As George Floyd was buried in Minneapolis, at a memorial service presided over by the Reverend Al Sharpton, protesters in New York took to the streets for a 10th day of protests in defiance of a citywide 8pm curfew last night. The day of protests began with a memorial service for Floyd at Cadman Plaza– the site of Wednesday night’s police crackdown– and ended in another show of police force that led to 270 arrests, the NYPD said.
At the memorial service, Terrence Floyd spoke of his brother’s life, and the movement sparked by his death. Peaceful protesters marched from the service over the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, and demonstrators began gathering around the city to protest as evening fell.
At 7pm– as has become custom– a large group gathered at Barclays Center, and began marching north on Flatbush Avenue, towards the Manhattan Bridge. Volunteers had systematized what a week ago were ad-hoc efforts; medics walked at the edges of the group, demonstrators held snack trays, water, and hand sanitizer; and some handed out masks and other PPE from card tables and passing cars.
EMT says “Black lives fucking matter” on ambulance loudspeaker, cars honk for protesters @ Flatbush ave headed north pic.twitter.com/bKE1F23iFS— Erin O’Brien (@e_h_obrien) June 5, 2020
Five minutes before curfew, the crowd had streamed back into the Barclays Center plaza, chanting “Fuck your curfew,” and at 8pm they kneeled, hands in the air, saying “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Police surrounding the Barclays Center stood in a line, few of them wearing masks.
Thousands of protesters again head north on Flatbush away from Barclays @ Atlantic ave, 35 mins to curfew pic.twitter.com/lwY2RRtVrP— Erin O’Brien (@e_h_obrien) June 4, 2020
Since the curfew was instituted Tuesday, Bedford + Bowery has witnessed repeated instances of police cracking down on protesters once the clock strikes 8pm, descending on groups from all sides (or “kettling” them), beating protesters with batons, chasing demonstrators down side streets, and pinning several marchers to the ground. But at curfew on Thursday night in Brooklyn, police remained at a distance. There was even a degree of levity among protesters, as one woman made jokes while filming the police.
Eerily few police in BK tonight, protesters head down Willoughby pic.twitter.com/q9rcFEM8Di— Erin O’Brien (@e_h_obrien) June 5, 2020
“I’m holding a contest called ‘Nazi of the night’,” she said, as the crowd laughed.
Other protesters yelled at the police, pleading with them. “You’re tired, you’re working overtime, you’re policing us, why? Someone died, let us express ourselves,” one woman screamed.
Meanwhile uptown, a far less civil scene was playing out in the Bronx. At 136th Street, as reported by Gothamist and circulated widely on social media, Police kettled protesters as curfew passed. Officers began chasing down protesters, zip-tying their hands, and seating them in the middle of the street. Groups following the protests and scanners reported that there were more police present than demonstrators, and that members of the National Lawyers Guild were being arrested, as well.
Several protesters were also arrested in Midtown, and on the Upper West Side. On the Upper East Side, video showed an apparent delivery worker being arrested near Central Park while pleading that he was exempt from the curfew. Today, Mayor de Blasio called the video “troubling” and tweeted, “This is NOT acceptable and must stop.”
In Brooklyn, protesters left Barclays and marched through Boerum Hill to Park Slope and Cobble Hill. Compared to the police presence of nights past, the absence of blue and red lights was almost ominous. At Smith and Union, marchers encountered four police vehicles, and a few kneeled in front of them, but the majority of demonstrators marched on.
“Keep it moving, don’t give them a reason to arrest us,” one demonstrator said.
Around 9:30pm, however, protests in Brooklyn also took a now-familiar turn. On Wythe Avenue in South Williamsburg, police barricaded protesters at the corner of Penn Street. Videos show police then charging the crowd, beating several with batons. Cyclists are pushed off of their bikes, and also beaten.
In Fort Greene, around 10:30pm, police kettled protesters on Washington Avenue, and began advancing with batons. In videos taken at the scene, protesters are seen being struck repeatedly with batons, cyclists are thrown off of their bikes, and a reporter is thrown into a pile of trash bags. Today Mayor de Blasio tweeted that journalists “are essential workers, too. We WILL protect their rights. The public depends on the information they provide. Will get NYPD to fix this immediately.”
“What did I do?,” one man yells, as police push him into the fence of a subway entrance.
As reported by Gothamist, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and City Council member Brad Lander were both at the peaceful protest, and were able to negotiate with police when they entrapped the protesters. After a tense standoff and negotiation, the NYPD allowed demonstrators to leave 20 at a time.
During a press conference today, Mayor de Blasio characterized last night’s protests as “overwhelmingly peaceful” and said, “There were few or no attacks on property; there were, however, some attempts at violence.” After reiterating concern about the arrests of journalists and other essential workers, he acknowledged, “We’ve seen, certainly, several situations that raise real questions, individual instances where our officers have taken action that raises a valid concern. In each and every case there must be a full investigation and where discipline is warranted, it needs to be speedy.”
De Blasio said disciplinary action, including the suspension of some officers, will soon be announced.