NEW YORK - Violence erupted overnight in the SoHo section of Manhattan after a day of protests against the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Looters targeted high-end stores, breaking windows and leaving the area strewn with glass and debris.
Earlier in the day, New York City officials were looking for a peaceful way forward as the city entered a fourth day of protests against police brutality that have left police cars burned and led to the arrest of hundreds of people.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he had no plans to impose a curfew Sunday, unlike other major U.S. cities, and smaller cities throughout the state.
De Blasio said city police showed “tremendous restraint overall" during the weekend's protests, but promised an investigation of video showing two police cruisers lurching into a crowd of demonstrators on a Brooklyn street. He was appointing two city officials to conduct an independent review of how the protests unfolded and how they were handled by the police.
“We all better get back to the humanity here,” de Blasio said at a Sunday morning briefing. “The protesters are human beings. They need to be treated with tremendous respect. The police officers are human beings. They need to be treated with tremendous respect.”
Hours after he spoke, demonstrations resumed. Hundreds of people gathered on a plaza in downtown Brooklyn, chanting “No justice, no peace," and “Black lives matter,” while making occasional insulting hand gestures at a line of police officers protecting the arena where the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets play. Marchers chanted “Hands up, don't shoot” — a rallying cry that originated from the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri — during a separate rally in Queens.
A large, peaceful crowd gathered for a rally on Sunday in front of the Barclays Center with a strong message of justice for George Floyd and an end to White Supremacy.
Speakers at the rally occasionally taunted a nearby group of NYPD officers, while others detailed their own experiences of racism and injustice and called for changes to the criminal justice system.
Later, De Blasio walked with advocates in Brooklyn to discuss "priorities like police accountability and increasing access to food and relief."
Largely peaceful protests around the city Saturday gave way to scattered clashes between police and protesters later in the evening. Demonstrators smashed shop windows, threw objects at officers, set police vehicles on fire and blocked roads. Graffiti was scrawled on Manhattan's famed St. Patrick's Cathedral.
There were multiple complaints about police unnecessarily shoving or bludgeoning protesters and spraying crowds with chemicals.
New York City police said 345 people were arrested, 33 officers were injured and 27 police vehicles were damaged or destroyed by fire. There were no major injuries reported. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said some peaceful demonstrations were “hijacked” by people with violent intent.
“We’re going to make sure that everyone has the right to peacefully protest and assemble,” Shea said at a briefing with the mayor. “But we are not going to tolerate destruction of property, having our officers put into harm’s way or any civilians put into harm’s way."
On Twitter, the NYPD posted video of alleged protesters erecting a barricade and throwing objects at a police vehicle, saying “We will not tolerate this type of behavior from agitators who are ruining a meaningful protest.”
Similar protests flared around the nation in response to the Minnesota death of George Floyd. Floyd, who was black, died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing. Elsewhere in New York, shop windows were shattered in Rochester and demonstrators set fire to a tractor-trailer in Albany. In Buffalo, a person threw a flaming object through a city hall window.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the National Guard is on standby and that hundreds of additional troopers are being made available in Buffalo and Rochester, where hundreds of people showed Sunday to help clean up the damage.
“We expect additional protests tonight and we’re preparing for such,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing.
The governor also said state Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation into actions by NYPD officers and protesters will include any protests held throughout the weekend.
Cleanup was underway Sunday morning in New York City, which is still under a lockdown enacted two months ago when it became the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
At least five burned-out NYPD vehicles that remained near Manhattan's Union Square were towed early Sunday afternoon. People walked around broken glass on the street to take pictures of the vehicles.
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A handful of protesters rallied peacefully in the square, holding Black Lives Matter signs and giving speeches denouncing police violence while families were picnicking nearby.
“Compared to how things turned out yesterday, this is a lot better. This is exactly how things should be,” said Domenic Manning, who spoke Sunday at Union Square. “If you want to get your point across, this is the way to do it. Vandalizing companies and stores, that’s not the way to do it.”
Ken Kidd, who lives a few blocks south of the park, was among the people inspecting the damage to the vehicles and had witnessed Saturday's demonstrations. He said protesters and police tried to remain peaceful at the start before the stress of a city heavily hit by the coronavirus came out.
“I think a community can only say ‘Enough’ so many times and the words aren’t heard so then they got to take action and that’s what happened last night. That’s what I watched happen last night,” Kidd said.
The independent review ordered by de Blasio will be conducted by New York City Corporation Counsel James Johnson, who is the city’s chief lawyer, and Margaret Garnett, commissioner of the Department of Investigation, which typically investigates suspected wrongdoing and fraud by city employees.