Isolated Looting After Day of Peaceful Marches; NYC Curfew Extended Through Sunday

Rampant looting was reported in Manhattan and the Bronx overnight. Mayor Bill de Blasio flat-out rejected calls for the National Guard Tuesday, saying "outside armed forces" would exacerbate the situation

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What to Know

  • Over 2,000 NYC protestors, including over 900 Monday and Tuesday night alone, were arrested over the five 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 Sunday -- it is effective daily from 8 p.m.-5 a.m.; the mayor rejected calls to deploy the National Guard, saying "outside armed forces" would only exacerbate the difficult situation
  • Monday's protests were largely peaceful, but late-night chaos erupted again as dozens of looters spread over Manhattan and the Bronx, where an NYPD sergeant was hit by a car. Gov. Cuomo called it a "disgrace"

Large groups of protesters defied New York City's new, earlier curfew as crowds were seen still marching in different locations after 8 p.m. Tuesday — but there were very few reports of looting, violence or rampant vandalism that plagued the city just one night before.

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 from getting into Manhattan. After a tense faceoff with police, the group turned back and returned to Brooklyn, with no physical confrontations. At least one other group was marching along West End Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, while other smaller groups were seen throughout the city as well.

More than a dozen protests in New York and New Jersey had been planned over the course of the day, with the last organized demonstration scheduled before the city's curfew took effect. At that time (8 p.m.), most vehicles were banned from south of 96th Street in Manhattan until 5 a.m., with only residents, essential workers, buses and truck deliveries allowed.

NBC New York's Checkey Beckford and Ray Villeda reports.

Citi Bike was also ordered shut down during the length of the curfew, while all for-hire vehicle services (such as Uber and Lyft) would be suspended throughout the city from 8 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. — only being allowed to operate once the subways are shut down to be cleaned at 1 a.m.

Protests started in the early afternoon, with Manhattan demonstrations starting near Foley Square and Washington Square Park. Hundreds more gathered in Astoria. Photos posted to social media also showed activity by the Brooklyn Bridge, while a unity rally was underway in Boerum Hill in Brooklyn, with plans to march to Barclays Center after officers from the 67th precinct in East Flatbush took a knee together with members of the community. All demonstrations appeared controlled despite the intense emotions, with some condemning the looting.

By the end of the night, more than 200 people were arrested, the NYPD said.

"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."

By 5 p.m., there was a massive crowd spanning nearly 20 blocks walking from the Lower East Side, going up First Avenue to the Upper East Side where the sea of protesters took a knee outside Gracie Mansion. It appeared to be one of the largest crowds that had gathered to protest in NYC over the past few days, 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 protesters there were seen wearing masks, while others handed out masks to those who didn't have one.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said late Tuesday that he believed the curfew was having "a real effect" in terms of the number of people still on the streets, and was helping avoid another night of lawlessness in places like midtown Manhattan and certain places in the Bronx.

"It's a very different reality because of the curfew," the mayor said on CNN. "I think this is the right approach to really lead this moment out and get back to a more normal place."

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 looting and illegal acts on "a small anarchist element ... a small criminal element."

It appeared that one store in Lower Manhattan had been broken into. 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.

Businesses putting up plywood around their windows became a common scene throughout Manhattan Tuesday, hoping to avoid being damaged by looters, or prevent further losses.

Despite the comparable calm in the city, President Donald Trump tweeted just before midnight that "NYC is totally out of control" and that the NYPD is "not being allowed to perform their MAGIC."

Earlier in the day, the mayor announced New York City's curfew will continue for the rest of the week, through Sunday, after police said "packs of youth" took to the streets the night before and violently looted stores across Manhattan and the Bronx, injuring officers in the process.

Shattered glass, mannequins and merchandise were left strewn across damaged store floors in midtown, while ashes and debris spilled from havoc-wrecked sidewalks into the streets along Grand Concourse as the sun rose following a fifth night of protests over the death of George Floyd.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted the city's response as a "disgrace" and accused the mayor and the NYPD of failing to do their jobs Tuesday night.

"I believe the mayor underestimates the scope of the problem. I think he underestimates the duration of the problem," Cuomo said Tuesday, adding he thought more cops should've been deployed on top of the already doubled patrol. A spokesman for Cuomo later tried to clarify the comments, saying they were intended not to insult the members of the department, but rather were directed at de Blasio and Commissioner Shea.

De Blasio later responded to the governor's barb, saying on 1010 WINS that he had "dishonored the men and women of the NYPD in an absolutely inappropriate way," and said Cuomo owed the department an apology for the "disgraceful" remarks. The Police Benevolent Association also fired back at Cuomo by saying cops were doing their job, and "it's not our fault that our city and state governments can't plan and work together, but we are suffering the consequences."

Police responded to reports of looting and fires being set on Monday at Macy's in Herald Square.

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 will be in effect daily from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. -- and end the same day a COVID-ravaged New York City reopens after its months-long shutdown.

Nearly 2,000 people were arrested over the first five days of New York City protests, but far fewer were brought into custody Tuesday night as compared to the previous nights. Police cuffed 700 Monday night into Tuesday, by far the biggest number since the protests started and nearly doubling the total.

Several more cops were hurt overnight into Tuesday, including an NYPD sergeant investigating break-ins in the Bronx. That officer was hit by a car; he is in serious condition but is expected to survive. Another cop was hit by a vehicle when he tried to stop a cellphone store burglary on Eighth Street in Manhattan. No arrests had been made in either case, though police are looking for several suspects. In total, nearly 50 police officers had been hurt since the citywide protests began Thursday night.

