in sufficient numbers, though the city had said it doubled the usual police presence.
Cuomo’s remarks infuriated the New York Police Department’s highest-ranking uniformed member, Chief of Department Terence Monahan. Officers are “giving their blood to keep this city safe,” he told the New York Post, adding that he’d been hit by a bike and bloodied himself while arresting suspects Monday night.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi later said the governor “has respect and confidence in the NYPD” and felt the mayor should put more officers on the streets.
Unprompted, Cuomo brought up the possibility of using his power as governor to replace the mayor and deploy the National Guard over de Blasio’s objections, then immediately shot down the idea as legally impractical and unnecessary.
On Twitter, Trump urged a 7 p.m. curfew and National Guard deployment in his native city.
“The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!” he wrote.
NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD. The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast! Don’t make the same horrible and deadly mistake you made with the Nursing Homes!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 2, 2020
But de Blasio said the NYPD was “best equipped” to handle the lawbreaking, arguing that bringing in the National Guard risked fueling worse conflict in a city on edge.
“We will regret it if we bring outside armed forces,” he said. “When you bring in people not trained for the circumstance but still with loaded weapons and put under horrible stress, really bad things happen.”
The mayhem over the last four nights has clearly challenged the 36,000-officer police force, which has a reputation as a muscular, well-resourced agency that has driven down crime and faced down terror threats in the nation’s biggest city.
On Monday night and early Tuesday, police again struggled to keep up with, let alone get ahead of, roving groups of people bashing their way into shops, including Macy’s flagship Manhattan store.
De Blasio said officials expected problems farther downtown, as had happened the night before, and “adjustments were made” once officials realized that the hot spots had shifted.
Nearly 700 people were arrested overnight, and several officers were injured. A sergeant was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the Bronx and was hospitalized in serious but stable condition, police said. Video also showed a group of people hitting a police officer with pieces of wreckage until he pulled his gun and they ran.
Villeneuve reported from Albany. Contributing were Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak, Jim Mustian, Tom Hays, Deepti Hajela and Karen Matthews in New York and Michael Hill in Albany.
© 2020 The Canadian Press