'We're not stopping': Thousands break NYC's curfew to protest George Floyd death

New York City Police Chief of Department Terence Monahan, the highest-ranking uniform-wearing member of the NYPD, took a knee alongside those protesting the death of George Floyd at Washington Square Park on Monday night. Floyd died of suffocation on Memorial Day in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after video showed a white police officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes.

An 8 p.m. curfew didn’t stop thousands of defiant demonstrators from marching through the streets of New York City throughout the night Tuesday, though some of the rampant destruction seen over the past few nights was quelled.

The citywide curfew, which is in place through Sunday and was moved earlier from the previous night, was instated to prevent the widespread damage and destruction that has filled the city’s streets over the last two nights after largely peaceful dayside protests.

Mayor Bill de Blasio doubled down on a citywide curfew, but rejected urging from President Donald Trump and an offer from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to bring in the National Guard.

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“Everyone, time to go home so we can keep people safe,” he said on WINS-AM radio shortly after the curfew took effect.

But demonstrators continued winding through the streets, mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as part of ongoing nationwide protests following the May 25 death of George Floyd and other recent racially charged killings.

“I’m surprised,” said Risha Munoz, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where at points they were greeted with cheers and horns by onlookers in building windows. “I didn’t think they were gonna let us go on, but we just kept on moving and we’re not stopping.”

“Something has to break, and it’s not going to be us,” said Evan Kutcher, one of hundreds of demonstrators who stood outside the Barclays Center chanting Floyd’s name Tuesday evening.

Police began making arrests around 9 p.m. and shut down parts of the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan, blocking it off to huge crowds of protesters. The police department announced it would not allow vehicle traffic south of 96th Street in Manhattan after curfew, though residents, essential workers, buses and truck deliveries were exempt.

“We’re going to have a tough few days. We’re going to beat it back,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said.

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Jane Rossi said she witnessed officers rip a man out of his car and arrest him in Chelsea around 10:45 p.m.

The car was behind a group of several hundred protesters that had roamed Manhattan peacefully since leaving Trump Tower at 8 p.m. Tensions had risen moments earlier when some in the group began trying to damage a bike rental station and banged on the windows of a JCPenny’s. The vast majority of the crowd moved to stop them. Officers surrounded the car and arrested the driver moments later.

“They were just driving behind the protesters making sure that we were safe,” Rossi said. “They were part of the protest.”

NYPD officers forced two Associated Press journalists to stop covering the protests Tuesday night, surrounding them, shoving them and cursing at them while yelling at them to go home. This, despite an order allowing media to remain on city streets.

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Portions of the incident were captured on camera by videojournalist Robert Bumsted, who was working with photographer Maye-E Wong to document the protests in Manhattan. The video shows more than a half dozen officers confronting the journalists as they filmed and photographed police ordering protesters to go home shortly after the curfew took effect.

On Twitter, Trump urged a 7 p.m. curfew and National Guard deployment in his native city.

“The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!” he wrote.

Just after midnight Wednesday, most of the city’s streets were cleared, aside from police patrolling, especially in hot-spot areas for demonstrations in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

There was a heavy police presence in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Crown Heights, where authorities say police fatally shot a man after responding to reports of shots fired. NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said the officer-involved shooting was not connected to the protests.

Contributing were Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak, Jim Mustian, Jennifer Peltz, Tom Hays and Karen Matthews in New York. Michael Hill and Marina Villeneuve reported from Albany.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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