Cuomo says National Guard on standby after nearly 350 arrested, over 30 officers hurt on 3rd day of George Floyd protests in NYC

1010 WINS Newsroom
May 31, 2020 - 11:40 am
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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the New York National Guard was on standby as the state anticipated more George Floyd protests Sunday following hundreds of arrests and hours of unrest in New York City Saturday.

The governor said an additional 200 state police were heading to Rochester at the request of the county executive and mayor. There are 150 troopers heading to Buffalo as well.

“We expect additional protest tonight and we are preparing for such,” the governor said.

He said potential curfews would not be statewide but locally.

"There is no one size fits all here. Curfews work well in some cities. In some cities they can create additional issues," Cuomo said. "So that’s a case by case basis."

Cuomo said he understood why people were outraged by the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police, but he said violence wouldn’t accomplish anything.

“Burning down your own house never works and never makes sense,” Cuomo said. “It dishonors Mr. Floyd’s death. Mr. Floyd was not violent. Mr. Floyd was compliant. Mr. Floyd wasn’t even charged or accused of a violent crime. There was no violence. That’s what makes the killing more outrageous.”

“When you are violent it creates a scapegoat to shift the blame,” the governor said. “It allows the president of the United States to tweet about looting rather than murder by a police officer. It allows the federal government to politicize what’s going on.”

Cuomo called the protests “very, very difficult” for police but said that doesn’t excuse some of the actions by officers he’s seen on video.

“The police are in an impossible situation in many ways, but their behavior is everything. And I’ve seen those videos and those videos are truly disturbing. And some of the videos, frankly, are inexplicable to me,” the governor said.

He reiterated that he is having state Attorney General Letitia James look at the actions of police at the protests in an independent investigation.

“If that review looks at those videos and finds that there was improper police conduct, there will be ramifications,” Cuomo said. “That isn’t going to be a report that just sits on the shelf. This is a moment of reform.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Sunday that there were between 300 and 350 arrests at Saturday night’s protest as Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned violent protests and said police were “exercising extraordinary restraint” in most cases.

Shea said most of the arrests were for minor offenses. He said over 30 NYPD members suffered non-serious injuries over the course of the night and that about 47 police vehicles were damaged.

The commissioner said most of the property damage and confrontations with police were in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.

De Blasio called the protests, which in some cases led to vehicles being burned and stores being looted, a “very complex, ever-changing situation.”

“Thank god there was no loss of life. There were no major injuries,” de Blasio said. “There was some real property damage.”

The mayor said there was “tremendous restraint overall from the NYPD” given the circumstances. He said he saw numerous instances of bricks, bottles and other projectiles being thrown at officers.

“There are always going to be some incidences we don’t like,” de Blasio said. “But when you composite the whole day, thousands upon thousands of officers in an ever-changing situation, I saw a lot of restraint under very difficult circumstances.”

He also addressed “disturbing” instances “in terms of the way police handled things.” Among them was a video showing a police SUV lurching into a crowd of protesters.

“I didn’t like what I saw one bit,” de Blasio said of the video. “Clearly we need to do a full investigation and look at the actions of those officers and see what was done and why it was done and what could be done differently.”

But the mayor emphasized that the “situation was created by a group of protesters blocking and surrounding a police vehicle.”

“We need a full and impartial investigation, but we also have to be clear about the context,” the mayor said. “That was happening against the backdrop where police officers had been attacked before in the exact same situation.”

De Blasio said if there’s “discipline that needs to be meted out there will be.” He said some officers already face disciplinary action for their actions during the protests. He said he hadn't seen the video of an NYPD officer pulling down a protester's mask and pepper-spraying him.

The mayor said most of the protesters were peaceful and that many of the ones causing problems “associate with the anarchist movement.”

“In this case, we got a lot of people who are organized. They plan together online. They have very explicit rules,” de Blasio said. “Some come from outside the city, some are from inside the city.”

“We do know that there is an explicit agenda of violence, and it does not conform with the history of this city in which we have always honored nonviolent protests,” de Blasio said.

The mayor said he spoke with elected officials in the African American community and that there is “a growing concern that some are attempting to speak in their name and for their community in a way that is counterproductive.”

But De Blasio said in the wake of George Floyd’s death it’s clear “there are changes we have to make, there are changes we will make in this city and should make in this country.”

The mayor said he wants to work with the governor and the state Legislature to repeal 50-a, a police secrecy law, in June. He said he also wants to identify officers who are “not cut out for the police force.”

“We need to make sure that anybody who should not be a police officer is not a police officer,” de Blasio said.

The mayor said emphasized that the city has already made major police reforms in recent years. "We've changed the reality between police and community in many, many ways," he said.

“But we are not where we need to be, period,” de Blasio said. "Things must change in the culture of policing."

De Blasio said that despite the unrest, there was no plan for a curfew, something many other cities have implemented. He said the restraint of the NYPD and the positive actions of many community leaders mean a curfew are unnecessary.

“No plan for a curfew, and I want to emphasize this,” the mayor said. “I’ve been talking with mayors around the country, every place is different. This is a place with a strong tradition of peaceful protest and a strong tradition of the NYPD being able to manage peaceful protest.”

The mayor also said there were no plans to bring in outside military or police forces.

"The NYPD knows how to keep the people of New York City safe," de Blasio said. "If you bring in outside military or police forces, you actually endanger the safety and security of New Yorkers, because they are not trained to handle the realities of our streets and our communities. So right now as imperfect as it is, I think we’re on the path to keep this place safe and move us forward.”

Commissioner Shea tweeted Sunday morning that he was "extremely proud" the way in which officers conducted themselves.

"To the Members of the NYPD: What you’ve endured these last couple of days and nights—like much of 2020, so far—was unprecedented," he wrote. "In no small way, I want you to know that I’m extremely proud of the way you’ve comported yourselves in the face of such persistent danger, disrespect, and denigration. What we saw in New York City last night and the night before was not about peaceful protest of any kind. It was not about civil disobedience. It was not about demonstrating against police brutality."

Protesters returned to the streets -- and bridges -- Saturday as de Blasio pleaded for calm after a demonstration in Brooklyn the previous night descended into chaos that left people bloodied, vehicles burned and hundreds arrested.

Numerous videos show thousands of protesters taking to the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as walking through traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. Some of the videos show confrontations with NYPD officers, and there were reports of police using pepper spray. A number of protesters were seen being placed in handcuffs, but it wasn't immediately clear how many had been arrested Saturday.

The protests took place across all five boroughs, but Manhattan and Brooklyn appeared to have the largest demonstrations. Union Square  and the East Village are a hotspot for protests in Manhattan and in Brooklyn, Flatbush is a hotspot.

The Brooklyn-bound lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge were closed shortly before 8 p.m. because of the protests. Parts of the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge were also closed.

Video shows protesters walking through traffic on the Manhattan Bridge amid the blare of honking horns.

A large crowd marched through Harlem, chanted outside a police precinct and then blocked traffic on the FDR Drive.

Protesters were later seen surrounding NYPD Police Service Area 4 in the East Village.

Several blocks from Washington Square Park, officers reported protesters throwing bottles and setting off fireworks.

There were also protesters seen chanting "I can't breathe" on 14th Street near Union Square.

There were hundreds more protesters on streets in and around Times Square, including on 42nd Street. There appeared to be at least several arrests at the protest in Midtown.

Hundreds more protesters also descended on the streets around Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Video shows some skirmishes with NYPD officers in the area as a helicopter flies overhead.

There was also a large protest held Saturday in Newark, where hundreds marched through the streets near City Hall.

NYC protest
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

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