ALBANY — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and city police officers must do a better job, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, after they rejected state National Guard assistance to control vandalism and citywide looting overnight following civil unrest after last week’s death of an unarmed black man at the hands of Minneapolis police.
About 700 people were arrested and charged after attacking police officers, looting and other criminal activities overnight Monday into Tuesday that destroyed dozens of Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan businesses. The incidents mostly occurred from 23rd Street to the 50s, along with parts of the Bronx with reports of looting in the Union Square area, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.
The looters are mainly members of political extremist groups, Cuomo said Tuesday during a briefing at the state Capitol.
“[They] are using this moment for their own purposes ad exploiting this movement and moment,” the governor said, adding the majority of peaceful protests are “two very different things.”
“That’s what this nation is all about — the right to protest,” he said. “This is a totally different situation that has nothing to do with the protesters.”
Peaceful protests, rallies, demonstrations and overnight violent incidents have raged across U.S. cities since late last week after 46-year-old George Floyd died facedown on the street on Memorial Day when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Cuomo slammed de Blasio and the New York Police Department’s response to control the overnight looting Monday into Tuesday after the governor offered all mayors statewide — about 700 officials — additional state police troopers or troops of the state’s 13,000 members of the National Guard, which have been on standby since the weekend. De Blasio did not take the offer.
“The police in New York City were not effective at doing their job last night — period,” Cuomo said. “They have to do a better job.
“...It was inexcusable... I believe the mayor underestimated the problem.”
The city was placed under curfew starting 11 p.m. Monday through 5 a.m. Tuesday. The governor said the curfew was not enough.
De Blasio insisted Tuesday all outside armed forces do more harm than good, and said the NYPD is fully capable of taming the mayhem.
The governor agreed bringing in National Guard troops to help control New York City rioting is unnecessary, citing the New York Police Department is one of the nation’s largest police forces with roughly 38,000 members.
“The NYPD can do this,” Cuomo said. “They have to be given the support to do it. They have to be directed to do it. But I believe they can do it.”
Cuomo said he would have to “displace” the mayor to forcefully dispatch National Guard assistance to New York City.
“Legally ... can you displace a mayor? Yes, a mayor can be removed,” the governor said. “I don’t think we’re at that point.
“It is a bizarre thing to try to do in this situation. It would make a bad situation worse.”
The governor has made statements supporting peaceful protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement over the last several days, but condemns violent acts, saying it distorts the message that will incite change.
“I am disappointed and outraged at what happened in New York City last night,” Cuomo said. “They destroyed businesses essential to the community and the very people we’re trying to help.”
De Blasio extended a New York City curfew for the rest of the week through Sunday in effect each night from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. Monday’s 11 p.m. curfew, was originally for one night only. The curfew is to address the looting and civil unrest — not protesters, Cuomo said.
“It’s not to harass law-abiding citizens,” the governor added.
State police dispatched additional officers over the weekend as protesters crowded downtown Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester. The upstate cities have maintained increased police presence over the last several nights. Nine people were arrested in connection with confrontations with Albany City Police officers early Tuesday morning, but otherwise, Capital District protests remained peaceful following violent incidents Saturday night.
“We’re going to have a tough few days. ... We will find a way through,” de Blasio said Tuesday, adding that the NYPD would get extra resources as needed.
Earlier Friday, prosecutors charged ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Chauvin and the other three police officers involved in Floyd’s detainment were all fired Tuesday, one day after Floyd’s death.
Video recorded during the incident showed Floyd, handcuffed behind his back, facedown on the street with Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. During that time, Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and became unresponsive as Chauvin continued to hold his knee on Floyd’s neck. Police said they were trying to arrest Floyd as part of a forgery investigation.
Cuomo repeated his call for Congress to pass legislation to implement national law enforcement standards banning chokeholds and excessive police force. The governor also proposed prohibiting local prosecutors to prosecute allegations of police abuse and supports repealing or reforming state law 50a, which prohibits the release of police disciplinary records.
The state Senate and Assembly majority conferences met and discussed the ongoing issues Monday, according to a release from the New York State Legislature. Legislators have several bills related to the issues, and are developing a legislative package based on the ideas.
Lawmakers intend to discuss, negotiate and vote on the bills next week.
President Donald Trump announced a plan late Monday to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to send federal troops into cities to suppress riots. After the president’s speech, riot police near the White House cleared protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets to make a path for Trump to St. John’s – the “church of presidents” – where he held a Bible aloft in a show of piety and power.
Cuomo called the president’s behavior “political theater” Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, said the president’s actions and message threaten U.S. democracy, as Americans have the right to assemble peacefully.
“These actions are fundamental to our democracy,” Delgado said in a statement Tuesday. “When the president of the United States — who is charged with faithfully executing our laws — deploys the military domestically, and uses tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters, he is not just attacking these individuals; he is also attacking our very democracy and our commitment as a nation to ensure that no one person should ever rise above the law and rule with tyrannical authority. I condemn this breach of duty to our country with every fiber in my American bones.”
Western New York entered phase II of reopening Tuesday. The Capital District is expected to follow Wednesday after global experts review the latest COVID-19 metrics. Professional services including barber shops and hair salons, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, real estate and rental leasing industries and other office-based work can reopen under the second phase.
Summer day camps across New York can reopen June 29, officials announced Tuesday. The state has not made a decision about sleep-away camps, but will make an announcement later this month.
New York’s COVID-19 fatalities reached 24,023 Tuesday — up from 23,959 Monday. Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s online COVID-19 tracker, which includes probable virus deaths in its tally, listed the state’s virus death toll as 29,917.
The state saw 58 virus-related deaths Monday, including 47 in hospitals and 11 in nursing homes. New York’s COVID-19 death rate is on a flattening decline after having 54 fatalities Sunday, 55 Saturday and 67 Friday.
Cuomo said 154 New Yorkers with COVID-19 entered hospitals statewide Monday — an all-time low since the pandemic ravaged New York in March.
“Congratulations to the people of the state of New York,” he said. “Look at the progress we made.”
To see where each region stands on reopening and the complete county breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html.
The Tribune News Service contributed to this report.
Kate Lisa covers New York government and the state Capitol for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KaitlynnLisa