There are multiple actions, protests and rallies planned around the city Tuesday to mark the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer sparked outrage and civil rights protests across the country over the last year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Rev. Al Sharpton at the National Action Network in Harlem in the afternoon where they and other city leaders spoke about Floyd and his legacy. In his honor, they kneeled for nine minutes and 29 seconds—the amount of time that former officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to Floyd's neck and back.
Video of Floyd's death, which also featured other officers standing by and doing nothing, raised questions about excessive police force. Chauvin was convicted by a jury of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter in April, and de Blasio said at today's event that police are being held accountable all across the nation because of the Floyd protests. Both Sharpton and de Blasio spoke in favor of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would end police techniques including chokeholds and carotid holds and also improve police training.
“Federal government needs to do what we do, make laws,” Sharpton said. “George Floyd should not just go down in history as a model, he should go down in history as the turning point on how we deal with policing in the United States.”
De Blasio added that passing the law is "the least we can do to honor him, but it has to happen."
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Earlier on Tuesday, mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan joined a small group of Black Lives Matter activists for a march to the Holland Tunnel. For about 15 minutes, the protesters blocked the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, and they were taken into custody by police. An NYPD spokesperson confirmed that they issued five summonses for disorderly conduct against the protesters, including Donovan.
Later today, a protest is planned to start at 5 p.m. at Barclays Center, which was the site of dozens of protests and rallies last summer (the Nets will face off with the Boston Celtics at 7:30 p.m. at Barclays tonight as well).
There will also be vigils, marches and gatherings at Foley Square and Cadman Plaza at 5 p.m.; Union Square at 6 p.m.; McCarren Park and Carl Schurz Park at 7 p.m.; and Brooklyn Museum at 8 p.m.
Last summer, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of New York to demand cuts to the NYPD budget, an overhauled police disciplinary system, and other reforms, some of which have since been enacted. Those demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful, but sometimes devolved into rioting and looting.
The NYPD's response to those demonstrations was widely criticized as aggressive and violent, prompting a pledge from de Blasio to overhaul the NYPD’s protest policing efforts. Some activists say that the NYPD has yet to adopt many of those promised reforms, and has continued to brutalize protesters without justification.
"Our primary goal here is to respect people's rights to peacefully assembly and protest," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said on NY1 earlier Tuesday. "It's ingrained in this country and we take it very seriously."
In January, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued de Blasio and the NYPD for violating the civil rights of protesters last spring and summer," citing, among other things, the police's "blatant use of excessive force and misconduct, including indiscriminate and unjustified use of batons, bicycles, pepper spray and a crowd control tactic known as kettling."
Additional reporting by Andy Mai