Eight days after the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, protesters once again took to the streets of New York last night to call for an end to police brutality. In defiance of New York’s citywide curfew, which went into effect at 8pm, largely peaceful protesters marched through the streets until the early hours of Tuesday morning, and were met with markedly increased levels of police crackdowns.
Thousands of protesters met at Union Square around 7pm and marched towards the city courthouse chanting anti-racist slogans and reciting the names of victims of police violence. Along the way, they received honks of support from an FDNY truck and, later in the night, help from a NYC garbage truck that barricaded the road for them.
At the steps of the New York County Courthouse, a black man kneeled with his hands in the air in front of police officers stationed there, as crowds behind him did the same and put fists into the air in the symbol of Black Power.
Meanwhile in Greenwich Village, another crowd of hundreds marked the beginning of Pride month by gathering at the Stonewall Inn, where anti-police rioting ushered in the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Sex-work activists who earlier in the day had held a Zoom version of their annual International Whores’ Day rally were among those who protested police violence against transgender people of color.
As curfew approached, the protest that started in Union Square took over both sides of the West Side Highway and peacefully marched south. After counting down the seconds, protesters yelled “Fuck your curfew” as the clock struck eight.
After that, the mood changed quickly. Police vans with sirens wailing sped to catch up with the march. Two SUVs with sirens on drove through the crowd, sending protesters running to the sidewalks. Organizers urged demonstrators not to run, and to “get back on the streets.”
Police drove through the crowd with sirens on, clearing the protesters off the street (at curfew) pic.twitter.com/Xp5pWHhKs9— Erin O’Brien (@e_h_obrien) June 3, 2020
Near the entrance to the Battery Tunnel, marchers were met with a police barricade. At 8:15pm, police poured out of vans, and began advancing on protesters with riot gear, wielding billy clubs. White-shirted captains pointed at specific protesters with their clubs, and instructed officers to advance on them. Straggling marchers were arrested, zip tied, and wrestled to the ground. Several attempted to run down Washington Street, which bottlenecks into a driveway, and were pursued by a group of police officers and a captain yelling “Get them.” Officers took several protesters– including several young black men wearing Black Lives Matter shirts– into custody. Groups live-tracking police scanners reported at least 50 arrests from the break-up at Battery Tunnel.
In videos captured at the scene, protesters can be heard yelling “Run” and “Get out of the way” as the peaceful protest devolved into terror for demonstrators.
Police chase protestors down a dead end @ West Side (listen to police audio, instructing officers with batons after specific protestors) pic.twitter.com/jLthjs9vzw— Erin O’Brien (@e_h_obrien) June 3, 2020
Demonstrators scattered throughout downtown Manhattan as police swarmed the streets around Battery Tunnel. As they regrouped and marched slowly up Broadway, the tone of the protest was angrier. When some began smashing windows, large groups of demonstrators ran to stop them, and the crowd yelled for them to “stop” and “keep it peaceful.” Some pulled trash and police barricades into the road to slow and potential for police pursuit.
Protesters erect barricade on Broadway below Franklin pic.twitter.com/7f5Cbjf0sO— Erin O’Brien (@e_h_obrien) June 3, 2020
At Canal Street, the crowd turned to march onto the Brooklyn Bridge, but a police barricade prevented them from walking onto the bridge. At that moment, hundreds of protesters were also facing off against police on the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge. Just after 8:30pm, hundreds trying to enter the bridge on the Brooklyn side began bypassing police barriers barring entry. When they reached the Manhattan side, however, the police barricade at Canal Street prevented them from exiting. Protesters held their hands in the air saying “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and many feared they had been hemmed in on the bridge for arrest. Just after 10:30pm, protesters returned to the Brooklyn side of the bridge, where they were allowed past a barricade there and made their way down Flatbush Avenue.
After a stand-off with police that lasted over an hour and a half, hundreds and hundreds of protesters prevented from entering Manhattan have been let off the Manhattan Bridge on the BK side. These were the first to return, chanting “Peaceful protest” pic.twitter.com/0WnYGvcXgV— Bedford + Bowery (@bedbow) June 3, 2020
As Manhattan demonstrators approached Cooper Square around 9:30pm, several officers with batons in hand trailed behind protesters walking backwards with their hands above their heads. In front of 20 Cooper Square, a demonstrator knocked over a trash can, and police swarmed him with batons, holding him down. At least five officers can be seen pursuing the man on camera, with several more using shields and batons to hold back the crowd. Demonstrators told officers to let him go, while others urged the crowd to refrain from any form of property destruction.
Police arrest protestors who knocked over a trash can @ 20 Cooper sq pic.twitter.com/Wkr5pphLS0— Erin O’Brien (@e_h_obrien) June 3, 2020
“See? This gives them a reason to go after you,” someone shouted.
At Union Square, some protesters pulled police barriers behind the crowd to protect the rear of the group, but police in riot gear quickly pulled them away. At 5th Avenue and Broadway, as the demonstrators walked west, crowds of NYPD officers were waiting with police vans and prisoner trucks. Officers in riot gear began making arrests and stood in formation, blocking off 14th Street. Several demonstrators were pinned to the ground and arrested, while protesters yelled at the police.
Arrests at 14th & 5th, police break up protestors pic.twitter.com/98JgVNBZ0N— Erin O’Brien (@e_h_obrien) June 3, 2020
“You’re supposed to protect us,” one woman yelled, “What did we do to you?”
According to groups tracking police scanners, 36 people were arrested at the intersection, and several more were put in wagons in Union Square. In total, the NYPD reported over 200 arrests over the course of the night. On midday Wednesday, Minneapolis police increased Derek Chauvin’s charge to second degree murder, and charged three more police officers in George Floyd’s killing. Despite this, protests are expected to continue through the week.
Video at top by Victor Bonini. Additional video by Erin O’Brien.