NY AG to probe clashes between NYPD, protesters after George Floyd unrest turns violent

1010 WINS Newsroom
May 30, 2020 - 1:09 pm
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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s launching an independent review “of the events of last night” after protests over the death of George Floyd—an unarmed black man in police custody in Minneapolis—led to violence and numerous arrests in Brooklyn.

“I want to know exactly what happened, why it happened and what can be done better,” the mayor said. “I want there to be accountability for anyone, whatever their status.”

De Blasio said "last night was a difficult complex situation," adding that peaceful protesters had legitimate reasons to protest that were overshadowed by the actions of a few "who came there obviously to incite acts of violence."

"We have to do better," de Blasio said of videos showing NYPD officers acting violently towards protesters.

The mayor said he was upset by videos of the confrontations “where protesters were handled very violently” by police and by reports that at least two elected officials were among the people sprayed with irritating chemicals by officers at the scene.

“That’s unacceptable, and we need to understand exactly why that happened,” the mayor said.

But de Blasio added some protesters had come “with an agenda of violence and incitement, and they meant to harm police officers, and they did harm police officers.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who spoke minutes after de Blasio Saturday, said he asked New York state Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the "disturbing violent clashes" between police and protesters on Friday night.

"I'm asking Attorney General James to review all the actions and procedures that were used last night, because the public deserves answers and they deserve accountability," Cuomo said at his daily coronavirus briefing.

Cuomo said he spoke with de Blasio about the violence.

"He wants an independent review of what happened yesterday," Cuomo said. "I agree and we agree that the attorney general is an independently elected official in the state of New York."

Cuomo said he wants the findings of James' independent review back in 30 days. It will review "police procedures" as well as "the crowd's actions."

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who joined de Blasio on Saturday, called videos of some police behavior "disturbing" and said an internal investigation within the department had already been launched.

The commissioner said a protest of about 3,000 people splintered into smaller protests Friday night.

He said there were over 200 arrests and multiple officers injured.

One of the arrests was for the attempted murder of four police officers who were in a marked police van. Samantha Shader, 27, of Catskill, New York, was arrested on an attempted murder charge after police said she tossed the homemade firebomb at a vehicle occupied by several officers. The device did not ignite and the officers were unharmed, police said. Police also arrested Darian Shader, 21, on charges of resisting arrest and obstructing police.

Shea said a firearm and brass knuckles were recovered from protesters and that countless bricks and other items were thrown at police officers.

The commissioner said there were a number of protests planned for Saturday "that are possibly going to take off." He said some people were coming from out of town to cause problems.

Protesters on Friday night took to different parts of Brooklyn, where some torched an NYPD van and scrawled graffiti on it. A protest began at the 88th Precinct, and at the 79th Precinct, protesters reportedly tried to break in.

De Blasio took to Twitter shortly before 11 p.m., writing, "We have a long night ahead of us in Brooklyn. Our sole focus is deescalating this situation and getting people home safe. There will be a full review of what happened tonight. We don’t ever want to see another night like this."

Brooklyn Barlcays
AP

In Brooklyn, activists who had marched from Manhattan chanted insults at officers lined up outside the Barclays Center and pelted them with water bottles. Police sprayed an eye-irritating chemical into the diverse crowd multiple times, then cleared the plaza.

Video posted to social media showed officers using batons and shoving protesters as they took people into custody and cleared streets. One video showed on officer slam a woman to the ground as he walked past her in the street.

Later in the evening, what had been a tense situation turned worse. Demonstrators rocked a police van, set it ablaze, then scrawled graffiti across its charred hulk and set it on fire a second time as officers retreated from the area. Blocks away, protesters used a club to batter a police cruiser.

At another location near the arena, a shouting mob of protesters, some wearing helmets and carrying makeshift shields, advanced on officers shouting and throwing objects, and police retaliated with batons and arrests, leaving the roadway strewn with debris.

The NYPD said numerous officers were injured, including one who had a tooth knocked out.

Brooklyn Barlcays
AP

The demonstrations were held in defiance of a ban on gatherings, imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed thousands of New Yorkers including dozens of members of the NYPD.

Protests around George Floyd’s death have taken place around the country and were not quelled by the news Friday that the Minneapolis officer recorded kneeling on his neck would face criminal charges.

New York Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Christopher Dunn blamed the police department for provoking the confrontations in Brooklyn.

“The mayor needs to take accountability for the NYPD’s provocation, aggression, and violence on display tonight. If he’s serious about his demands for accountability in Minnesota, he needs to show leadership here in New York City,” he said in a statement.

Anticipating demonstrations Friday afternoon, De Blasio said police officers had been told to respect peaceful protest, but he also had a message for demonstrators: “If you are angry with the government, if you are angry with the elected leaders, direct that anger to all of us, because if we haven’t done enough, we are the ones who should be held responsible,” he said. “But the police officer in front of you is a working man or woman just trying to do their job.”

Brooklyn Barlcays
AP

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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