Update, June 7: Mayor de Blasio announced Sunday morning that New York City’s curfew has been lifted a day early. “Yesterday and last night we saw the very best of our city,” he tweeted. The NYCLU tweeted, “This would not have happened without immense pressure from New Yorkers protesting + the threat of a lawsuit.”
Four civil liberties organizations have threatened to sue Mayor Bill de Blasio if he extends a controversial curfew that has resulted in the arrests of hundreds of protesters. The curfew, the city’s first in 75 years, was imposed Monday in the wake of widespread looting, but critics– including a growing and increasingly vocal chorus of elected officials– argue it has led to more of the police brutality that thousands have been peacefully marching against all week.
The lawsuit is being threatened by the New York Civil Liberties Union, The Legal Aid Society, the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. The groups released a statement Friday night: “In addition to curtailing the right to First Amendment protected protest, the NYPD has used the curfew as justification for their brutal attacks. We have seen too many demonstrators, journalists, lawmakers, protest monitors, essential workers, and bystanders who have been callously beaten, threatened, and unlawfully arrested, all under the guise of enforcing the curfew.”
In addition, the New York Immigration Coalition is threatening to take legal action against de Blasio over what it says is an “overboard lockdown” that “unconstitutionally restricts individuals’ rights to free speech, assembly, and free movement.” In a letter to de Blasio attained by Politico, the group implores the mayor to lift the curfew immediately, arguing that it “fails to distinguish reasonably between the locations of peaceful protests and criminal unrest, and it does not reasonably limit its blanket rules only to those areas where criminal activity is likely.”
Last night, approximately 40 people– significantly less than the 270 on Thursday and nearly 200 on Wednesday— were arrested during protests in Brooklyn and uptown Manhattan, a police spokesperson said. Bedford + Bowery followed a few hundred people as they marched in the street from Downtown Brooklyn to Grand Army Plaza, sometimes breaking into the now-common chant of “Fuck your curfew.” After a brief standoff with police officers blocking the roadway, the group moved onto the sidewalk and continued into Crown Heights playing Bob Marley songs and burning sage. Around 10pm, the protest appeared to be winding down, but members of the dwindling group– including the communications director for Julia Salazar, a state senator who had called the curfew “totally unreasonable and harmful to everyone”— were later arrested on Nostrand Avenue, according to reports.
Every passing day demonstrates how this curfew is totally unreasonable and harmful to everyone. It’s a craven response to people organizing and exercising their rights.— Julia Salazar (@JuliaCarmel__) June 5, 2020
This needs to end—not after Sunday as they planned, but right now. https://t.co/7dV0F8gI1v
While Los Angeles lifted its curfew yesterday after days of peaceful protests, New Yorkers are once again expected to receive a dramatic alert on their cellphones tonight: “Emergency Alert: Citywide curfew in effect for NYC: 8pm-5am. Essential workers are exempt. No traffic allowed in Manhattan south of 96th Street, with the exception of local residents, essential workers, buses and truck deliveries.”
A growing number of elected officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, have spoken out against the curfew, expected to continue through Sunday. (Some of their tweets are embedded at the bottom of this post.) “The curfew implemented by Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio has created a multitude of issues negatively impacting all NYers and it needs to end tonight!” tweeted City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez.
The curfew implemented by Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio has created a multitude of issues negatively impacting all NYers and it needs to end tonight!— Ydanis Rodriguez (@ydanis) June 5, 2020
The curfew is just another tool to increment civilians arrests and quell peaceful protest.
My statement to end the curfew; pic.twitter.com/fTgSGvQV5w
Rodriguez, whose district includes Washington Heights and Inwood, noted that services such as Uber, Lyft, and CitiBike have been suspended during curfew hours, exacerbating the shutdown of train service from 1am to 5am and making it all the more difficult for essential workers to get home safely. “I’d like to ask the Mayor, how are New Yorkers supposed to get home at night?” asked Rodriguez in a statement.
On Thursday, at least one food delivery worker, exempt from the curfew as an essential worker, appeared to have been arrested. “Are you serious? I’m not even doing anything,” he shouts in the video shared by witnesses.
The Teamsters union condemned the arrest, saying in a statement Friday that “the mayor has created a situation where people of color are subject to arrest for committing no crime other than walking or working.”
Unions mad too. pic.twitter.com/HYpyiHDKex— Gloria Pazmino (@GloriaPazmino) June 5, 2020
Yesterday, the executive committee of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus condemned the curfew’s “confusing and dangerous directives”: “We are calling for an end to this curfew and demand that the Mayor and Governor immediately reign in the NYPD’s disproportionate and violent tactics of suppression,” its statement read.
The Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the City Council also released a statement demanding an end to the curfew, and describing its enforcement as “a series of horrors that echo the darkest chapters of the civil rights movement.”
The City is clinging to a fading narrative of anarchists wielding rocks while denying the atrocities that this disastrous curfew has unleashed. Therefore, we call on the Mayor to bring the curfew to an immediate end. pic.twitter.com/1Tj3MKaHEU— BLA Caucus (@BLACaucusNYC) June 5, 2020
Asked whether they would sue over the curfew, as the ACLU and Black Lives Matter did in Los Angeles, a representative of the Progressive Caucus’s executive committee described it as “an attack to every New Yorker’s legal rights on so many levels” and said they would take every legal action possible unless curfew ends.
Facing criticism Wednesday after dozens of protesters were arrested and police were filmed hitting people with batons, Mayor de Blasio said the curfew rules were “clear as a bell”: “Protest. Go home at curfew,” he advised. “If you stay out, OK. But do not even think about doing anything violent. And there’s a point at which enough is enough and it’s time to go home,” he said.
After another night of arrests Thursday, it was announced that two officers had been suspended after using excessive force last week, one for shoving a woman to the ground and sending her to the hospital for a seizure and concussion, the other for pulling down a man’s mask and pepper-spraying him. While calling protests “overwhelmingly peaceful,” de Blasio acknowledged there had been “several situations that raise real questions, individual instances where our officers have taken action that raises a valid concern.”
Justin Brannan, a City Council member representing Bay Ridge and other South Brooklyn neighborhoods, called the curfew a “mess.”
“I’m sure a curfew sounds like a panacea for civil unrest in the boardroom, but arbitrary enforcement has only caused more chaos on the streets after dark,” he told us in an e-mail. “So now something that was seemingly put in place to defuse conflict has only escalated it among those who are engaging in peaceful, nonviolent protest. Meanwhile, you’re stranding essential workers just trying to get home and no one really knows if they’re allowed to go to the store for a quart of milk or not.”
THE CURFEW IS A PROBLEM. END THE CURFEW. Pass it on.— Jessica Ramos (@jessicaramos) June 6, 2020
Like so many others across the city, this protest was peaceful, and nothing prompted the sudden arrests.— Ben Kallos, NYC Council Member (@BenKallos) June 6, 2020
The NYPD is selectively charging protests and making an example with arrests.
The curfew is an excuse to arrest New Yorkers for making their voices heard. End it now. https://t.co/gANnuUzB25
End the CURFEW https://t.co/sTMU5GeuVL— John Mulaney (@mulaney) June 6, 2020
Mr. Mayor: It’s time. Lift the curfew. Let the people peacefully protest. We don’t need excessive force to keep our city safe and make our voices heard. https://t.co/sTdVBiS1yl— Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) June 5, 2020
I have been obeying the curfew — but tonight I am joining my constituents, colleagues, and community to help be a voice for peaceful protest.— Keith Powers (@KeithPowersNYC) June 6, 2020
Stay safe, NYC.
It’s 8:00 and again NYC has started a curfew that will ensure protesters face aggressive confrontation by police.— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) June 6, 2020
A curfew that will make life difficult for essential workers, who have to get to work without access to transportation.
There is no doubt: we need to #EndTheCurfew.