Fires and fury: Peaceful protests devolve into another night of chaos in NYC

Reporters with NYPD credentials are able to cross police/fire lines for emergencies. Here, an officer stands guard as an NYPD van burns near the intersection of East 13th Street and Broadway in the East Village on May 30, 2020. (Photo by Mark Hallum)


Saturday’s protests over the George Floyd police-involved killing in Minneapolis earlier this week descended into chaos again in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Demonstrators have set fires across locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, vandalized police vehicles and businesses along the way. Hundreds remain out in the streets. There have been numerous clashes between individuals and cops along the way.

These events happened on the same day Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea condemned the chaos outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn the night before, Friday, and acknowledged that “we have much more to do” in changing policing. State Attorney General Letitia James was also appointed Saturday to conduct a review into the May 29 events.

The May 30 protests began with relative trouble. But just like Friday, as the sun went down, the tension rose — and with it, the disorder.

Burning rubber from two police vans burning – and exploding – south of Union Square caused a rare kind of obstruction of the view of the Empire State Building Saturday night.

Protesters cheered as sparks flew up while others took a sledge hammer to the windows of the Santander Bank at the corner of the 13th Street and Broadway.

A vandalized NYPD van on East 12th Street. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

Up to 20 arrests would follow between 11th and 14th Streets before over 200 police in riot gear pushed demonstrators up Broadway, taking some to the ground with batons and plastic cuffs.

By the end of it, one man was pouring milk over his face after police used either tear gas or pepper spray. Then he vomited.

Firefighters work to douse the NYPD van fire. (Photo by Mark Hallum)
Protesters and cops clash in Manhattan on May 30, 2020. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

The NYPD commandeered two buses to haul away protesters arrested at the corner of East First Street and Bowery. Sources say as many as 16 were taken into custody there. 

(Photo by Mark Hallum)

The trouble also continues on the other side of the river in Brooklyn, in areas not too far from Barclays Center, the site of Friday night’s chaotic protest. 

Video surfaced on Twitter showing a police vehicle slowly driving through a crowd of people that attempted to stop it at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and St. Mark’s Avenue.

Another video shows another police vehicle in Brooklyn going through an intersection as protesters hurled garbage cans at it.


There were additional reports of bedlam near the corner of Bedford and Church Avenues, where people have been throwing bottles and bricks, and set various fires. Police have reportedly surrounded the immediate area.



Read more about the Brooklyn protests by clicking here

In wake of the outbursts in Brooklyn and Manhattan, public officials were quick to decry it, and demand reform.

“We urge non-violence for protestors. Always,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted. “But we demand better from the NYPD. Too many instances of escalation rather than de-escalation. Too much force. I am heartbroken for New York City right now. Our city deserves better.”

Reacting to the video of NYPD vehicles going through a crowd in Brooklyn, Queens/Bronx Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez implored de Blasio to bring the officers responsible to justice.”

“NYPD officers just drove an SUV into a crowd of human beings. They could‘ve killed them, and we don’t know how many they injured. NO ONE gets to slam an SUV through a crowd of human beings,” she tweeted. “@NYCMayor these officers need to be brought to justice, not dismissed w/’internal reviews.'”

In an address at Cadman Plaza Saturday night, de Blasio stressed that the majority of protests across New York City were peaceful in nature, with just a handful in Brooklyn and Manhattan turning chaotic. He suggested that many of the more damaging protesters were coming from out of town.

The mayor urged protesters to head home Saturday night, and warned that others still out on the street would be subject to arrest. Regarding the earlier video of NYPD vehicles moving through the crowds in Brooklyn, de Blasio blamed those protesters who stood in the way.

“It’s inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers. That’s wrong on its face, and it hasn’t happened in the history of protest in this city,” de Blasio said. “It’s clear that a different element has come into play here who are trying to hurt police officers and damage their vehicles. If a police officer is in that situation, they have to get out of that situation.” 

With reporting by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech


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