First Manhattan arrests offer early glimpse into protest and unrest incidents

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Lululemon’s SoHo store was damaged. (Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY)

By Greg B. Smith

This story was originally published on June 3, 2020 by THE CITY.

In the predawn darkness Sunday, cops say they spied two men inside Nudie Jeans on the Bowery. The trendy store’s smoked-glass windows had been shattered, and police say they watched as the pair exited the store with their hands full.

The men, ages 24 and 28, left carrying 11 pairs of jeans and a t-shirt, according to the criminal complaint filed against them. Both now face fourth-degree grand larceny charges.

Those marked the first looting arrests in Manhattan following protests that had started three days earlier over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The killing, captured on a video recording, sparked ongoing demonstrations around the nation.

In Manhattan, hundreds more arrests would come for similar incursions on high-end stores, many in SoHo and Midtown.

The number of incidents spiked Monday into Tuesday, and dropped by Wednesday morning after Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed a citywide 8 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew and the NYPD deployed hundreds of extra cops to Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

As of Wednesday morning, cops citywide had made more than 2,000 arrests stemming from protests and looting. Authorities said about 200 officers have been injured — including two hit in the head with bricks and one who was apparently deliberately run over, and nearly 200 NYPD vehicles had been vandalized.

A Range of Raps

THE CITY reviewed records made available by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. for the 90 arrests made from last Thursday through Sunday.

By late Wednesday, 74 of those defendants had been arraigned. Of those, 46 people were charged with looting-related crimes, while 11 allegedly assaulted cops during demonstrations that drew countless thousands.

Another 17 defendants were hit with misdemeanors such as resisting arrest, unlawful assembly and criminal mischief.

A handful copped pleas, with the promise their charges would be dismissed and erased from the record if they committed no more crimes over the next six months.

The vast majority, including those charged with burglary or assaulting police, were released without having to put up bail.

Judges are no longer allowed to set bail for the felony charges these defendants faced — from second-degree burglary to second-degree assault — under criminal justice reforms enacted last year in Albany.

Most of those arrested in Manhattan were young and male — all but 10 were in their teens or 20s.

Of the nearly four dozen people arrested in Manhattan Sunday on looting charges, all but three were from the city. Two hailed from the Long Island towns of Hempstead and Valley Stream, while one had traveled from Paterson, N.J.

SoHo Stores Hit

Video snippets captured Sunday showed dozens of people running in and out of SoHo stores — including Dolce & Gabana, Gucci, Soho Bloomingdales and the upscale bootery Ugg.

Some people were arrested after simply entering busted-open stores. Others were snagged coming out carrying merchandise, authorities said.

Storefronts along Broadway showed the signs of a night of clashes.
Anti-police brutality protesters spread messages in SoHo. (Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY)

One man arrested held a single Gucci purse, another had three Dior handbags. One man took $7,000 worth of goods, including two pairs of pants and one jacket, while a woman was nabbed with $2,000 worth of Ugg goods, according to authorities.

One man was busted after cops say he was driving a car loaded up with Gucci gear and Ugg boots and “almost hit a lieutenant” while trying to flee. A woman was charged with assault and burglary after she was caught inside Victoria’s Secret and then slugged a cop, records show.

The allegations contained in records released by Vance’s office also detail a wide variety of crimes police charged were committed during demonstrations in Manhattan Thursday through Sunday. Among them:

  • A 27-year-old woman sprayed paint into the face of a patrol officer who’d approached a crowd in the middle of the Bowery and ordered them to get on the sidewalk.
  • A 26-year-old man in a crowd on Fifth Avenue tossed a full trash can, striking an officer in the head, knocking out the cop.
  • A 19-year-old man punched a sergeant in the head twice to stop him from arresting a fellow protester.
  • A 22-year-old woman was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of governmental administration for pouring water on a cop during a melee in Union Square. One man tossed a scooter at a cop, while another spit on an officer and punched a second one.
  • A 23-year-old man got hit with misdemeanor obstructing governmental administration charges for refusing to disperse as he stood in the middle of West 14th Street screaming “F— the police” into a megaphone. He then earned a third-degree assault charge — a felony — after cops say he uttered the same phrase as he bowled over an officer trying to get the crowd back on the sidewalk.

This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.