Mayor Bill de Blasio is promising a full independent review of Friday night's protests in Brooklyn, after seeing videos of demonstrations showing protestors shoved and beaten without provocation by NYPD officers, which he found “deeply disturbing.”
Straddling the line between championing peaceful demonstrations while condemning acts of violence toward NYPD officers, de Blasio first acknowledged the anger felt by many communities of color who have endured acts of racism in the last week—citing the Amy Cooper incident and the death of George Floyd of Minneapolis—while also suffering the most from the COVID-19 outbreak when compared to the rest of New York City.
"We’ve seen some videos that do not reflect the philosophy of this city; the values of this city; the values of this administration," said de Blasio at a news conference on Saturday morning. “That is not neighborhood policing, and we will not accept any of that behavior.”
There were some protestors, de Blasio noted, that “came with an agenda” intended to attack police officers, and putting peaceful demonstrators and police officers in harm’s way. “Any protestor that tries to take the humanity away from a police officer and devalue them just because they’re a public servant is no better than the racists who devalue people of color, in particular black men in America,” said de Blasio.
De Blasio, who did not offer specifics on when the independent review would be released to the public, was joined by NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who announced that of the estimated 3,000 protesters, more than 200 people—163 New York City residents and 41 out-of-towners—were arrested for taking part in the demonstrations and later released. Some were given desk appearance tickets while others a summons.
One woman—Samantha Shader of the Catskills, New York—was charged with four counts of attempted murder for allegedly hurling a Molotov cocktail at an NYPD van with four officers inside. The cocktail did not go off, according to police. Shader's sister, Darian, was charged with obstructing governmental administration.
Shea mentioned that a handful of protestors also came with bricks and loaded firearms, which he said counters the idea of a peaceful protest. “It is very difficult to practice de-escalation when you’re having a brick thrown at you, at your head,” said Shea, saying several officers remain in the emergency room for injuries, including teeth knocked out.
Aware that more protests will continue across the city in coming days—with several planned on Saturday—de Blasio stressed that NYPD will continue to refine their approach during these demonstrations to “ensure the right to protest is honored.”
The protests were sparked by the May 25th death of Floyd, who died hours after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was caught on video pressing a knee on Floyd’s neck while detained on the ground. His death was reminiscent of the killing of Staten Island resident Eric Garner, who, like Floyd, said he couldn't breathe as he was placed in a chokehold in July 2014 and later dying. The Floyd incident, coming on the heels of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, an ER tech killed by police during a no-knock raid in Louisville, Kentucky; and Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed while jogging in a Georgia suburb, sparked nationwide protests.
A contingent begin protesting on Friday night at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan before moving to Brooklyn's Barclays Center and beyond. Video and photos captured a graphic scene unfolding in Brooklyn, where police officers were spotted beating and pepper spraying protestors, opting away from de Blasio's preferred method of de-escalation. Among those pepper sprayed were Assemblywoman Diana Richardson.
“That’s unacceptable. And we need to understand exactly why that happened; there needs to be accountability,” said de Blasio.
Another incident involved a police officer spotted pushing a woman, sending her flying to the curb of a sidewalk. Of that incident, de Blasio said that the officer involved in that shoving will be investigated.
“Anytime you see a protestor just arbitrarily thrown to the ground by a police officer that does not reflect our values and there need to be consequences,” said de Blasio. “The NYPD has to do better.”
With additional reporting by Sophia Chang.