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De Blasio lauds ‘restraint levels,’ promises police reform amid peaceful protests

June 5, 2020 Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The latest night of protests in New York over the death of George Floyd was largely peaceful, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday, while promising further reform of a police department that has faced criticism for harsh tactics used to enforce this week’s 8 p.m. curfew.

“There are things we need to address, there are things we need to fix in the NYPD, but the overall restraint levels were clear,” de Blasio said at his daily briefing.

De Blasio said the city curfew would continue through Sunday, as planned, despite, he said, some signs that it might no longer be necessary. “We are talking about three more nights to go, which is not a long time in the scheme of things,” he said.

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Alluding to instances of police enforcing the curfew aggressively, de Blasio promised unspecified police reform during the remaining year and a half of his administration.

“You will see those results, and you’ll judge for yourself as all New Yorkers do,” he said.

Several videos posted to Twitter on Thursday night showed police aggressively confronting peaceful protesters — often resulting in arrest — in the Bronx and elsewhere.

A protester was arrested on Fifth Avenue by NYPD officers during a march on Thursday. Photo: John Minchillo/AP

In western New York, video from WBFO showed a Buffalo police officer appearing to shove a man who walked up to police clearing Niagara Square around Thursday night’s 8 p.m. curfew. The man falls straight backward and hits his head on the pavement, with blood leaking out as officers walk past.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the unidentified man is 75 years old, and in “stable but serious” condition at a hospital, according to a statement released late Thursday in which the mayor said he was “deeply disturbed” by the video.

A hospital official said the man was “alert and oriented,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Friday morning.

Buffalo police initially said in a statement that a person “was injured when he tripped & fell,” WIVB-TV reported, but Capt. Jeff Rinaldo later told the TV station that an internal affairs investigation was opened. Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood suspended two officers late Thursday, the mayor’s statement said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted that the incident caught on video was “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful,” endorsing the officers’ suspension. The state attorney general’s office tweeted that they were aware of the video.

Police arrested a protester on Fifth Avenue during a march on Thursday. Photo: John Minchillo/AP

New York City protesters again stayed on the streets past 8 p.m. on Thursday in defiance of the curfew, but de Blasio noted at his daily briefing that the demonstrations were mostly peaceful and said that, in contrast to the destruction that took place earlier in the week, “there were few or no attacks on property.”

More protests were planned around the city and around the nation on Friday over the death of Floyd, a Black man who died May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes, until Floyd stopped pleading for air.

The mayor tweeted early Friday that he had spoken to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea after seeing a video of a delivery worker arrested. De Blasio reiterated at his briefing that “any essential worker doing their job is exempted from the curfew.”

De Blasio noted that journalists, like food delivery workers, are exempted from the curfew. “There is no circumstance in which a member of the news media should ever be arrested by the NYPD or any other police organization,” he said.

De Blasio had previously condemned police for roughing up journalists, including two from the AP who were shoved, cursed at and told to go home by officers Tuesday night.

Protesters marched during a solidarity rally for George Floyd in Brooklyn on Thursday.
Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP

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