New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged Friday that reform is coming for the city’s law enforcement. “You will see change in the NYPD,” he said, after more than a week of clashes between protesters and police officers following the death of George Floyd.
“We simply have not gone far enough. The status quo is still broken, it must change,” de Blasio said.
“This will be the work for the next year and a half of this administration: To make more change, to make it urgently, to make it powerfully, to make it clear. And that work will proceed immediately. And you will see those results and you will judge for yourself, as all New Yorkers do,” he said.
The mayor’s pledge comes after he implemented an 8 p.m. curfew on the city beginning Tuesday. Many New Yorkers claimed the curfew has emboldened police to use force against peaceful protesters out after curfew.
De Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo maintain that the curfew is in place to assist police in stopping violence and looting. Cuomo said Friday that the city was “on the edge of chaos” due to rampant looting, but that it has been better over the last few days.
“The curfews are designed to let the police to be in a position where they can stop the looting,” Cuomo said. “And that has been a serious problem.”
Videos of New York police officers hitting protesters with batons, driving police cruisers into crowds and, most recently, pushing an elderly man who then fell to the ground, have drawn millions of views online.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on Monday said the NYPD Internal Affairs was reviewing about six incidents from just four days of protests. More incidents have been recorded in the days since.
On Wednesday, a group of protesters gathered at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn began marching in defiance of the curfew at 8 p.m. Shortly after, the protesters turned around and marched in the opposite direction, as police had asked. Officers then began chasing after the group.
The police formed two lines with riot shields and batons out. Protesters raised their hands in the air and chanted: “First Amendment rights!” Within seconds, the NYPD started to charge.
“They’re pushing us, they’re pushing us,” several young female protesters screamed as police used their batons to physically move the protesters back with force. Police had arrived on the other side, too — and with nowhere to turn, some protesters fell to the ground. Others were detained.
At no point did officers say the protest had become unlawful or use any form of megaphone to ask protesters to disperse.
After identifying himself as a member of the media by sharing his press pass, a CBS News journalist was told by an officer: “I’m going to take… that pass from you in two seconds if you don’t keep walking.”
“I saw cops actually diving at protesters, one person got hurt and there were cops still diving on her,” Diesel, a protester who was at Cadman Plaza, told CBS News. “That is completely unacceptable. That’s why we are out here now. Because cops keep using unnecessary force and it’s not correct.”
“It’s coming down from leadership. And leadership needs to tell their guys to back off when needed,” he said.
On Thursday, The New York Times’ editorial board called on de Blasio and Cuomo to protect the city’s residents in an op-ed titled “The Police Are Out of Control.”
The board wrote that it holds de Blasio “responsible for the city’s failure to protect the safety of its residents.” “As evidence of police abuse has mounted, he has averted his eyes, insisting Thursday that the Police Department uses as ‘light a touch as possible,'” the op-ed said.
The mayor acknowledged Friday that there have been several instances of police behavior that need to be reviewed, and said disciplinary action is imminent.
“Each night we see – certainly several – situations that raise real questions. Individual instances where our officers have taken action that raises a valid concern. In each and every case, there must be a full investigation, and where discipline is warranted, it needs to be speedy,” the mayor said, according to CBS New York.
“The vast, vast majority of officers do their job, do it right. But when someone does something wrong, as in all of our society, there must be consequences,” he said. “Commissioner Shea made it clear yesterday, disciplinary action is about to be announced, some will include suspensions of officers.”
Cuomo announced Friday that the state is set to pass the “Say Their Name” reform agenda next week to address police brutality towards African Americans.
According to the governor’s office, the agenda will reform 50-a of the civil rights law to “allow for transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officers”; ban police chokeholds; and make false race-based 911 reports a crime.
“Mr. Floyd’s murder was the breaking point of a long list of deaths that were unnecessary and abusive, and people are saying enough is enough, we must change and we must stop the abuse,” Governor Cuomo said.
“Stopping police abuse vindicates the overwhelming majority — 99.9% — of police who are there to do the right thing,” he said. “It restores the confidence, the respect, and the trust that you need to make this relationship work.”
Gilad Thaler contributed to this report.