What to Know
- More than 2,000 arrests have been made in NYC, including 900+ since Monday night, over six days of demonstrations in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody
- The NYC curfew has been extended through Monday, effective daily from 8 p.m.-5 a.m. The mayor said Wednesday he expects the traffic restrictions imposed the night before to remain in place until the curfew ends
- Wednesday night's protests were once again calmer than previous nights, despite a small showdown between cops and protesters in Brooklyn that ended with numerous arrests
Thousands more protesters took to the streets of New York City Wednesday for a seventh straight day of demonstrations, and while most were entirely peaceful throughout the day, tempers began to flare after curfew.
Even with big numbers once again participating in marches throughout the city during the day, many protesters seemed to obey the city's 8 p.m. curfew, as crowds began to thin out come nightfall. However, there were still some large crowds marching in downtown Brooklyn, where police were trying to corral and break them up, and on Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side, where the crowd was chanting against the curfew.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams was at the Cadman Plaza protest, and posted a video showing police officers forcing demonstrators to move along forcibly and breaking up the march, despite Williams saying it was a "nonviolent protest." Some officers and protesters got into physical altercations and there were numerous shoving matches between the two parties.
In the immediate aftermath of the protest being broken up, Williams went after Mayor Bill de Blasio for having the police enforce the "ill-advised curfew," adding that the whole situation was "completely avoidable."
"I'm so ashamed of the mayor of this city, for what he has allowed to happen ... There was no looting, there was no burned cars. As a matter of fact, at a certain point people were screaming 'peaceful protest,'" Williams told NY1.
"All the riot police start pushing, shoving, batoning. I'm like, 'What is happening? Why are we doing this?'" he later said. "People start talking about the mayor's curfew. Last night, I saw things I never saw before. Literally people holding signs, backing up, getting wailed on. The police were screaming 'mayor's curfew'"
Several of the protesters were arrested as a result of the clashes. Overall, 180 people were arrested Wednesday, a small decline from earlier in the week when well more than 200 were being arrested each day.
The largest afternoon and early evening gatherings including a march from 14th Street up through the heart of midtown Manhattan, as well as a march through Brooklyn. Some got underway early, with protesters seen marching in midtown Manhattan ahead of strong storms that hit the tri-state as the evening wore on.
Many of the protesters frequently stopped to take a knee during their demonstrations, and there were cheers after news came out that not only had charges against the officer accused of killing George Floyd been elevated, but also that the three other Minneapolis police officers present at the time of Floyd's death had been charged with aiding and abetting murder.
The New York City Council has also heard the calls from protesters for police brutality to stop here in the city, with a bill that would criminalize the use of chokeholds by the NYPD garnering enough support to override any potential veto from the mayor.
Despite the heated confrontation near Borough Hall, sweeping measures to contain late-night violence in the city amid ongoing protests over George Floyd's death appear to have worked for the second straight night, with fewer reports of looting, violence and vandalism Wednesday compared with nights earlier in the week.
Mayor de Blasio said Wednesday the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew would remain in place until 5 a.m. Monday as planned. He also said he anticipates the traffic restrictions, which limited traffic below 96th Street in Manhattan and suspended for-hire pickups for a time, would extend through the curfew's end as well.
A traffic agent who was enforcing the vehicle restriction was struck by the cab of a tractor-trailer Wednesday night, suffering minor injuries, police said. The driver fled the scene on foot but was later arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.
Earlier Wednesday, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea met with George Floyd's brother, Terrence Floyd. In a news conference afterward, a representative for Floyd's family called for an end to looting, but asked that the protests continue.
Shea, meanwhile, spoke for his entire department, saying "we stand with the Floyd family. We condemn what happened in Minneapolis."
Two hundred people were still arrested Tuesday. In total, more than 2,000 arrests have been made over New York City's six days of protest. Additionally, the NYPD said that there had been 500 burglary arrests from Sunday through Tuesday, with 400 coming in Manhattan.
Protesters, Enraged by Black Americans Killed, Gather Nationwide
The protests have been largely peaceful, especially during the day. Investigators have said certain extremist groups are fueling the late-night violence. The extended curfew and partial Manhattan traffic ban were, in part, intended to help separate those individuals from rightful protesters.
While de Blasio acknowledged some problems Tuesday, he said they were rare -- and described the night as a "different reality in New York City" compared with the several nights prior.
One large crowd was seen making their way from Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge just before 9 p.m. Tuesday but was stopped by a line of NYPD officers before it could reach Manhattan. After a tense faceoff with police, the group turned back and returned to Brooklyn, with no physical confrontations. At least one other group marched along West End Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, while smaller groups demonstrated throughout the city as well.
