NYC Imposes Curfew In Response To Violent Protests

Sean Adams
June 01, 2020 - 4:47 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo says a curfew is going into effect in New York City after an ugly night of chaos, vandalism, looting and violence followed peaceful daytime protests over police brutality and accountability, set off by the killing one week ago today of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The citywide curfew will go into effect at 11 p.m. Monday. It will be lifted at 5 a.m. Tuesday. The move is being made in an attempt to stem the violence and looting that have accompanied the protests.

A curfew will also be in place Tuesday starting three hours earlier at 8 p.m., and will be lifted at 5 a.m. Wednesday. De Blasio announced Tuesday morning that the citywide curfew will remain in place through Sunday, running 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. 

"I stand behind the protestors and their message, but unfortunately there are people who are looking to distract and discredit this moment," Cuomo said in a statement. "The violence and the looting has been bad for the city, the state and this entire national movement, undermining and distracting from this righteous cause. While we encourage people to protest peacefully and make their voices heard, the safety of the general public is paramount and cannot be compromised."

"I support and protect peaceful protest in this city. The demonstrations we've seen have been generally peaceful. We can't let violence undermine the message of this moment. It is too important and the message must be heard. Tonight, to protect against violence and property damage, the Governor and I have decided to implement a citywide curfew," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

An aide to the governor told the New York Times that violating the curfew would be a misdeanor that could result in three months in jail or a $500 fine.

According to an executive order from the mayor, the curfew does not apply to: police officers, peace officers, firefighters, first responders and emergency medical technicians, individuals travelling to and from essential work and performing essential work, people experiencing homelessness and without access to a viable shelter, and individuals seeking medical treatment or medical supplies. “Essential work” is work performed by essential businesses or entities as defined or permitted by the Empire State Development Corporation.

The MTA said it will continue running service for essential workers during the curfew.

The NYPD will also double its police presence from 4,000 to 8,000. Additional police personnel will be deployed in lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, where looting was rampant during Sunday night's protests, to help prevent violence and property damage. 

The governor said earlier in the day that he would consider sending in the National Guard to deal with protests. "I don't know that the NYPD isn't big enough, I don't think that's the problem."

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea earlier had expressed doubt about a curfew saying, "The problem is, people need to listen to a curfew and that's not going to happen. If people think it will, they don't understand what's going on.''

Through most of the day Sunday, in most of the city, a tense truce held, with officers keeping their distance and occasionally dropping to a knee in a gesture of respect. Demonstrators paraded through multiple neighborhoods, chanting, kneeling in the street, and falling silent for a minute in front of the neon-adorned NYPD station in Times Square in honor of people killed by police.

But after dark, there were ugly confrontations. Demonstrators in downtown Brooklyn and parts of Manhattan pelted officers with objects and set fires. Officers charged into crowds to clear streets, sending people sprawling and battering bystanders who couldn't get out of the way.

"When it got dark, it got ugly and it got ugly quick,'' Shea told NBC's "Today" show.

Early Monday morning, many luxury stores in Midtown and SoHo  including Rolex, Chanel and Prada, were looted — their windows smashed and their goods stolen — by mobs of people who rampaged down the sidewalks as a fourth day of protests descended into chaos.

Some businesses were also set on fire. A 21-year-old man was shot in SoHo around 12:30 a.m. and was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.

From Union Square straight down Broadway into SoHo, WCBS 880's Sean Adams followed a trail of shattered glass, burnt garbage, profane graffiti, and ransacked shops. The streets are filled with hangers, mannequins and empty shoe boxes.

One man who works at a 7-Eleven in the area said he was terrified when this was going on, but he said police formed a line outside the store and protected him.

Looted stores in Manhattan
Sean Adams/WCBS 880

"They tried to break our window, but thank god the cops were here. they helped us and kept us safe from those guys," the man said.

On East 12th Street, protesters set garbage on fire and vandalized the iconic Strand bookstore with vulgar anti-police graffiti. 

As the early morning sun shed light on the damage, residents and business owners started to come out with brooms and dustpans to clean up and pick up the pieces. Many expressed anger, saying while they sympathize with legitimate protesters, they resent the troublemakers who came to breed mayhem.

