The authorities in the upscale New York City have imposed a week-long night curfew and ramped up police presence after violence and looting incidents were reported across the city amid widespread protests triggered by the custodial killing of African-American George Floyd.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio announced on Monday that the citywide curfew in New York City will begin at 11 PM on Monday and will be lifted at 5 AM Tuesday morning.
However, Blasio later said the curfew across the city will be extended through the week. “We’re going to continue that curfew for the remainder of this week, 8 p.m. each evening until 5 a.m. the next morning,” he said.
The New York City Police Department doubled its presence, bringing nearly 8000 police personnel to help prevent violence and damage to property, in angry response to the killing of Floyd, a 46-year-old man who was pinned to the ground in Minneapolis last week by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck as he gasped for breath.
The additional officers will be deployed in areas where violence broke out and property was damage during the previous night’s protests – specifically in lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.
Videos and photos posted on social media showed that while demonstrators protested peacefully around most areas in the city, there were several instances of looting as well.
People were seen breaking into high end stores around Manhattan’s Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue, home to almost all luxury and high-end brands from around the world, and running way with merchandise from the shops. Groups of people also looted pharmacies, electronic stores and other businesses across the city.
Governor Cuomo said that the curfew was imposed is to help separate the overwhelming majority of peaceful protesters from “people who are looking to exploit the moment by looting”.
Yet, a curfew and increased police presence could not stop looters to break into retail stores in Manhattan that have been shuttered for over two months due to the shutdown in place because of COVID19.
Cuomo strongly lashed out at the looters, saying those people breaking store windows, going in and stealing are indulging in “criminal activity.” He also criticized the New York police saying they have not done their job well. “The police must stop the looting and the criminal activity. That is the essence of the police force. They are supposed to protect the community, protect the property, they did not do that in New York City last night,” he said.
“I am disappointed and outraged at what happened in New York City last night. Those looters those criminals that criminal activity, hurt everyone,” he said.
Cuomo earlier said while there are “extremist groups that just want to propose anarchy”, the majority of the people are making a very valid point that discrimination and abuse by police should finally end.
The governor said in a statement that while the state authorities encourage people to protest peacefully and make their voices heard, the safety of the general public was paramount and cannot be compromised.
“I stand behind the protestors and their message, but unfortunately there are people who are looking to distract and discredit this moment. The violence and the looting has been bad for the city, the state and this entire national movement, undermining and distracting from this righteous cause,” Cuomo said.
He also criticised President Donald Trump for threatening to call in the military to end protests around the country.
“What the president today did was he called out the American military against American citizens. That’s what they did. They used the American military to push back a peaceful protest, which everyone watched on TV, just so he could have a photo-op of walking to a church. When was the last time you saw the American military called out against Americans?,” he said.
Trump, who was taken to an underground bunker in the White House on Friday as protesters gathered outside the presidential residence, on Monday ventured outside the White House grounds to pose for photographs at a nearby church.
Before Trump came out of the White House, riot police and National Guard troops used tear gas and flash grenades to disperse a peaceful protest in a nearby park.
Mayor Blasio said he supported peaceful protest in the city.
The mayor said while demonstrations have been generally peaceful, “we can’t let violence undermine the message of this moment. It is too important and the message must be heard”.
He said there had been incidents over the past few days, as the protests intensified, where police officers did not uphold the values of New York City or of the Police Department.
“We agree on the need for swift action,” he said, adding that it will be ensured that such officers are held accountable.
Considered to be the worst ever civil unrest in the US in decades, the violent protests have engulfed at least 140 cities across America in the days following the death of Floyd.
A report in The New York Times said looters stormed into Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, a retail space of over 2.5 million square feet and one of the largest retail stores in the world, and stole merchandise before they were chased down by the police.
Looters also broke stores of other high-end brands such as Nike and Coach store, stealing expensive goods and vandalized a Barnes & Noble bookstore while destroying other smaller storefronts along the way.