The largest protest Tuesday spanned nearly 20 blocks as a sea of protesters walked from the Lower East Side up First Avenue and to the Upper East Side, where they took a knee outside Gracie Mansion. It appeared to be one of the city's largest protest crowds since Floyd died, with thousands of participants, yet it was entirely peaceful. There was also a crowd around 1,000 outside the Stonewall Inn, the Greenwich Village bar where the 1969 riots helped kick off the gay rights movement. The vast majority of demonstrators there were seen wearing masks, while others handed out masks to those who didn't have one.
Protests started early Monday afternoon, with Manhattan demonstrations near Foley Square and Washington Square Park. Hundreds more gathered in Astoria. Officers from the 67th precinct in East Flatbush took a knee together with members of the community amid a unity rally in Boerum Hill. All demonstrations appeared controlled despite intense emotions, with some participants condemning looting and those officials say try to usurp their peaceful protests.
"To the looters — by stealing, committing crimes, you are doing an injustice to the Floyd family," said Bishop Gerald C. Burgs. Another reverend at the Brooklyn rally said that groups can "protest peacefully, as we can still push back against systems that are against our people."
The clergy comments underscored a point de Blasio had emphasized earlier in the day -- that the looting did not reflect the people of New York City and that rightful protesters were outright rejecting the ones intentionally stoking tensions.
Monday night's rampant looting in midtown Manhattan and the Bronx had prompted calls for the National Guard, which the mayor has rejected. It also sparked a sharp rebuke from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who accused de Blasio and the NYPD of failing to do their jobs. He called the response a "disgrace."
De Blasio later responded, calling for Cuomo to apologize to the NYPD for his words. NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, who turned a tense situation into a viral caught-on-camera moment of solidarity with protesters in Washington Square Park Monday, said on "TODAY" Wednesday that Cuomo's office did call to apologize to him and the governor personally called the commissioner to do the same. He thinks Cuomo should apologize publicly.
"You’d have to come out and see what these men and women are doing. Don’t ever call them ineffective," Monahan said. "I hope he would come out publicly and say that again today during his press conference, because the men and women of this agency have done a remarkable job in probably unprecedented times, and I couldn’t be prouder of the work the men and women of this agency have done."
Cuomo confirmed Wednesday he had spoken to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea the day before. He "applauded" the NYPD for maintaining peace Tuesday night, but stopped short of issuing a public apology to the department.
While de Blasio didn't want to share just how many officers were on the streets Tuesday night, he did say it was the more than any of the previous five nights of protests. He also blamed most of the illegal acts on "a small anarchist element ... a small criminal element."
It appeared that one store in Lower Manhattan had been broken into Tuesday night into Wednesday. One person had been brought into custody after the Zara location at the corner of Broadway and Ann Street had the protective plywood it placed in front of its doors taken down, with shattered glass on the sidewalk.
Around that same location, near the Fulton Street subway station, a video showed a man lunging at police on the road. He and another man were brought into custody shortly after. There were also reports of some attempted looting at Eataly's Flatiron location as well.
Scenes of businesses erecting plywood over their windows were commonplace Tuesday after the previous night's destruction. Also from Monday, video surfaced of two NYPD officers trying to arrest a man in midtown, with one of them getting struck in the head by a fire extinguisher that had been thrown by another man. The officer suffered a deep gash to the top of head, and police were still searching for the suspect.
The initial curfew was imposed Monday to curb late-night violence amid the ongoing demonstrations. It was the first such measure since a white cop's shooting of a black soldier in Harlem prompted a citywide curfew in 1943. The extended curfew ends at 5 a.m. June 8, the same day a COVID-ravaged New York City reopens after its months-long shutdown.
De Blasio tried to turn the conversation Wednesday back to those developments, citing record-low new daily hospitalizations (39) in the city and a record-low percent of people testing positive (4 percent) citywide since the pandemic hit.
Essential workers are exempt from the curfew. That includes the press, though NYPD officers made two Associated Press journalists stop covering protests Tuesday. Portions of the incident were captured on video.
The mayor said the NYPD actions in the case of the journalists should be investigated: "Essential workers should not in any way shape or form be stopped from going to their work. If there's any case like that I want to know about it."
The NYPD has launched at least a half-dozen internal investigations into some officers' actions amid the protests. De Blasio and Cuomo have also asked state Attorney General Letitia James to expedite an independent review. In the meantime, the mayor said Wednesday any officers under investigation will not be on the streets for protests going forward.
The protests involving tens of thousands across the country have turned deadly in some cities. They come amid the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 100,000 people in the United States and nearly 25,000, at least, in New York alone. Black and Latino people have died at higher rates than the general population across America and in New York City, which accounts for nearly a fifth of all coronavirus deaths in the country.
Cuomo and de Blasio have both expressed concern mass protests could exacerbate COVID-19 in New York City just before its long-awaited reopening. Public health experts have voiced similar concerns as it relates to ongoing protests in the nation's 25 viral hotspots.