De Blasio calls holding George Floyd protesters on Manhattan Bridge the ‘right decision’

Protesters walking across the Manhattan Bridge toward Manhattan at sunset on May 31, 2020. (Photo by Grant Lancaster)

Mayor Bill de Blasio stood by the New York Police Department’s decision to hold thousands of demonstrators on the Manhattan Bridge for over an hour Tuesday night as a means to enforce the city’s 8 p.m. curfew and prevent looting, fires and other forms of protest-related vandalism in the borough. 

The large group of protesters on the bridge were originally part of a march in downtown Brooklyn but broke off from the group after the 8:00 p.m. curfew. Officers blocked both entrances to the bridge causing protesters to feel trapped. After a lengthy standoff, protesters exited the bridge and returned to Brooklyn. Some took to Twitter to publicly criticize the “dangerous” decision including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

“The notion that folks were going to cross the bridge and keep going and going into Manhattan and including into places where there previously had been physical damage, that was just not tolerable,” de Blasio told reporters Wednesday morning. “If I thought what happened on the Manhattan Bridge last night was a bad idea it wouldn’t have happened.” De Blasio added that he watched the situation on the bridge from “very nearby” and was “talking it through” with to NYPD Commission Shea. 

The city has seen nearly a week of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died last week after an officer pressed his knee in the back of his neck to pin him to the ground. Protests have been generally peaceful during the day-light hours but have taken violent turns at night resulting in arrests, fires, looting, pepper spray and scuffles with the NYPD. 

On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered an 11 p.m to 5 a.m. curfew in New York City for Monday, June 1 and announced that the number of NYPD officers patrolling streets would double from 4,000 to 8,000 to prevent vandalism and looting. Protesters largely ignored Monday night’s curfew and looting still took place in the city despite the increased police presence across the city. 

Roughly 700 people were arrested on Monday night and about 280 more arrests occurred on Tuesday accord the NYPD. Tuesday morning, Mayor de Blasio bumped up curfew to 8 p.m. and extended it until 5 a.m. on June 8, to try to further prevent any violence or vandalism during protests. 

During a press conference on Wednesday, the mayor said he hopes to lift the curfew as the city begins to take steps to begin phase 1 of responding on Monday, June 8. The city will keep additional restrictions on transportation until Monday morning but the city could “make some adjustments along the way.” Under curfew, Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing apps will be prohibited from running within curfew hours.

Citi Bike and Revel scooters users will be able to dock at 8 p.m. but will not be able to start new rides. Yellow and Green taxis will still run from 8 to 12:30 a.m. to transport essential workers and those needing medical attention. Riders might need to provide a reason for travel from the NYPD.  The MTA will still run subways and buses will still run for essential workers past curfew.