Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio this afternoon said that a citywide curfew will take effect at 11 tonight and will be lifted at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.
They also said that the New York City Police Department will double its presence to help prevent violence and property damage. Additional officers will be deployed to areas where violence and property damage occurred during last night’s protests – specifically in lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.
“I stand behind the protestors and their message, but unfortunately there are people who are looking to distract and discredit this moment,” Cuomo said. “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.”
Earlier today, Cuomo said that the demonstrations touched off following the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer that were accompanied by looting, arson and confrontations with police have not served the demonstrators’ cause and could also threaten the recovery from COVID-19.
Several hundred people were arrested during demonstrations since Thursday in New York City after some people broke store windows, set fires and threw objects at police. Videos confirmed that police also engaged in questionable behavior including driving vehicles into crowds, spraying an irritant directly into the face of a person and pushing a female to the ground.
There were comparatively small and restrained rallies in Westchester communities such as White Plains, Yonkers and Peekskill, but without the rancor and violence seen in New York City and other U.S. cities.
“I believe there are people who are using this moment and using the protests for their own purpose,” Cuomo said. “There are people who want to sew the seeds of anarchy, who want to disrupt. By the way, there are people who want to steal. You can use this moment to steal. You can use this moment to spread chaos. I hear the same thing from all the local officials. They have people in their communities who are there quote unquote to protest. They’re not from their communities; they don’t know where they’re from. Extremist groups. Some people will blame the left. Some people will blame the right. It will become politicized. But there is no doubt there are outside groups that come in to disrupt.”
Cuomo expressed concern that the mass gatherings of recent days have the potential to ruin the planned reopening of New York City that is scheduled to begin on June 8.
“We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masks, social distanced, and then you turn on the TV and you see these mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people after everything that we have done,” Cuomo said. “We have to take a minute and ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing here. What are we trying to accomplish?’”
Cuomo said there were only a few scattered arrests in demonstrations upstate and protesters there generally were responsible.
Cuomo said that the violence has taken the spotlight away from the underlying purpose of the protests and has deflected from a reform message. He said the demonstrators need to be pushing a positive reform agenda. He suggested that such an agenda should include:
- A national ban on the police use of excessive force and chokeholds;
- Independent investigations of police abuse;
- Public disclosure of the disciplinary records of police under investigation;
- A national program for educational quality;
- A national anti-poverty agenda; and
- Creation of a real national affordable housing plan.
Cuomo said he was busy with today’s news conference in New York City and not familiar with comments supposedly made by President Trump during a conference call in which Trump called governors weak, saying they have to use the U.S. military against demonstrators and that people arrested during protests should automatically be sent to prison for 10 years.
“Remember when the president put out that incendiary Tweet, ‘We start shooting when they start looting’ or ‘They start looting, we start shooting?’ That’s an old sixties call. The violence, the looting, the criminality plays right into those people who don’t want progressive change,” Cuomo said. “They’re going to try to paint this whole protest movement that they’re all criminals, they’re all looters. That’s what they’re going to do. Why? Because they don’t want people talking about Mr. Floyd’s death. They don’t want people seeing that video. They want people seeing the video of the looting.”
Cuomo reported that deaths from COVID-19 in New York state yesterday dropped to 54, with 10 in nursing homes and 44 in hospitals.
Statewide there have been a total of 23,959 COVID-19 deaths, according to statistics obtained this afternoon from the state Department of Health.
Deaths in Westchester now total 1,501. Deaths of Rockland residents yesterday went up by one to reach 495. There were new deaths in Putnam yesterday, with the total remaining at 60. Orange County deaths rose by two to 376. Dutchess County now has 150 deaths from the virus.
New York has had 371,711 people test positive for the virus. There were 33,552 cases identified in Westchester, 13,185 in Rockland, 1,257 in Putnam, 10,422 in Orange and 3,924 in Dutchess.