De Blasio Says NYC Curfew Stays as Outcry Mounts Over NYPD Arrests of Essential Workers

In total, more than 2,000 people have been arrested over the course of New York City's week-long protests

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What to Know

  • Calls are mounting for Mayor Bill de Blasio to end NYC's curfew as the late-night violence that dominated early protests has subsided
  • There have still been isolated reports of looting, though the arrest numbers each day are markedly fewer than they were earlier in the week
  • In total, more than 2,000 people have been arrested over the course of New York City's week-long protests, including the mayor's daughter

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he won't remove New York City's nightly curfew before Monday morning as its effectiveness is being questioned with thousands of protesters staying out past 8 p.m. — and as police officers have arrested some essential workers, despite the mayor saying those employees are exempt.

Several New York City council members have called on the mayor to end the curfew, which was only imposed after a series of nights featuring violence, looting and extreme destruction largely blamed on non-protesters. Some counties and cities in California lifted their curfews Thursday after days of sporadic mayhem were replaced by largely peaceful protests.

"This curfew is serving as a pretext for aggressive and violent confrontation of protesters by the police. It is doing nothing to make our city more peaceful, it is doing the opposite," Chair of NYC Council health committee Mark Levine said.

De Blasio said the "broad goals" of the curfew have been achieved, "but my plan is to continue the curfew throughout the week as I originally stated." New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he supports the mayor's decision to maintain the curfew and that, ultimately, the curfew's jurisdiction falls to de Blasio.

The curfew is in effect each day from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m., ending on June 8, the same day a COVID-ravaged New York City will finally reopen after its months-long shutdown. Several civil rights organizations, including the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society, threatened to sue the mayor if the curfew gets extended beyond that time.

A food delivery worker was seen on video being detained by several NYPD officers after Thursday's curfew. A journalist who was standing in front of her residence was allegedly roughed up by police on Wednesday. A healthcare worker said he was beaten by cops after filming them past curfew earlier this week. All of them are considered essential workers who are exempt from the mayor's curfew.

Addressing the delivery worker who was cuffed by cops near Central Park West and 109th Street, the mayor said, "This is NOT acceptable and must stop."

"Same goes for journalists covering protests and out doing their jobs. They are essential workers, too. We WILL protect their rights. The public depends on the information they provide. Will get NYPD to fix this immediately," he continued.

In the video, he can be heard saying, "Are you serious? I'm not even doing anything," and asked the officers to look at his delivery app on his phone. The spokesperson said officers later verified the food delivery worker's credentials before he was sent on his way.

The worker was only detained, not arrested or taken into custody, for a short period of time, an NYPD spokesperson tells NBC New York, and no summons was issued. He was not making any deliveries when he verbally engaged with officers, according to a law enforcement source. Police officials said if the man had been delivering food he never would have been confronted, but they say he was seen taunting officers. After speaking with him, police decided no action was warranted.

The Teamsters union also called for an end to the arrests or detainment of essential workers, saying "how quickly things have changed since these workers were called heroes."

As Cuomo and de Blasio sought to deflect criticism over harsh tactics from police enforcing the curfew, protesters spurred by the death of George Floyd stayed on the streets for another day Thursday. They had already started up once again Friday afternoon and into the evening, with thousands marching in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and are expected to continue through the weekend.

Protests near Borough Hall and Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as well as multiple locations across Manhattan, had attracted large crowds Friday evening. There were a large number of arrests at a protest on the Upper East Side after curfew went into effect, and a crowd marching down Flatbush Avenue toward the Manhattan Bridge were met with a wall of officers blocking them from getting on to the bridge and disrupting traffic. A similar situation played out at Grand Army Plaza, with tensions rising at one point before protesters started to disperse.

George Floyd's younger brother Terrence made an emotional appeal for nonviolence Thursday during a vigil attended by thousands at Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza, the site where police used batons against demonstrators who were out past the city-imposed curfew the night before. The vigil where Terrence Floyd spoke was attended by de Blasio and his wife, who were booed upon arrival.

It was just one of a number of protests citywide. In some cases, officials watched but didn’t immediately move in after curfew. At other spots, they made arrests with the batons and riot gear like on previous nights. In the Bronx, several protesters say cops started blocking the area before curfew began, trapping dozens of protesters on the streets before charging them and making arrests.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said that he expected suspensions to be handed down for any officers who engaged in violence toward protesters.

"I have said where officers have acted unprofessional, we will deal with that, I will deal with that," he added, suggesting that there will "probably be some suspensions."

He says there are about seven videos that are under review by internal affairs, with another three that may come under review from Wednesday night. 

Another 269 people were arrested in the city overnight related to curfew enforcement as well as activities surrounding protests, an NYPD spokesperson confirmed. That brings the total cuffed over the course of the week-long protests to well above 2,000; the mayor's daughter is among them. The spokesperson also said that six officers were injured Thursday night as a result of working at the protests.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. said his office will not prosecute protesters arrested for unlawful assembly or disorderly conduct. Vance said his office must "enact public policies which assure all New Yorkers that in our justice system and our society, black lives matter and police violence is a crime." 

In a statement released late Friday afternoon, the district attorney’s office said its policy is “designed to minimize unnecessary interactions with the criminal justice system, reduce disparities and collateral consequences in low-level offense prosecutions.” The DA said anyone with evidence of violence against officers or property will be charged appropriately.

On Friday, Cuomo shared his support for the “Say Their Name” Reform Agenda, which includes four bills already proposed from state legislators to make police disciplinary records transparent, ban chokeholds, make false race-based 911 reports a hate crime, and ensure the attorney general act as independent prosecutor for any police murder case.

The legislative package is one of several efforts in New York by elected leaders to answer the call of protesters now more than a week into their demands of police accountability and justice for the death of black Americans.

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Friday three more bills will be proposed to require officers visibly show badge information when asked, guarantee peoples' right to record police activity in public spaces, and require an early intervention systems to identify problematic officers and reform internal policies. The bill follows reported unanimous support by the council to ban the use of chokeholds by police. A hearing on the bills is scheduled for June 9.

Johnson has also called on the city to reduce the police department's budget and redirect funding to "invest in communities." When asked by press on Friday about his position on cutting the department's budget the mayor said, "I do not believe it is a good idea to reduce the budget of the agency that is here to keep us safe and the agency that is instituting neighborhood policing which involves getting out officers to be deeply engaged with our community."

A coalition of unions representing police throughout the state issued a joint statement voicing their opposition to measures they call "anti-police," including the state legislature considering new bills in wake of the protests, calling them an attack on law enforcement and a flawed process.

Meanwhile in upstate New York, two police officers were suspended after they pushed a 75-year-old man who was out past curfew. The man fell and his head slammed on the concrete, causing blood to flow out of his ear.

Gov. Cuomo called the incident "wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful," and said Friday the local district attorney should investigate the case for potential criminal charges.

Barring that, the governor thinks the officers should be fired. Cuomo said he had spoken with the injured protester and said the graphic video of the encounter made him "sick to my stomach."

Two Buffalo police officers were suspended without pay Thursday after a video showed authorities knocking down a 75-year-old man during a protest, Mayor Byron Brown said.

On Thursday, Cuomo said he would open up free COVID testing to all protest attendees. He said anyone who participated in any of the large gatherings should assume he or she has been exposed to COVID and get tested immediately.

Cuomo and de Blasio have both warned mass protests could turn into "super spreaders" of the virus, which could undermine the progress the five boroughs have fought so hard to make since its first reported case on March 1.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said he believes most of his officers acted appropriately towards peaceful protesters but he offered an apology for the ones who responded to protesters with violence, saying suspensions are on the table.
Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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