Some protest organizers urge crowds to go home. Others marched on, and were arrested.
The protests that have filled New York’s streets in recent days entered their second week on Friday with thousands of people gathering at sites across the city for demonstrations, marches and vigils that continued to be overwhelmingly peaceful.
While several groups defied a citywide curfew again and risked encountering the forceful tactics the police had used the two previous nights to clear out those who did not disperse, other rallies broke up voluntarily as 8 p.m. approached amid intermittent rain.
“Everybody go home,” organizers of a group on Manhattan’s Upper West Side implored the crowd as a number of officers approached shortly before the curfew took effect. “It’s a wrap.”
In Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood, where mass arrests were narrowly averted on Thursday night when elected officials intervened to help what had been a peaceful march end that way, one protester announced to the crowd, “You are nothing less to the cause if you’re not here after curfew.”
“I want to see you here next week,” he added. “For your support, you have to be here. Share the love.”
Still, most of the group remained, and several others continued to march through the streets during what appeared to be a quieter night for both protests and the police’s response to them.
In Brooklyn, a line of officers blocked hundreds of protesters at Grand Army Plaza, while dozens of patrol cars kept them from retreating. The protesters stopped and raised their arms, led in front by a line of cyclists who had been acting as a buffer.
Randy Williams, 38, stepped forward and began to talking to some of the officers, working with other organizers to try to ease a tense situation. The group negotiated for the protesters to be able to leave peacefully, without arrests.
“This is the first protest people have not feared for their life,” Mr. Williams said. “The protest has ended for the night. We will respectfully go home now.”
But less than an hour later, the police again employed the more forceful tactics they had used on recent nights, targeting a group that had left Grand Army Plaza.
Officers appeared to surround a number of protesters on Nostrand Avenue. Videos showed officers aggressively pushing back a man who was filming them as they made arrests, then chasing him with a baton and shoving a reporter who was filming while the man was taken into custody.
On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, police blocked a march that started near Mayor Bill de Blasio’s official residence and arrested around 20 people, rushing at some and forcing them to the ground.
The night’s relative calm came on a day that started with the mayor continuing to defend the police’s actions in breaking up demonstrations, even as videos and photos showed officers employing aggressive and sometimes violent tactics to do so.
“What I saw overwhelmingly, and have continued to see, is peaceful protest being respected on both sides,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news briefing.
But with criticism of the mayor mounting — including from Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate, who had helped the tension in Clinton Hill on Thursday — he said for the first time that some officers would be disciplined, and suspended, for their treatment of protesters.
Late Friday, several were.
The mayor also continued to defend the curfew against calls that it be abandoned. He said it would be enforced through Monday morning, when the city is scheduled to begin reopening after a lengthy shutdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. de Blasio’s reaffirmation of his commitment to the curfew came even as the Manhattan district attorney joined his counterparts in Brooklyn and the Bronx to say he would not prosecute those arrested for low-level offense like unlawful assembly during the protests.
Two N.Y.P.D. officers were suspended without pay for conduct during protests.
Two New York police officers have been suspended without pay for their involvement in what the city’s police commissioner called “troubling” and “disturbing” incidents during the protests of the past week, which were touched off by the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in police custody in Minneapolis last month.
In a statement released late Friday, the commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, said that one officer had been suspended after video emerged of him pushing a woman to the ground in Brooklyn on May 29. In addition, the commissioner said, a supervisor would be transferred as a result of the incident.
An officer involved in a separate incident the next day was also suspended for pulling down a man’s face mask and then spraying the man in the face with pepper spray, the commissioner said.
Commissioner Shea did not identify the officers. A Police Department spokesman declined to provide the their names, and the department did not respond to an email requesting them.
Both suspensions came after the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau concluded investigation into the incidents. The cases have been referred to an official for disciplinary action, the statement said.
“While the investigations have to play out, based on the severity of what we saw, it is appropriate and necessary to assure the public that there will be transparency during the disciplinary process,” Commissioner Shea said in his statement. He added that the incidents were “run counter to the principles of N.Y.P.D. training, as well as our mission of public safety.”
The announcement came hours after Mr. de Blasio said at his daily news briefing that such discipline would be forthcoming. But at the same briefing, the mayor defended the police’s actions in enforcing the citywide curfew he imposed, despite photos and videos showing some officers employing aggressive tactics on recent nights.
“What I saw overwhelmingly, and have continued to see, is peaceful protest being respected on both sides,” Mr. de Blasio said.
The mayor pledged to review reports of officers acting inappropriately. Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, and the Manhattan and Brooklyn district attorneys are also investigating potential acts of police misconduct during the protests.
But he also demanded that demonstrators stop insulting and attacking his officers and he warned that anti-police rhetoric could lead to continued violence against those he oversees.
“For our part in the damage to civility, for our part in racial bias, in excessive force, unacceptable behavior, unacceptable language and many other mistakes, we are human,” he said. “I am sorry. Are you?”
At his news conference, Mr. Shea ticked off ways in which he said the police had been attacked over the last week and asserted that “anarchists” armed with dangerous weapons had sought to undermine otherwise productive protests.