"I understand the struggle, I understand the protests, the way that George Floyd was murdered was absolutely inexcusable," said reisdent Megan Loveland who helped in the cleanup effort in SoHo. "I couldn't help but want to just pitch in any I could and if that meant cleaning up a mess that wasn't mine I was all for it and that's ok. The point of the matter is right now we all have to be united. Some people are angry, it's understandable, and some people are trying to combat that anger with love and patience and understanding and that's what we're trying to do here."

Shea said hundreds of people, possibly as many as 400, were arrested Sunday and as the city braces for more protests Monday de Blasio said looting is unacceptable and it will be addressed "very aggressively."

Many of the demonstrations have been peaceful with people simply exercising their right to protest the death of police custody death of George Floyd, but as night arrived other groups moved in seemingly more intent on causing trouble than remembering Floyd.

The NYPD and some government officials say the looting and rioting is being done by outside agitators paid to ensue violence.

NYPD arrest records from the weekend show they come from as far away as Texas and Minnesota to wreak havoc in New York City. Roughly 15 percent of those charged over are from outside New York.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller believes anarchist groups are seeing this moment of unrest as an opportunity 

"One of the challenges we have is that these are loosely put together groups that have become very good at using encrypted communications," Miller told WCBS-TV. 

Miller said the groups raise bail money, recruit medics and maintain supply routes to distribute gasoline, rocks and bottles to attack police officers and destroy property during the demonstrations. They also dispatch scouts to find areas unprotected by police.

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would deem Antifa, short for anti-fascists, a terrorist organization, but that is a move that legal experts say would be tough to execute because it is a loosely defined movement.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told WCBS 880 that he is troubled by these outside instigators.

"There's clearly a group of outside professional agitators that turn the historical peaceful demonstrations in New York and use everything from Molotov cocktails, to bricks and stones and attempted to really aggravate the tension between police and civilians," Adams said. "We need to be clear that we're not going to allow our city to burn, but we're also going to allow people to have the right to protest in a peaceful manner."

Shea said the agitators hijacked the cause and left a black mark on what the peaceful protests are trying to accomplish.

"We will have a robust amount of officers, both in plainclothes and uniform, out there tonight. Anyone coming with the intent to take advantage of people during this very difficult time, we are going to ensure that you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Shea said. "We will have little tolerance for criminal activity."

Monahan said the department will have other resources that aren't going to be quite as obvious to those who are looking to loot stores. 

He also said NYPD officers will be working 12-hour shifts to address the violence.

"It puts a ton of stress on us, it is taking resources to address this away from our communities that need our cops," Monahan said. "There will be less cops to respond to 911 calls in the outerboroughs where things aren't happening because we need them to address these conditions. That's why we have to go for the 12-hour tours. It's going to be a lot of tired police officers, but we've done this before and there's no way we would ever allow this city to get into the hands of a few thousand people who are organized, who attack police officers and who create mayhem."

Gov. Cuomo on Sunday said the National Guard was on standby and that hundreds of additional troopers were being made available in Buffalo and Rochester.

The NYPD has come under criticism for violent clashes with demonstrators over the weekend, including a confrontation in Brooklyn on Saturday when two police vehicles appeared to plow through a group of protesters. De Blasio said the incident is under investigation.

After previously stating that protesters converged on the vehicle, creating an untenable situation for those officers involved, de Blasio clarified his comments Monday saying, “I don’t think I expressed it as well as I should have... there is no situation where a police vehicle should drive into a crowd... It is dangerous, it is unacceptable.”

All incidents, including videos of an officer pulling a gun on a protester, another officer shoving a woman to the ground and a third officer hitting a protester with a car door, are under review.

"The vast majority of officers do their job and do their job well, the vast majority of officers are trying to connect to communities and do the right thing. They're in this job for the right reason," de Blasio said. "There are some who do not belong on this job and there are some who use violence when they shouldn't. There are some that are disrespectful to the people they serve, there are some who harbor racism in their hearts. These people should not be in the police force and it's our job to get them out." 

De Blasio said overall police showed restraint throughout the day and the peaceful protest was handled "the way we wanted it to be handled."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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