De Blasio condemned the "vicious attacks on police officers" Tuesday, calling out the incident involving the sergeant, which he said appeared intentional. He said the city will not tolerate these "wholly unacceptable" attacks.

"There were peaceful protesters who rejected the violent elements and forced them out of protests," de Blasio said. "There were elected officials and clergy who said to people, 'If you're going to protest in our community it must be peaceful. If you attempt any violence we will reject you.' That ultimately is the big story here."

An NYPD officer who was investigating reports of break-ins in the Bronx was struck by a vehicle early Tuesday morning, according to authorities. NBC New York's Tracie Strahan and Katherine Creag report.

Investigators say certain extremist groups had been fueling the late-night violence, undermining the rightful peaceful protests of others. The NYPD doubled the officers on city streets Monday night, focusing on hotspots from previous protests like Barclays Center and Union Square. Still, destructive looting was rampant in spots, particularly in midtown Manhattan and the Bronx.

“There was chaos in the city of New York last night where we actually saw looting on our streets. It was sad. It was dangerous and it has to stop," Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said Tuesday. "The message has to be clear from City Hall – the violence stops today."

De Blasio emphasized that point several times earlier in the day, saying of the destruction, "We don't accept that. We're going to fight that. We're going to fix that.

He described the mayhem he saw in the Bronx Monday night, particularly on Fordham and Burnside avenues, as a "real problem." The destruction spiraled so out of control that New York City Council Member Fernando Cabrera (D-Bronx) called on Cuomo to activate the National Guard, as 20 other states have done.

"Fordham Road is the lifeblood of the West Bronx, providing jobs as well as essential goods and services,” Cabrera said. “We are already suffering physically, socially and emotionally from the COVID-19 pandemic. We can’t afford to lose our economic engine."

While Cuomo has the National Guard on standby, he has said he believes the NYPD — which later canceled all time-off for uniformed members, a senior official said — has the manpower to handle the situation. De Blasio flat-out said Tuesday he didn't want the National Guard deployed. The governor could override him but said he believed it would be more chaotic than helpful to do so.

"We do not need, nor do we think it's wise, for the National Guard to be activated in New York City," the mayor said Tuesday. "When outside armed forces go into local communities, no good comes of it. We have seen this for decades."

Scenes across the city on Monday painted the clearest picture yet that some opportunists are taking advantage of the national movement calling for racial justice in the wake of Floyd's death.

In the late afternoon, thousands marched peacefully down Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. At least three groups of varying sizes marched through that borough and Manhattan over the course of the day, mirroring the packed but peaceful protests that have dominated New Yorkers' response since Thursday.

In Washington Square Park, New York City’s top uniformed member of the force, Chief of Department Terrence Monahan, kneeled with protesters to diffuse a tense situation. It was one of a growing number of powerful moments of solidarity between protesters and police in the city and nationwide.

“Everyone, this has got to end, we all know Minnesota was wrong, they were arrested which they should be. There’s not a police officer over here that thinks Minnesota was justified. We stand with you on that," Monahan said.

Reports of destruction began to come in around 8 p.m. Monday, well before the start of the curfew. A handful of demonstrators broke off a relatively peaceful group as it moved around 30 Rockefeller Plaza, breaking windows at the Nintendo and Michael Kors stores.

Later, people were seen ripping off plywood and opening up metal gates to break into stores in Manhattan. Crowds ran out, hands full of merchandise from Macy's, Best Buy, Foot Looker and Duane Reade, as well as Microsoft and AT&T stores.

"There are packs of youths running as fast as they can, smashing windows as fast as they can, and police are trying to catch them as soon as possible,” an NYPD spokesman said.

President Trump referenced the Macy's looting in a tweet Tuesday, saying the store was "devastated yesterday when hoodlums and thieves vandalized it, breaking almost all of its large panels of storefront glass." For their part, Macy's said in an internal email that "the damage to our store was minimal."

In the two hours leading up to Monday's curfew, dozens of looters, not protesters who peacefully demonstrated throughout the day, spread out between Midtown and Union Square, in some instances ripping off plywood to break into stores. NBC New York's Chris Glorioso, Gaby Acevedo and Ray Villeda report.

De Blasio said the mayhem underway even before the curfew started -- and the continuing chaos over the course of the evening -- prompted his decision to extend the order for the rest of the week. Essential workers, people experiencing homelessness and those seeking medical attention are exempt. Those caught in violation of the order face arrest and a misdemeanor summons for breaking the mayor's executive order.

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.

"New York City reopens next week. It took us 93 days to get here. We have to take a minute and ask ourselves, 'What are we doing here?' What are we trying to accomplish?" the governor said Monday. "We should be outraged. Protests, yes. Be frustrated, yes. Is there a larger problem? Of course. It's not just Mr. Floyd."

"There's a moment for change here, yes. It's not enough to come out and say 'I'm angry and frustrated.' And what? What do you want?" Cuomo added. "The protesters are making a point -- and most of them are making a sensible point -- but you have to add the common-sense agenda that every voice calls for so the politicians know what to do. People united can do anything."

New Jersey is revising its near two-decades-old police use of force policy in the wake of the protests, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Tuesday. Grewal said the state would work with diverse groups, from police unions to religious organizations and more, to develop a comprehensive update to the policy. It was last revised in 2000, Grewal said. He hopes to release a new policy by year's end.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state is approaching a level where coronavirus fatalities are perhaps not eliminated but are very few.
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