New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to maintain Thursday that Black Lives Matter protestors would be allowed to gather even while other gatherings are forbidden during the coronavirus pandemic.
On several occasions during the past week, law enforcement have removed children and mothers from playgrounds in Williamsburg, though hundreds of demonstrators have marched nearby, calling for police reforms following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
Asked about this discrepancy by a Hamodia reporter at his daily press briefing Thursday, de Blasio replied that he sympathizes with the families who have been shut in and wish to spend a day in the park, but that shutting playgrounds is necessary to protect against a “resurgence of the disease.” At the same time, he said, he is allowing the protests, because, “I do think the moment that this city, this nation has gone through in the last two weeks or so is something very particular, very painful, very intense, very challenging, but also a moment where literally decades and centuries of the demand for change came forward, and real change is happening as a result.”
Shortly after de Blasio’s press conference Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at his own daily press briefing that the state will begin Thursday to allow localities to open playgrounds and public pools “in their judgment, while following state guidance.” City Hall did not immediately respond to Hamodia’s query as to when de Blasio will allow the playgrounds and pools to open.
The mayor has repeatedly maintained that the Black Lives Matter protests will be permitted during the coronavirus shutdown even while other gatherings continue to be banned.
Last week, he was asked by the Hamodia reporter to explain why large protests had been allowed while prayer at houses of worship has been limited to groups of 10, and non-essential retail stores may still not open for regular business. (As Phase 1 of the reopening began this week Monday in New York City, non-essential retail stores have begun to open only for curbside and in-store pickup or drop off.) De Blasio answered that due to “400 years of American racism,” it was “common sense” to treat the Black Lives Matter protestors differently than other gatherings.
Below is the full text of the exchange with the Hamodia reporter Thursday:
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
You’ve been discussing equality a lot, and I’d like to ask you about another apparent inequality in the city.
During the past week, on multiple occasions, NYPD officers have expelled mothers and children from playgrounds in Brooklyn, while just a few blocks away on the same day, there were protests with hundreds of people.
How does it promote equality, Mr. Mayor, when protestors, who have already had nearly two weeks to be out in the street, are continually allowed to gather, while families – many are large families living in very small apartments, who have been shut in for months, and want to enjoy a hot summer day, are being expelled?
Answer: Look, Reuvain, I appreciate the question. And this has been such a complex reality.
I think, again, several have asked this question, I do think the moment that this city, this nation has gone through in the last two weeks or so is something very particular, very painful, very intense, very challenging, but also a moment where literally decades and centuries of the demand for change came forward, and real change is happening as a result. And I don’t for a moment, Reuvain, I don’t lack compassion for those parents – I know it must be extraordinarily tough. I know parents are so frustrated. Look, for Chirlane and I with two kids, we often felt really challenged, even when we weren’t cooped up in a pandemic. So a family with four kids, six kids, seven kids, eight kids, nine kids, ten kids, I can only imagine how tough that is for the parents, and I want nothing more than to get them back to those playgrounds. It was one of the areas where I really tried my best to keep the playgrounds open. And if it hadn’t been for the growth of the pandemic we would have. But we had to at the time – this is something we worked on with the state – we had to get to the point of saying, look, out of an abundance of caution, the playgrounds just created too much of a risk to families, of the spread of the disease.
The day is coming – it’s not here yet – but the day is coming when we’ll be able to open up them again. We don’t have a timeline yet, it will be absolutely connected to how we do at fighting back the disease. I’ll have more to say on that when the right time comes. But I hope I have given you some sense of why I think the demonstrations were something absolutely unexpected, absolutely particular. But the ongoing effort to try and relieve the pressure of these families while still protecting against the resurgence of the disease – and this is the punchline, this is what matters, Reuvain: The last thing you want, or anyone wants, is a resurgence of this disease that then will lead to the restrictions being once again put back in place. We’re finally in Phase 1, a lot of those small-business owners that your publication and others have raised the concerns of, are finally starting to get back to work. They are a few weeks away from getting back to normal work, for example in retail stores. We have to hold the line as painful as it is, to not allow the spread of this disease so we can get back to that.
Updated Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 4:31 pm .