A late-night curfew imposed on New York City Monday failed to prevent another night of destruction, including arrests after a break-in at the iconic Macy’s store on 34th Street, following protests over George Floyd’s death. As the 11 p.m. deadline to get off the streets approached, bands of protesters marched peacefully through Manhattan and Brooklyn, but police simultaneously responded to numerous reports of roving groups of people smashing their way into shops and emptying them of merchandise.
The doors of Macy’s flagship Manhattan store were breached. Police pulled two handcuffed men out and put them in a van.
People rushed into a Nike store and carried out armloads of clothing. Near Rockefeller Center, storefront windows were smashed and multiple people arrested. Bank windows were smashed. Wreckage littered the inside of an AT&T store.
Video posted on social media showed some protesters arguing with people breaking windows, urging them to stop, but instances of vandalism and smash-and-grab thefts mounted as the night deepened.
“We worked hard to build up the business, and within a second, someone does this,” said the owner of a ransacked Manhattan smoke shop, who identified himself only by the name Harri. “Really bad.”
New York joined other cities around the country in imposing a curfew after days of unrest. They came on top of months of restrictions on public gatherings already imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many of the vandalized stores were already closed due to the pandemic, and now many, especially the mom and pop shops that were hit, may never reopen again, points out CBS New York.
Enough mayhem happened before the curfew took effect that Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that it would move up to 8 p.m. Tuesday. The curfew lifted at 5 a.m.
De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo said the outbreaks of violence the previous two evenings – which left stores ransacked and police vehicles burned – gave them no choice to impose a curfew and boost police presence, even as they insisted they stood with the throngs of 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 statement. He and Cuomo are Democrats.
Big crowds rallied in Times Square and Brooklyn on Monday afternoon and marched through the streets for hours. As in previous days, the demonstrations in daylight were peaceful, with officers mostly keeping their distance from marchers. A nighttime march through Brooklyn was also peaceful, and police let it continue for hours after the 11 a.m. curfew passed.
But midtown Manhattan descended into chaos as night fell. There were dozens of arrests, police said.
De Blasio tweeted at 1 a.m. that there were also “real problems” in the Bronx, which had largely escaped previous nights of unrest unscathed.
Video posted on social media showed multiple piles of rubbish on fire on a debris-strewn street and people smashing into stories.
Another video showed a group of men beating a police officer who was alone and down on the ground, smashing him with pieces of wreckage until he pulled his gun and they ran.
Yet another video showed an officer being hit by a car after responding to a report of a break-in at a pawn shop. The drive got away. The officer was in serious but stable condition, police said.
After the curfew took effect, police moved more actively to clear the streets, chasing after and knocking down some people who wouldn’t comply as they streamed toward Times Square.
At the same time, the city’s elected public advocate, Jumaane Williams, and some other officials held a news conference in Brooklyn criticizing the curfew.
“In the black community, every time we ask for resources or assistance, they send police,” said Williams, a Democrat.
Earlier in the day, one Times Square demonstrator, Giselle Francisco, considered the curfew necessary.
“There are people who have ulterior motives, and they’re trying to hijack the message,” the New Yorker said.
Monday marked the fourth 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. Chiara de Blasio, 25, refused to leave a Manhattan street officers were clearing Saturday because people were throwing things. She was released with a court summons.
Her father said Monday she told him she’d behaved peacefully and believed she had followed officers’ instructions.