Attorney General James to review NYPD actions at Brooklyn protest

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State Attorney General Letitia James will lead an independent review of the May 29, 2020 protests outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on May 30, 2020. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

State Attorney General Letitia James will lead a swift, independent investigation into the NYPD’s actions while responding to Friday night’s wild protest outside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said during his daily press briefing Saturday that he and Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed on an independent review into the scuffles between police and protesters on May 29. More than 3,000 people attended the protests and over 200 of them were arrested.

Multiple videos surfaced in news reports and social media of police and protesters squaring off with one another. Demonstrators hurled objects at cops, and officers were seen shoving some individuals to the ground or restraining them. 

Cuomo expressed confidence in James to conduct an impartial investigation that will “review all the facts, police procedures and the crowd’s actions.” He asks James to complete it within 30 days.

“[James] is an independently elected official in New York state,” Cuomo said. “She has proven herself confident and capable of being independent, and we’re going to ask her to take a short period of time to review last night and do a report to the public. Let’s see what we can learn.”

Speaking about the protest itself, Cuomo sympathized with those outraged by the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He said he shared the outrage of the protesters and others who were appalled by the incident, the latest in a series of deadly injustices in America over the past 30 years.

“This started with Rodney King, that was 30 years ago. We suffered in this city with Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Eric Garner,” Cuomo said. “How many times have we seen the same situation? Yes, the names change — but the color doesn’t, and that is the painful reality of this situation. And it’s not just 30 years, it is this nation’s history of discrimination and racism dating back hundreds of years.”

Yet Cuomo stressed that “violence is not the answer” in ending racial injustice in America.

“It is counterproductive because the violence then obscures the righteousness of the message and the mission, and you lose the point in response,” he added. “It allows people who choose to scapegoat to point to the violence rather than the action that created the reaction. The violence allows people to talk about the violence as opposed to honestly addressing the situation that incited the violence.”

Cuomo said he had confidence de Blasio and NYPD leadership, cognizant of Friday’s events, would work Saturday to ensure they won’t be repeated going forward. But he didn’t weigh in with an opinion of reports about any specific NYPD actions Friday, saying he would wait for the information gathered by James’ report. 

Asked if there was concern that the protests would potentially lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases — which the state has worked three months to finally bring down — Cuomo acknowledged that he was, and encouraged those demonstrating to protect themselves from exposure.

“You have a right to demonstrate and protest, God bless America, but you don’t have a right to infect other people,” he observed. “You don’t have a right to act in a way that’s going to jeopardize public health. The effectiveness of a mask, as simple as at seems, the more we learn, the more [we realize how] effective it is. Demonstrate with a mask on!”