Late Friday, he sought to provide evidence for his assertion, posting photos on Twitter of items he said had been seized from people arrested at a protest in the Bronx Thursday night.
“These are not the tools of peaceful demonstrators,” he wrote, but rather “the tools of criminals bent on causing mayhem & hijacking what we all know is a worthwhile cause.”
The items included handcuffs, a backpack, lighter fluid, gloves, a pocketknife, a hammer and a wrench.
Demonstrators in New York City remember Breonna Taylor on her birthday.
Hundreds of people gathered in Brooklyn and Manhattan on Friday at peaceful vigils to honor Breonna Taylor, an African-American emergency medical technician killed by the police in March in Louisville, Ky.
The events were part of national efforts to honor Ms. Taylor on what would have been her 27th birthday. She was shot and killed by officers who burst into her apartment during a late-night drug investigation on March 13.
Ms. Taylor has emerged as a prominent face of #SayHerName, a social media effort to recognize the black women whose deaths at the hands of police have been overshadowed by the police killings of black men.
“Our black women are often forgotten, and that is not OK,” Cherish Patton, 18, told a crowd of hundreds who gathered for a vigil she organized in Harlem in front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. state office building. She thanked the crowd for “paying tribute” to Ms. Taylor.
People lit candles and placed flowers at the base of a statue of Powell. Ms. Patton burned sage, waving it as the scent wafted through the air.
Later, a violinist played, “This Little Light of Mine,” and Ms. Patton ended the event, which morphed into a short, peaceful March, by leading the crowd in singing Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday.”
At another vigil in Brooklyn, on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library near Grand Army Plaza, hundreds also gathered and sang “Happy Birthday” to Ms. Taylor.
“Today, we’re celebrating a birthday of somebody who has sparked change in our country and our world,” an organizer said to a group of demonstrators.
Sofia Montgomery, 28, has been attending protests consistently since they began last week. She said she decided to march again on Friday because she wanted to shed light on police brutality against women.
“Women killed by police don’t get as much attention,” Ms. Montgomery said.
Jill Feyer, 39, who was leading a protest near Union Square in Manhattan, had also been at protests all week, she said. But despite her fatigue, she was determined to show up one more time on Friday.
“I’m exhausted. We’ve had a police action on my block today,” Ms. Feyer said. “But there was no way I was missing Breonna’s birthday.”
Three city district attorneys will not prosecute protesters accused of low-level offenses.
District attorneys in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx will not prosecute people accused of low-level offenses after being arrested amid the protests against police brutality and systemic racism that entered their second week in New York City on Friday.
Since last week, more than 2,000 people have been arrested in the city on charges like disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, unlawful assembly, assault on a police officer and burglary, according to the police and prosecutors.
On Friday, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said he would not prosecute protesters accused of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct. In a statement, he commended demonstrators who had gathered peacefully and committed no other offenses.
“The prosecution of protesters charged with these low-level offenses undermines critical bonds between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” Mr. Vance said in a statement. “Our office has a moral imperative to enact public policies which assure all New Yorkers that in our justice system and our society, black lives matter and police violence is a crime.”
According to the district attorney’s office, the decision affects 71 cases.
Under an existing policy, Manhattan prosecutors dismiss such cases after six months, provided that the accused was not charged with a new crime.
Brooklyn’s district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, has taken a similar stance. He has said his office would review cases in which a desk appearance ticket was issued and then determine whether the case should move forward. In instances where a person was only charged with unlawful assembly or with violating curfew, his office will decline to prosecute.
“We will respond to the arrests here, but we will make sure the prosecution of the individual makes sense and does not trample on the right to assemble,” Mr. Gonzalez said in an interview this week. “We stand for the right of people to protest.”
Mr. Gonzalez’s office has so far declined to prosecute a half-dozen cases.
The Bronx district attorney, Darcel D. Clark, has also declined to prosecute protesters accused of unlawful assembly or violating the curfew. A summons will be issued in such cases instead.
Mr. Vance did not say his office would not prosecute those accused of violating the curfew. He and Mr. Gonzalez have said they would continue to prosecute people accused of violence against officers and looting. Both offices are also investigating allegations of police abuse and brutality against protesters.
A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the Police Department said in a statement, “It is our understanding that each arrest will continue to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”
Protesters rallied at a Brooklyn jail where a prisoner was pepper-sprayed and died this week.
More than 1,000 people gathered in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn on Friday to rally at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal jail where, the authorities say, guards pepper-sprayed a prisoner early Wednesday. He was found unconscious and later died, officials said.
As the crowd arrived at the jail shortly before 6 p.m., many of those in it stood facing the building, which houses about 1,600 inmates.
“We see you,” one protester shouted. “We hear you,” another added, as detainees pounded on the jail windows. “You are not alone,” the crowd chanted over and over.
The death of the prisoner, Jamel Floyd, has become another flash point amid the protests that have continued for more than a week across the United States over police brutality and institutional racism, including in the criminal-justice system.
