File photo: AP
New York City is lifting its curfew spurred by protests against police brutality ahead of schedule, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday morning.
The 8 p.m. citywide curfew, New York's first in decades, had been set to remain in effect through at least Sunday, with the city planning to lift it at the same time it enters the first phase of reopening after more than two months of shutdowns because of the coronavirus.
“Yesterday and last night we saw the very best of our city,” de Blasio tweeted in his announcement of the curfew's end “effective immediately.” “Tomorrow we take the first big step to restart.”
The move followed New York City police pulling back on enforcing the curfew Saturday as thousands took to the streets and parks to protest police brutality, sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
More than two hours after the curfew had passed Saturday night, groups of several hundred demonstrators continued to march in Manhattan and Brooklyn, while police monitored them but took a hands-off approach.
At protests in Manhattan earlier Saturday, volunteers handed out snacks, first aid kits and plenty of water bottles on a muggy afternoon. One person carried a sign listing nearby open buildings for those seeking to escape the heat — which some soon did when a rain storm arrived.
Thousands of people crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into lower Manhattan, where other groups numbering in the hundreds to thousands marched or gathered in places like Foley Square, home to state and federal court buildings, and Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.
Further uptown, police had erected barriers to all but close off Times Square to vehicle and foot traffic.
As the curfew passed, a large group of protesters walked onto the FDR Drive, the main north-south artery along Manhattan's east side, closely monitored by police, forcing police to temporarily shut down one side of the roadway.
Earlier, Julian Arriola-Hennings said he didn’t expect the movement to slow down anytime soon.
“I’m never surprised by people taking action because inaction, it really hurts the soul,” he said as he told protesters at Washington Square Park that they would soon march from there to City Hall.
“People’s feet get tired, their souls get re-energized for the right purpose.”
One of Saturday's marches was enlivened by a band led by Jon Batiste, bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Local politicians and civil liberties advocates have called for an end to the 8 p.m. curfew, complaining that it causes needless friction when officers try to enforce it.
But Mayor Bill de Blasio has insisted the curfew will remain in place throughout the weekend.
Images on social media on Friday night about an hour after a Brooklyn protest ended showed officers surrounding a group of protesters and chasing down some with batons. And officers on Manhattan’s East Side also used force to break up remnants of a march that started near the mayor’s official residence.
There were about 40 arrests citywide Friday — far fewer than previous nights — and no obvious signs of the smash-and-grab stealing that marred protests earlier in the week.
On Saturday, Antoinette Henry wasn’t surprised people were still marching after more than a week, even though she said she had seen violence from police earlier in the week.
“Our first couple of protests ended a bit violently but we’re back out here. We’re not going to stop fighting,” Henry said.
She added she thinks protests could continue next week, even as some will go back to work when New York City begins its reopening.
“I think as long as we stay organized, that’s exactly what can and will and should happen,” Henry said.