NYC Protests Resume as Mayor Pleads for Calm

Police officers protect themselves with shields as protesters throw debris during a rally Friday, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Protesters returned to the streets of New York City for a third straight day Saturday, even as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded for calm after a demonstration in Brooklyn the previous night descended into chaos that left people bloodied and vehicles burned.

A large crowd marched through Harlem, chanted outside a police precinct and then blocked traffic on the highway along Manhattan’s East River.

The protest, one of many around the country over the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota, appeared to have gotten off to a peaceful start, a day after several thousand people faced off with a force of officers on the streets around a Brooklyn sports arena.

De Blasio, a Democrat, expressed solidarity with demonstrators upset about police brutality, but promised an independent review of the Friday night disaster in which both protesters and police officers committed acts of violence. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he had asked the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, to lead an inquiry and make a public report.

The mayor said he was upset by videos of the confrontations “where protesters were handled very violently” by police and by reports that a state senator and member of the state Assembly were among the people sprayed with irritating chemicals by officers.

“That’s unacceptable, and we need to understand exactly why that happened,” the mayor said.

But he also said a small number of protesters had come “with an agenda of violence and incitement, and they meant to harm police officers, and they did harm police officers.”

Many people in the crowd threw bottles at police. A mob set fire to a police van and battered several other police cruisers with clubs.

“They were subjected to horrible, vile things last night,” de Blasio said of the police.

One demonstrator, Samantha Shader, 27, of Catskill, New York, was arrested on an attempted murder charge after police said she tossed a homemade firebomb at a vehicle occupied by several officers. The device did not ignite and the officers were unharmed, police said. Police also arrested Darian Shader, 21, on charges of resisting arrest and obstructing police.

They were in custody Saturday and it wasn’t immediately clear whether lawyers had been appointed to represent them.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said more than 200 people were arrested and multiple officers were injured, including one who lost a tooth.

Asked to comment on videos that showed officers shoving peaceful protesters to the ground and hitting people with batons, Shea said those acts would be investigated.

But, he said, “It is very hard to practice de-escalation when there is a brick being thrown at your head.”

“It is by the grace of G-d that we don’t have dead officers today,” he said.

Protests resumed in the city at several locations Saturday afternoon, all in defiance of a statewide ban on gatherings imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Cuomo, speaking in the Bronx, noted that Floyd’s death was just the latest in a long list of similar deaths, and he said he shared in the outrage over “this fundamental injustice.”

“But violence is not the answer. It never is the answer,” he said. “The violence obscures the righteousness of the message and the mission.”

De Blasio suggested that some of the anger in New York was also related to a recent confrontation in Central Park, where a white woman called police to falsely report that she was being threatened by a black bird watcher, who had asked that she leash her dog.