More on the George Floyd protests around NYC:
Transit advocates call out NYPD for ‘using 6,000-pound SUVs as weapons’
By Mark Hallum
If the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was not abhorrent enough to them, safe streets advocates found even more to dislike about Saturday night’s incident in Brooklyn of a police cruiser plowing through a crowd of protestors.
What Mayor Bill de Blasio inaccurately described as demonstrators surrounding the vehicle being “wrong on its face,” was inexcusable to Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives who each issued statements claiming police misconduct.
The incident caught on camera shows protestors behind barriers and in front of the vehicle on Flatbush Avenue. After objects such as traffic cones were hurled at the SUV, the officer behind the wheel hit the gas, plowing through people.
Although nobody was killed, it only enraged the demonstrators more.
This is sickening: pic.twitter.com/PNrrJQWTF1
— claudia irizarry aponte (@clauirizarry) May 31, 2020
— Pierre G. (@pgarapon) May 31, 2020
“We are deeply disturbed by videos showing NYPD officers driving SUVs into crowds of people during last night’s protest in Brooklyn. We demand a full investigation into these events, and for our mayor to hold those responsible accountable,” Families for Safe Streets co-founder Amy Cohen said. “Such brutal tactics, like using 6,000-pound SUVs as weapons against people, must be immediately rooted out of the NYPD by Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Shea. These actions are unacceptable and run counter to the very concept of street safety and Vision Zero that the NYPD is supposed to uphold.”
Though de Blasio said the actions of the officers may not have been in good judgment, he believes he may have taken whatever action he could out of desperation.
“It’s inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers. That’s wrong on its face and that hasn’t happened in the history of protest in this city,” de Blasio said. “I’ve been watching protests for decades. People don’t do that. And so, it’s clear that a different element has come into play here who are trying to hurt police officers and trying to damage their vehicles. And if a police officer is in that situation, they have to get out of that situation.”
Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris, however, argues that the power dynamic was not in the hand of demonstrators, but in the hands of cops who were using cars as a weapon.
“It is a shocking sight to see police, who are sworn to protect and serve us, using their vehicles as weapons against New Yorkers,” Harris said. “As people who have been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to traffic violence, we understand all too well the damage that multi-ton motorized vehicles can do. I have personally stood by the Mayor as he pledged to confront traffic violence while holding a photo of my 12-year-old son who was killed in a crash. We demand accountability, and we expect him to stand by that promise now.”
Sunday morning, de Blasio announced he would implement a review of all NYPD officers with Jim Johnson from Corporation Counsel and Margaret Garnett, commissioner of the city Department of Investigation.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered Attorney General Letitia James to investigate police conduct throughout the last several nights of rioting to ensure there was no foul play. He placed a 30-day deadline on the investigation.
Three charged in connection with Molotov cocktail attacks on NYPD during Brooklyn protests
By Joe Pantorno
Two Brooklyn residents and a Greene County resident were charged in connection with the use of Molotov cocktails — an improvised incendiary device — in an attempt to destroy NYPD vehicles during city-wide protests early Saturday morning.
Brooklyn residents Colinford Mattis, 32, and Urooj Rahman, 31, were arrested in a van early Saturday morning while allegedly in possession of explosive device components that included a lighter, a bottle filled with toilet paper, and “a liquid suspected to be gasoline,” per the US Department of Justice’s statement.
Their apprehension came just moments after Rahman threw a Molotov cocktail at an unoccupied NYPD vehicle near the 88th Precinct in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
Samantha Shader, 27, of Catskill, NY, also allegedly threw a Molotov cocktail at an NYPD vehicle that contained four police officers.
Shader was caught on video by a witness igniting a Molotov cocktail and throwing it at the police vehicle in the vicinity of Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, shattering two of its windows. After she was apprehended by the officers, she admitted to the act.
“When you conduct a violent attack that breaks federal law, the FBI New York office, along with our NYPD and Department of Justice partners, will move with speed to hold you accountable,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge, William F. Sweeney Jr., said. “Behavior like the attacks charged here puts our entire community — protestors and first responders alike — in danger, and we will simply not allow it to go unaddressed.”
