NEW YORK (AP) — New York City imposed a late-night curfew Monday as officials tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent another night of destruction amid protests over George Floyd’s death.
With an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, New York joined other cities around the country in imposing such measures after days of unrest. The limit on a city of more than 8 million people comes after months of restrictions already imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As the deadline to get off the streets approached, bands of protesters marched through Manhattan and Brooklyn, and police simultaneously responded to numerous reports of roving groups of people smashing their way into shops and emptying them of merchandise.
People rushed into a Nike store in Manhattan and carried out armloads of clothing. Near Rockefeller Center, storefront windows were smashed and multiple people arrested. 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 looted Manhattan smoke shop, who identified himself only by the name Harri. “Really bad.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. 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, 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. Cuomo blamed “people who are looking to distract and discredit” the protests and said they couldn’t be allowed to undermine public safety.
The two leaders, both Democrats, said many more police officers would be deployed Monday night.
Big crowds rallied in Times Square and Brooklyn on Monday afternoon and marched through the streets for hours. As in previous days, the demonstrations held in daylight hours were peaceful with officers mostly keeping their distance from marchers. A nighttime march through Brooklyn was also peaceful, with limited action with police.
But midtown Manhattan descended into chaos as night fell.
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.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea expressed doubts earlier Monday about whether a curfew would be heeded. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a retired police captain whose borough has been a focal point for demonstrations and some damage, also had doubts.
“There are real deep, legitimate wounds, and if we’re not going to put the same level of energy into correcting those wounds as we’re going to put into telling people not to come out at 11, then we’re going to fail, and this is going to prolong the problem,” said Adams, a Democrat.
The New York City Liberties Union said it was “deeply problematic that our leaders are imposing a curfew and essentially silencing New Yorkers from expressing their outrage at the racism that permeates the nation.”
After largely peaceful protests Sunday, groups of people poured down the sidewalks in Manhattan’s chic Soho neighborhood and other areas overnight, breaking into Rolex, Kate Spade and Prada boutiques and electronics stores. Hundreds of people were arrested.
“People are doing this so next time, before they think about trying to kill another black person, they’re going to be like, ’Damn, we don’t want them out here doing this … again,’” New York City resident Sean Jones said as he watched the destruction.
A 21-year-old man was shot in chic SoHo around 12:30 a.m. and was taken to a hospital with injuries that weren’t life-threatening, police said.
On Monday morning, police were visible on some of SoHo’s hardest-hit streets as stores boarded up.
“It’s disturbing because I’m 100% behind the protesters and against police brutality and bad cops killing people of color whenever they fricking want to, but this is a different story,” said Ruby Packard, a teacher and longtime SoHo resident.
“There are people using this as a reason to create chaos and be violent,” she added.
Sunday was the third 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 police officers’ instructions.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets around the nation to express outrage over Floyd’s May 25 death and other killings of black people, particularly by police. Floyd, who was black, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck.
On Sunday, some New York City police officers knelt with protesters. But officers have also clashed with demonstrators.
Shea said the department is investigating officers’ behavior in about six confrontations, including one in which two police vehicles plowed through a group of protesters Saturday in Brooklyn.
During Sunday night’s demonstration, video posted to social media showed a police officer pulling a gun and pointing it at demonstrators on a debris-littered Manhattan street moments after a protester used an object to deliver a crushing blow to another officer’s head a few yards away.
“That officer should have his gun and badge taken away today,” de Blasio said. “There will be an investigation immediately to determine the larger consequences.”
Cuomo said some officers had exacerbated tensions with some “very disturbing” actions. Police union president Patrick Lynch said Cuomo was “wrongly blaming the chaos on the cops.”