By: Fern Sidman
As protests grow in formidable numbers and locales across the country in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd, a 46-year old black man in Minneapolis at the hands of a white police officer last week, the level of sheer rancor and violence has also exponentially escalated.
In New York City on Monday night, people smashed shop windows near Rockefeller Center and breached the doors of Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street despite the first curfew in the city in decades, as was reported by AP. Police said nearly 700 people were arrested and several officers injured in the overnight violence.
New York and other cities braced for more trouble after nightfall Tuesday, with Mayor Bill de Blasio extending an 8 p.m. to 5 am curfew until June 7th.
“We’re going to have a tough few days,” DeBlasio warned, but added: “We’re going to beat it back.” He said he would do that with the help of community leaders, urging them to step forward: “Create peace. … Stand up.”
AP reported that more than 20,000 National Guard members have been called up in 29 states to deal with the violence. New York is not among them. De Blasio has said he does not want the Guard, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he will not send it into the city against the mayor’s wishes.
The New York Post reported that at an Albany press briefing on Tuesday, Cuomo ripped into DeBlasio for allegedly failing to stop looters from rampaging through the streets of New York City on Monday night and early Tuesday. The looters carried out their crime spree at high end retailers in SoHo and midtown Manhattan, under the guise of the protests over Floyd’s death. Among the stores that were targeted and vandalized were Chanel, Dolce & Gabana and Best Buy.
“The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job last night. I believe that,” intoned Cuomo. “The police in New York City were not effective in doing their job last night. Period. They have to do a better job.”
Despite the imposition of an 11 pm curfew and some 8000 New York City police officers having been mobilized for expected violence in a fifth straight night of chaos and lawlessness, the looting continued unabated in Manhattan and spread to the Bronx.
As a Dodge City atmosphere prevailed in the Big Apple and crime ran amok, it was reported that several more cops were hurt overnight, including an NYPD sergeant investigating break-ins in the Bronx. An officer that was struck by a vehicle early Tuesday is in serious condition. More than 40 police officers have been hurt since last Thursday night.
Nearly 2000 people have been arrested over the past five days of protests in the New York City area. Police confirmed that they arrested another 700 people on Monday night, marking the largest number of arrests in any one of the New York protests and nearly doubling the five-day total.
Not mincing any words, Cuomo said DeBlasio “underestimates the scope of the problem” and should “use 38,000 NYPD cops” — the entirety of the department’s force — to quell the unrest, calling the results to date “inexcusable,” according to a NY Post report.
“You’d have to displace the mayor,” said Cuomo, again calling for even more cops to hit the streets. “I do believe the NYPD, well deployed, wouldn’t need the National Guard.”
The Post also reported that former city Police Commissioner Ray Kelly on Tuesday accused DeBlasio of serving as an impediment to the NYPD’s efforts to control the lawlessness that has gripped the city and outlying areas.
Expressing his perspective on the rioting, looting and violence directed at police, Kelly said on Tuesday morning when interviewed on the Joe Piscopo radio program on 970 am that “One of the problems in New York City is Mayor de Blasio. Everything seems to be run through City Hall. “You can’t have that kind of micromanagement and expect executive staff to be able to function,” Kelly said. He also criticized the city for “giving up pieces of property” to protesters.
“Giving up the Manhattan Bridge the other night. Last night it was the FDR Drive for a couple of hours,” Kelly said.
“The optics are so bad. The Blasio administration has been doing this for a while. Apparently the mayor is proud of it. Let the cops do their jobs’ is the message that has to go out and stop running everything through City Hall. They’re not tacticians over there. It’s all about politics,” he added.
Kelly said that the protests and increased crime may last for some time due to the fact that kids are out of school because of pandemic related lockdown measures and the fact that the unemployment rate is skyrocketing.
Kelly feels that the key to quelling the looting and anarchy is for the cops to persevere in making arrests and obtaining intelligence information on who is precisely fostering the lawlessness. The former top cop who served as police commissioner for 12 years under the Bloomberg administration said it was “gut-wrenching” watching cops get assaulted by rioters, according to a NY Post report.
“We have to think seriously about the future of the city. The optics of the looting is so, so terrible for the city and for anyone who wants to do business here,” he said.
Also weighing on the tenuous situation as it pertains to the growing number of looters and those attacking police officers was NY’s Rep. Max Rose. Rose, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island has called for the deployment of the National Guard in the city, according to a Post report.
Rose is a caption in the Army National Guard and was dispatched in April to combat the coronavirus, according to the Post.
“Last night demonstrated that the mayor has lost control of the situation once and for all. If we are going to enforce an 8:00 p.m. curfew tonight, then the National Guard must be deployed to assist with that and that alone,” Rose said on Tuesday.
“The mayhem that occurred in parts of the city last night — the unprecedented looting and attacks on officers and bystanders — was not the work of peaceful protesters. It was not part of the movement to ensure justice for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality. And anyone who would say so is being dishonest at best,” he said, according to the Post report.
President Trump on Tuesday turned up the pressure on governors to end the intense violence, demanding that New York call up the National Guard to stop the “lowlifes and losers.”
In an opaque message to Cuomo, Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD. The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast! Don’t make the same horrible and deadly mistake you made with the Nursing Homes!!!”
A senior White House official said Tuesday that despite Trump’s threats, the goal was to pressure governors to deploy more National Guard members. The president is not rushing to use the Insurrection Act to send in the military, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
On a national scale, the AP reported that during the violence that gripped communities from coast to coast again on Monday night, police officers were shot, run over and showered with rocks and bottles.
As cities around the U.S. witnessed a seventh straight night of both peaceful demonstrations and bursts of theft, vandalism and attacks on police, the president amplified his hard-line calls of a day earlier, in which he threatened to send in the military to restore order if governors didn’t do it, as was reported by the AP.
In Philadelphia, where hundreds of protesters spilled onto a highway in the heart of the city, Mayor Jim Kenney described a chaotic night in which one person was killed attempting to use explosives to open an ATM, a gun shop owner fatally shot a would-be thief, and a 19-year-old died of injuries during looting, as was reported by the AP.
More than 5,600 people nationwide have been arrested over the past week for such offenses as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count by The Associated Press.
AP reported that Democratic governors and mayors rejected Trump’s threat to send in the military, questioning whether the federal government has such authority and warning that such a step would be incendiary.
In Atlanta, police fired tear gas at demonstrators. In Nashville, more than 60 National Guard members put down their riot shields at the request of peaceful protesters. And at a demonstration in Buffalo, New York, an SUV plowed into a group of officers, injuring three, according to the AP.
An officer was shot and gravely wounded as police tried to disperse a crowd outside a Las Vegas hotel and casino. Four officers were shot in St. Louis; they were expected to recover.
“We have been sitting on a powder keg for some time and it has burst,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.
Some protesters framed the burgeoning movement as a necessity after a string of killings by police.