Mattis, Rahman, and Shader’s actions came while New York City — and the United States — is in the throes of unrest following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25.
The event, caught on video, sparked protests across the nation in major cities like Minneapolis, New York, and Los Angeles. Some of those demonstrations descended into clashes with local police.
If convicted, the trio faces a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment.
“Molotov Cocktails are violent tools of individuals looking to inflict harm and
damage our city,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said. “Crimes like these are devastating to their targets and also to the protestors and
their right to free speech that police are working hard to protect… I’m confident that the severest penalties under the law
will be sought.”
All three defendants will make a virtual court appearance on Monday.
A tale of two leaders: Cuomo and de Blasio take different attitudes toward riots
By Mark Hallum
After an unusually volatile night in Brooklyn and Manhattan in which multiple police vehicles were torched by protestors and other shocking incidents, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed two key changes to policing on Sunday while generally giving cops the benefit of the doubt.
That was in stark contrast to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily press conference, which was a departure from delivering the usual COVID-19 figures – just 56 deaths on Saturday – as he put the focus to police violence in New York City the night before.
While acknowledging the “impossible situation” cops find themselves in once riots begin, Cuomo’s most scathing remarks were against brutality incidents that continue to create outrage in black and brown communities. He ordered a full review of the NYPD’s conduct in the riots Saturday night by Attorney General Letitia James with a 30-day deadline.
The demonstration was contentious and Cuomo said disturbing footage of a police SUV driving through a crowd on Flatbush Avenue and an officer pulling down the mask of a protestor in order to blast them with pepper spray were two topics he hoped the investigation would look into without “pulling any punches.”
“But their behavior is everything. I’ve seen those videos and those videos are truly disturbing. Some of those videos frankly are inexplicable to me,” Cuomo said.”I want an independent, informed review of what was done right, what was done wrong. I want that report in 30 days, I don’t want this to be another government ongoing report that comes out whenever everybody has moved on… Don’t pull any punches, tell the truth. Everybody saw the video, everybody wants an explanation.”
Cuomo ordered the attorney general to conduct the investigation under the belief that self-policing does not work, seeming to suggest that a local district attorney cannot be fair in a probe against the police force it has to deal with day-in, day-out.
“This is a moment of reform,” Cuomo said, after looking back over the decades since the Rodney King riots in April 1993.
This came in contrast to de Blasio’s statement just an hour earlier about the NYPD SUV incident, in which he seemed to take a stance against the protesters who were seen hurling objects at the vehicle.
“I want to remind people if those protestors had just gotten out of the way… we would not be talking about this situation,” de Blasio said.
According to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, there could have been more arrests over the course of the night and that NYPD would not tolerate violence or destruction of private property.
In regard to the police vehicle driving through the crowd in Brooklyn, the mayor was on the side of the police, for the most part, pointing to the rioters who threw multiple objects at the SUV. Shea said he was not pleased with footage, either. But he also distinguished the difference between a “protest and a mob.”
Union Square was a chaotic epicenter of destruction with three police vans being torched, about five others vandalized as well as a squad car at 11th and University Place. A most shocking incident on Flatbush Avenue saw an NYPD SUV driving through barriers and plowing into a crowd of protesters.
De Blasio’s morning presser centered around the 350 arrests made on Saturday night alone and that he would work toward two goals that he believes would be an improvement: cull NYPD officers from the force after an extensive review by Corporation Counsel Jim Johnson and city Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett. The second facet would be pressure Albany to repeal and replace 50-A.
The state law has proven contentious as it protects the identities of cops under investigation for various forms of misconduct. NYPD unions such as the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association and Sergeants’ Benevolent Association say repealing this law puts officers’ lives at risk.
According to Cuomo, the state National Guard will be on standby in other cities in anticipation of more demonstrations; Mayor de Blasio was resolute last night as well as this morning the NYPD would need no outside help.