The windows of a Chanel store are broken Monday, June 1, 2020, following protests in the SoHo neighborhood of New York. (Photo: AP)
New York City imposed an 11 p.m. curfew Monday as the nation’s biggest city tried to head off another night of destruction erupting amid protests over George Floyd’s death.
With an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, New York is joining other cities around the country in imposing such restrictions after days of violence. The limit on the movement of 8.6 million people comes after months of restrictions already imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the outbreaks of violence — which left stores ransacked, police vehicles burned and other destruction in spots around the city — left them no choice, even as they insisted they stood with peaceful demonstrators who have spoken out for several days against police brutality and racial injustice.
“We can’t let violence undermine the message of this moment,” de Blasio said in a written statement. Cuomo blamed “people who are looking to distract and discredit” the protests and said they couldn’t be allowed to undermine public safety.
The two leaders, both Democrats, also criticized some police actions as fueling protesters’ rage.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said earlier Monday that he worried about whether a curfew would be heeded.
“If people think it will, they don’t understand what’s going on,” Shea said on NBC’s “Today.”
The announcement came as new protests got underway.
Overnight, people had smashed windows and plundered shops in parts of Manhattan. Hundreds were arrested, Shea said.
A 21-year-old man was shot in the chic SoHo neighborhood around 12:30 a.m. and was taken to a hospital, police said. They said his injuries were not life-threatening.
Groups of people poured down the sidewalks in Soho and other neighborhoods including Union Square, breaking into Rolex, Kate Spade and Prada boutiques and electronics stores that have been shuttered for over two months because of the coronavirus.
“People are doing this so next time, before they think about trying to kill another black person, they’re going to be like, ’Damn, we don’t want them out here doing this ... again,’” New York City resident Sean Jones said as he watched the destruction.
On Monday morning, police were visible on some of SoHo’s hardest-hit streets, and the smell of freshly cut plywood wafted as stores boarded up.
“It’s disturbing because I’m 100% behind the protesters and against police brutality and bad cops killing people of color whenever they fricking want to, but this is a different story,” said Ruby Packard, a teacher and longtime SoHo resident.
“There are people using this as a reason to create chaos and be violent,” she added.
Sunday was the third night in a row of mainly peaceful daytime demonstrations, chaotic nights, hot spots of violence and arrests, with the mayor’s daughter among those arrested over the weekend.
An arrest report obtained by the New York Post said Chiara de Blasio, 25, refused to leave a Manhattan street officers were clearing Saturday because people were throwing things. Chiara de Blasio, who is black, was later given a court summons and released.
Her father said Monday that he didn’t learn of her arrest until media reports emerged Sunday. He said his daughter told him she didn’t do anything wrong.
“She was very clear that she believed she was following the instructions of police officers and doing what they were asking,” he said at a media briefing, adding that he admired her for peacefully “trying to change something that she thought was unjust.”
Thousands of people have taken to the streets around the nation to express outrage over Floyd’s death and other killings of black people, particularly by police. Floyd, who was black, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck.
On Sunday, New York City police made some gestures of solidarity with marchers during the day. Some officers knelt with protesters in an intersection as an organizer called out the names of people killed by police.
But the police department has come under criticism for confrontations with demonstrators over the weekend. Shea said the department is investigating officers’ behavior in about six incidents, including one in which two police vehicles plowed through a group of protesters Saturday in Brooklyn.
De Blasio, who said Saturday that the officers acted while under attack, shifted his tone Monday: “It is still not acceptable for our officers to ever drive into a crowd,” he said.
On Sunday, video posted to social media showed a police officer pulling a gun and pointing it at demonstrators on a debris-littered Manhattan street. The officer holds the gun up for about five seconds, people to hurry away, and then a supervisor comes over and ushers the officer away.
De Blasio called for the department to strip the officer of his gun and badge immediately, though the mayor noted that he didn’t know all the circumstances surrounding the moment captured on video.
“It is not the place of an officer to pull a gun on a crowd knowing that there are peaceful protesters in that crowd,” de Blasio said.
Cuomo said some police officers had exacerbated tensions with some “very disturbing” actions.
The head of the city’s rank-and-file police union accused the governor of misplacing blame for the chaos.
“We have terrorists burning and looting our city,” Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said.
Cuomo also criticized people he characterized as exploiting the protests to get violent and ransack stores. He said the lawbreaking hurt protesters’ cause by giving critics fuel to dismiss them as criminals — and damaged the city’s effort to beat back the coronavirus and its social and economic fallout.
“It has been counterproductive for New York City in many ways,” he said.