Mayor de Blasio calls Wednesday night protests ‘overwhelmingly peaceful’ despite NYPD actions captured on social media

Thousands gathered at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn on June 4, 2020 for a public memorial service to George Floyd. (Photo by Rose Adams)

Mayor Bill de Blasio called Wednesday night protests against police brutality “overwhelmingly peaceful,” stating that he had not seen any evidence of NYPD misconduct despite countless videos plastered across social media of officers hitting peaceful protesters with batons, confiscating bicycles and aggressively dispersing crowds with no warning to enforce the city’s 8 p.m. curfew. 

Yesterday, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across the five boroughs for the seventh day of protests sparked by the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, who died while in police custody on May 25. The week’s protests remain generally peaceful during the day but have ended in arrests, fires, looting, baton beatings and pepper spray once the sun goes down. 

To prevent further looting and vandalism, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered an 11 p.m. curfew in New York City on Sunday that went into effect on Monday, June 1. Protesters demonstrated well past Monday’s curfew and despite an extra 4,000 police officers on city streets, looting, fires and vandalism still took place in Manhattan and the Bronx. 

On June 2, Mayor de Blasio bumped up curfew to 8 p.m and again demonstrators across the five boroughs continued to protests hours after curfew until officers arbitrarily put an end to protests with arrests, pepper spray, and violent charges or repeated calls to go home. 

Wednesday followed the same pattern. Police abruptly stopped a peaceful protest at Gracie Mansion where at least 60 protesters were arrested, over 100 officers charged at peaceful protesters in Midtown Manhattan. On Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn, hoards of officers in riot gear charged into a crowd of protesters after a standoff at Clark Street.  After the 15-minute-long standoff, protesters turned around to head to Barclays Center. As marchers made their way down Cadman, a sea of officers followed and suddenly grabbed and arrested several protesters. Police charged into the crowd, some striking protesters with batons after a commanding officer shouted to “clear the f*cking place now.” One woman collapsed to the ground after being struck with a nightstick and passed out from the pain. Medics at the scene worried that she had suffered a seizure after her fall. 

“If there is anything that needs to be reviewed it will be. If there is anything that needs to be investigated it will be, ” said de Blasio during a press conference which he began by speaking about the “unacceptable” attacks on three officers in Brooklyn early Thursday morning.

De Blasio warned New Yorkers to heed NYPD officers’ instructions when protesting, especially after curfew, claiming that that so far officers have taken a “very open” and “flexible” approach in respecting protesters over the last week. “It’s not an unfair action to say that in the context of crisis, in the context of curfew there is a point where enough is enough,” said de Blasio 

The mayor then blamed scuffles and last nights roughly 180 arrests on “a very few who aim to do violence,” attack police officers and destroy property.”Whether it’s just pure vandals like we saw on Sunday and Monday night, or whether it is those who, again, based on an ideology that I can’t even follow or understand, simply want to create conflict,” said de Blasio. 

Multiple reporters asked de Blasio to clarify the NYPD’s protocol for stopping protests. 

“There is a lot of complexity here,” said de Blasio. “If the NYPD at any given point thinks that something is about to get more problematic and undermine peace and undermine order and create violence, they will draw a line.”