NEW YORK - The NYPD arrested around 70 people as protesters angry about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota defied New York's prohibition on public gatherings Thursday and staged a chaotic rally in Union Square, where they faced off with officers enforcing social distancing rules.
Scores of demonstrators, some wearing masks and some not, massed in Union Square and marched through the streets chanting “I can’t breathe" and waving signs with slogans including “Police brutality and murder must stop.”
Police officers, also wearing masks to protect against the virus, lined up opposite the demonstration. Video posted on social media showed occasional skirmishes as officers pushed the crowd back.
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Video showed at least one demonstrator being clubbed and others being wrestled to the ground as some protesters shoved officers and screamed insults. The police department said one officer was struck with a garbage can and another punched.
The protest was the latest example of the department's struggles to enforce the state's emergency coronavirus regulations, which prohibit the assembly of more than 10 people and require people to wear masks and stay at least six feet apart.
The coronavirus has killed more than 21,000 people in the city, according to city health officials, but adherence to social distancing rules has been fraying.
George Floyd, 46, was killed Monday in Minneapolis during an arrest in which an officer was recorded kneeling on his neck for almost eight minutes, during which he pleaded he couldn't breathe before he stopped moving.
Protests have taken place nightly in Minneapolis since Floyd's death, and unrest has escalated to destruction in one neighborhood, with burned out buildings and smashed windows.
Floyd's death was compared to the 2014 death of Eric Garner on Staten Island. Garner died in a police chokehold, and his last words were, “I can't breathe."
With the Associated Press.