Another day of protests over the death of George Floyd brought more examples of New York City officials downplaying or denying the police department’s rough treatment of protesters — even when it was caught on video.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said he had personally seen “no use of force around peaceful protests” and cast doubt on people who had, belying social media posts and witness accounts of officers moving on demonstrators without provocation and bashing them with batons.
De Blasio made the comment in response to questions at his morning news briefing about teams of officers aggressively breaking up a rally in the Bronx as the city’s 8 p.m. curfew kicked in Thursday, leading to scores of arrests and cries of brutality. He said officers were using “lots of restraint” with protesters.
“What an absolute disgrace. This is just not true,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer tweeted afterward. “You are gaslighting an entire City.”
The department did later announce the suspensions without pay for two officers, in connection to two separate incidents from the early days of protest. In one, on May 29, a video clip showed an officer shoving a woman to the ground. In the second, on May 30, an officer was shown pulling a demonstrator’s mask down and spraying pepper spray. Both cases have been referred for disciplinary action.
Protesters marched through the city again Friday by the thousands. About three hundred people gathered in Union Square for a rally organized by medical professionals who have been battling the COVID-19 pandemic at its epicenter for the last three months. One protester held a sign that read, “You Clapped For Us, We Kneel For You,” referring to the ritual clapping New Yorkers do each night at 7 p.m. to salute health care workers.
“We want to redirect the respect that was given to us throughout the coronavirus pandemic and give that same respect to members of the community who are on the front lines fighting for social justice,” said Hillary Duenas, one of the event organizers who works at Mount Sinai.
On Friday night, some demonstrators remained on city streets into the night hours after the curfew started. Initially, at least, police presence seemed muted as crowds dwindled on their own at various locations.
Randy Williams exchanged a fist bump with police. “I get in their faces everyday not with hate, not with anger,” he said. “My delivery may be a little rough but the message is the same. I don’t dislike cops and I have been to prison. I don’t hate cops. I hate bullies. I hate oppressors and hate is a very strong word and I know exactly how I am using it.”
The violent flareups that characterized some demonstrations last weekend have almost entirely given way to peaceful affairs. Looting that occurred on Sunday and Monday also appears to have ceased.
The tension now has occurred around the city’s 8 p.m. curfew, with police at some protests using force to enforce the order barring assemblies.