Mr. Floyd, a 35-year-old black man who was serving a state prison sentence for burglary, had been moved to the Brooklyn jail in October, the federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement on Wednesday.
The guards used the pepper spray on him after he became increasingly disruptive and potentially harmful to others, the statement said. He barricaded himself in his cell and was breaking the cell-door window with a metal object, the statement said.
Mr. Floyd’s family has challenged the official account.
“I feel that they killed my son,” Mr. Floyd’s mother, Donna Mays, said in an interview on Thursday. “I believe they pepper sprayed him to death.”
A cousin, Tomika Mays, said Mr. Floyd was asthmatic and had high blood pressure.
The Bureau of Prisons declined on Friday to comment on the family’s claims.
The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, and New York City’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Barbara Sampson, said in statements on Thursday that they were investigating Mr. Floyd’s death.
Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Nydia M. Velázquez, New York Democrat asked the jail’s warden and Mr. Horowitz to preserve all video and other evidence related to the death.
Katie Rosenfeld, a lawyer for Mr. Floyd’s mother, said the family planned to have a private pathologist observe Mr. Floyd’s autopsy, which is scheduled for Saturday.
“What’s really critical right now is to conduct an independent investigation on behalf of the family,” Ms. Rosenfeld said.
‘Jail support’ stations sprout up to help those arrested.
A group of volunteers sat around a table and several boxes on Thursday night on Baxter Street in Lower Manhattan. There, they provided those recently released from Manhattan’s central booking or detention complex, known as the “Tombs,” with supplies like hand sanitizer and shoelaces, as well as medical or legal advice.
Since protests began in New York City, hundreds of people have been arrested after clashing with the police during largely peaceful demonstrations or while looting. The majority have been detained for more than 24 hours, defense lawyers said.
On Thursday morning, more than 380 people were still waiting to see a judge, raising concerns about the health of those held in cramped quarters for extended periods during the coronavirus crisis. They were scattered around the city in cells at Police Headquarters, local precinct houses and at the Manhattan jail.
On Thursday night, as the 8 p.m. curfew approached, a young man in a T-shirt bounded out of Manhattan’s central booking with a whoop. He was jubilant as he approached the table, which was surrounded by various volunteers, including a doctor.
The man, who did not wish to provide his name, accepted a cigarette and laces, and said he had been held since Monday, sleeping on and off as he waited for his name to be called.
A volunteer also asked the man if the police or the F.B.I. had questioned whether he had ties to Antifa or another group. (The man said no.) He said he worried that his girlfriend, who had come to pick him up, would suffer the consequences of being out after curfew.
Nearby, a few others who had recently been released sat on park benches.
Volunteers gathered around a similar “jail support” station near Brooklyn’s central booking in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday night. A nurse in scrubs sat near a long table along with several others in masks.
They had arranged gauze and bandages, ibuprofen and antibiotic ointment on one end of the table, along with pots of salve and calming bath salts that had been donated.
At another table, volunteers waited to offer stacks of clementines and large serving dishes of food to hungry people who were not expected to be released from jail anytime soon. One volunteer said most people were released between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. The group had covered its station with a blue tarp, preparing for the rain.
‘Kettling’ of peaceful protesters shows aggressive shift by the N.Y.P.D.
It was about 8:45 p.m. in Brooklyn on Wednesday, 45 minutes past the city’s curfew, when a peaceful protest march encountered a line of riot police, near Cadman Plaza.
Hundreds of demonstrators stood there for 10 minutes, chanting, arms raised, until their leaders decided to turn the group around and leave the area.
What they had not seen was that riot police had flooded the plaza behind them, engaging in a law enforcement tactic called kettling, which involves encircling protesters so that they have no way to exit from a park, city block or other public space, and then charging them and making arrests.
The kettling operations carried out by the city’s police after curfew on recent nights have become among the most unsettling symbols of the department’s use of force against peaceful protests, which has touched off a fierce backlash against Mr. Blasio and Mr. Shea.
In the past several days, New York Times journalists covering the protests have seen officers repeatedly charge at demonstrators after curfew with seemingly little provocation, shoving them onto sidewalks, striking them with batons and using other aggressive tactics.
In an interview on WNYC on Friday, the mayor said the encircling of protesters was sometimes necessary for public safety. “I don’t want to see protesters hemmed in if they don’t need to be,” he said, but he added “that sometimes there’s a legitimate problem and it’s not visible to protesters.”
Reporting was contributed by Anne Barnard, Gabriela Bhaskar, Julia Carmel, Jo Corona, Annie Correal, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Alan Feuer, Michael Gold, Christina Goldbaum, Melissa Guerrero, Corey Kilgannon, Jeffery C. Mays, Terence McGinley, Sheelagh McNeill, Andy Newman, Derek M. Norman, Azi Paybarah, Pia Peterson, Sean Piccoli, Jan Ransom, Dana Rubinstein, Eliza Shapiro, Ashley Southall, Liam Stack, Matt Stevens, Nikita Stewart, Katie Van Syckle, Anjali Tsui and Benjamin Weiser.
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