‘One human family’: Memorial rally for George Floyd packs Cadman Plaza
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Cadman Plaza was packed Thursday for a memorial rally for George Floyd, whose death last week at the hands of Minneapolis police has prompted ongoing protests against police brutality.
At the rally, which was presided over by Rev. Kevin McCall, a Brooklyn clergyman who grew up with George Floyd’s brother Terrence Floyd, shouts of “No Justice, No Peace,” “Justice on the Left, Peace on the Right” and “Say His Name! George Floyd!” were heard while many well-known officials came up to the podium to speak.
While Mayor Bill de Blasio was present and spoke to the crowd against a steady undercurrent of boos, despite McCall’s earlier call to give him respect. De Blasio’s professions of commitment to change, to making police accountable and to honoring Black lives didn’t seem to satisfy the crowd.
Better received was State Attorney General Letitia James, who praised the large number of young people in the crowd. “Every movement for change, democracy and freedom has been led by young people, students,” she said, adding that the passion of the crowd will lead to justice.
“All of us are part of one human family. We are all God’s children,” she said.
Despite de Blasio’s presence at the rally, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams attacked the mayor and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Skeptical of de Blasio’s statement that he sympathizes with the Floyd family, Williams said, “Where were you when the residents of NYCHA housing had to deal with rats and roaches? Where were you when cops were killing unarmed people?
“Then, when property is attacked, they’re suddenly concerned,” Williams said. “Yes, we must protect property. But where is the same concern for protecting Black lives?”
Terrence Floyd didn’t say much, but he did say he was proud of the protesters. “Power to the people! Not just my people, not just your people, but all the people.” He gave a shout-out to his friends in Brooklyn, Queens and throughout the five boroughs.
Borough President Eric Adams recalled a day long ago when two young boys — himself, as a youngster, and his brother — were arrested, taken to a basement of a police station and beaten by police officers.
“That boy went from breaking the law to enforcing the law to becoming a police lieutenant to Albany [as a state senator], and finally to Borough Hall,” he said, to the crowd’s applause.
The scene was very different than the night before at Cadman Plaza, when officers used batons and pepper spray to disperse crowds of peaceful protesters.
De Blasio and Cuomo both said they had not seen widely shared videos of officers using batons on protesters who remained in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza after the 8 p.m. curfew.
“If they hit somebody, if somebody’s standing there and they just walked up to somebody and hit them with a baton, clearly that’s wrong,” Cuomo said. “But I don’t believe that’s what happened. If they did that, it’s wrong.”
De Blasio said police have used “a lot of restraint” overall and added, “but if there’s anything that needs to be reviewed, it will be.”
The governor and mayor said protesters should abide by the 8 p.m. curfew put in place earlier this week to deter the violence, vandalism and destruction that followed protests Sunday and Monday nights.
“If you are violating the curfew and you refuse to leave so you continue to violate the curfew, the police officers have to enforce the law, which is: You’re supposed to off the street,” Cuomo said.
The citywide curfew, New York’s first in decades, is set to remain in effect through at least Sunday, with the city planning to lift it at the same time it enters the first phase of reopening after more than two months of shutdowns because of the coronavirus.
Wednesday night unfolded without the vandalism and smash-and-grab sprees that forced merchants around the city to board their stores up preemptively, but police said a man ambushed officers on an anti-looting patrol in Brooklyn shortly before midnight, stabbing him in the neck. The attacker was shot by responding officers and was in critical condition.
Two officers suffered gunshot wounds to their hands in the chaos, but all three wounded officers were expected to recover.
Officer Yayonfrant Jean Pierre, who was stabbed in the neck, and the other wounded officers, Randy Ramnarine and Dexter Chiu, were expected to recover.
De Blasio said he was “not going to theorize on” possible motives for the attack.
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