George Floyd

New York State Lawmakers ‘Intend to Act' After Days of Protests, Calls for Systemic Change

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What to Know

  • NY's top legislators say they intend to act next week on a legislative package following days of protests across the state
  • NY Gov. Cuomo called for a ban on excessive force and chokeholds, adding investigations into police abuse should be done independently
  • Several state and local legislators joined protests over the weekend, some were pepper sprayed alongside demonstrators

People in New York City marched for a fifth consecutive day Monday, one week after the death of George Floyd. The week since has been marked by indescribable pain and a call for an end to police brutality.

The speakers of the New York State Senate and Assembly say change is on the way. The legislators released a joint statement Monday evening, saying both bodies "intend to act" on legislation in the next week.

"Today the Senate and Assembly had productive majority conferences to discuss the issues occurring in our communities that have caused so much unrest over the last several days. Members have bills on many topics related to these issues and we will be developing a legislative package based on the ideas put forward. We intend to act on them next week," the statement read.

Several lawmakers joined protesters over the weekend, including State Senator Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson (D-Brooklyn), who were pepper sprayed at demonstrations in the borough.

Myrie has called for the repeal of 50-a, a law that blocks police personnel and disciplinary records from public views. He also called on the passage of bills from Senator Brian Benjamin that would "prohibit racial profiling and allow for monetary damages" and Senator Brad Hoylman that would "force courts to track disparate enforcement tactics."

On Monday, Myrie and other officials called for the firing of officers involved in an physical altercation that sent a protester to the hospital. The protester told NBC News she was released from the hospital early Saturday with a concussion; the NYPD said the officer is under investigation.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have both called on action from the state assemblies on 50-a. Cuomo has said he's ready to sign a bill that reforms the law, although he said the current language of the law does not stop mayors from releasing disciplinary records.

"Remember, New York City used to release the records, the law didn't change," the governor said Monday, who also called for a nationwide ban on chokeholds and excessive force by police officers.

"The legislature right now could repeal the 50-a legislation, the 50-a law. That is holding back transparency in police discipline. I have called for this. My police commissioners have called for this," de Blasio said, but cautioned the legislation should protect the "identities of police officers in their personal life."

Gov. Cuomo has asked Attorney General Letitia James to expedite an independent review into police handling of the week's protests. Some have said the response was grossly mishandled. NYPD Commissioner Shea said the goal was to de-escalate the situation, but said, "It's very difficult to practice de-escalation when you're having a brick thrown at you."

Overall, Shea says, the police response has been measured.

“It was an incredibly challenging and busy weekend, tens of thousands of protesters all over New York City,” he said Monday. "In literally tens of thousands of encounters, we have about six that our internal affairs officers are looking at."

De Blasio echoed those sentiments, saying in his briefing a short time after Shea's comments that police largely showed restraint Sunday night. A handful of incidents warrant further review, he said.

Among the NYPD actions under investigation: A video posted by a reporter for the Gothamist Sunday showed one cop point a handgun at people at the corner of 12th Street and Broadway.

"That officer should have his gun and badge taken away today," de Blasio said Monday. "There will be an investigation immediately to determine the larger consequences." The Police Benevolent Association later tweeted a longer video of the incident showing the officer unholster his weapon "only after his supervisor was nearly killed with a brick."

Also under review: video that showed two police SUVs push through a barrier placed by a group of protesters in Prospect Heights Saturday night. Some protesters had been clinging to the hoods and were pushed some to the ground. Officials say protesters were throwing rocks, bottles and flaming debris at one of the NYPD SUVs, which is why the officers didn't get out to confront them.

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