NEW YORK -- As protests continued in New York City on Wednesday, officials were hopeful that an earlier curfew and refined police tactics will bring the city closer to restoring order after days of unrest over the death of George Floyd.
“Last night we took a step forward in moving out of this difficult period we’ve had the last few days and moving to a better time," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was critical of the police response on prior nights, said the city Tuesday “was much, much better than the night before.”
“It worked. We got results," Cuomo said. "Let’s just remember what we did last night and keep that going.”
De Blasio rejected President Donald Trump's urging and Cuomo's offer to send in the National Guard to quell the unrest, saying the NYPD was best suited for the task and fearing out-of-town Guardsmen unfamiliar with city dynamics could spark confrontations.
Trump warned that if the city didn’t maintain order, he would take the matter into his own hands, though he didn’t say what action he might take.
“If they don’t get their act straightened out, I will solve it. I’ll solve it fast,” he said on FOX News Radio’s The Brian Kilmeade Show.
Hundreds of protesters were in Manhattan's Washington Square Park when it was announced Wednesday that three other Minneapolis police officers would be charged in connection to Floyd’s death.
“It’s not enough," protester Jonathan Roldan said, contending all four officers should've been charged from the start. "Right now, we’re still marching because it’s not enough that they got arrested. There needs to be systematic change.”
The curfew, barring people from streets citywide and nonessential vehicles from part of Manhattan from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., was imposed to prevent the nighttime chaos that followed peaceful protests for several days in a row.
Vandalism and pilfering didn't stop completely Tuesday. Some shops had windows smashed and merchandise taken. But it was a contrast from the previous two days, when several Manhattan shopping districts and one in the Bronx were overrun with people — some with crowbars and clubs — who ransacked numerous shops and set fires.
Moving the curfew from 11 p.m., where it had been Monday, as well as blocking vehicles from entering Manhattan, allowed police to take control of city streets and remove troublemakers, Chief of Department Terence Monahan said.
The curfew did not curtail political demonstrations over police mistreatment of black Americans. Marchers chanted slogans as they wound through Manhattan and Brooklyn deep into the night Tuesday. The marches were part of a wave of protests across the country since the May 25 death of Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on Floyd’s neck.
The nightly curfews will remain in effect at least through Sunday, with the city planning to lift it at the same time it enters the first phase of reopening after more than two months of shutdowns because of the coronavirus.
Police said they arrested about 280 people on protest-and-looting related charges Tuesday, compared with 700 the previous night. In all, more than 2,000 people have been arrested, the NYPD said.
The city contends that outsiders were responsible for the majority of attacks on police officers seen over the last few days and that many involved in removing items from store shelves were part of organized groups that used vehicles to scout locations and move stolen property.
Other than scant examples like that of a U-Haul truck parked outside a Gucci store where merchandise were stolen on Tuesday, police haven't provided much corroborating evidence and attempts to do so haven’t always worked.
In a tweet Wednesday, Shea claimed “organized looters” had positioned bricks in plastic tubs around the city to use in their crimes. But New YorkCity Councilman Mark Treyger noted the bricks in the video Shea tweeted were from a construction project far from where any protests or violence had occurred.
Shea said some people are “using the protests as cover and then peeling off and unfortunately running around and doing some looting.”
De Blasio condemned police for roughing up journalists covering the protests, including two from The Associated Press who were shoved, cursed at and told to go home by officers Tuesday night despite press being considered “essential workers” allowed to be on the streets.
“There should be no condition under which any journalist is detained by the police of this city or any city in the United States of America, period,” de Blasio said, calling for an investigation.
Shea said officers were “doing the best we can under difficult circumstances,” adding that some people stopped by police lied about being journalists.
“Sometimes these things take a second, maybe too long, to sort out,” he said. “We’re not perfect, we do the best we can in a situation.”
The police commissioner had planned to appear together with Floyd's brother Wednesday at a Brooklyn church, but Terrence Floyd decided shortly before the event began that he was too overcome to attend, organizers said. Shea said he’d offered his condolences to Floyd on the phone.
Jennifer Peltz and Jim Mustian in New York City and Marina Villeneuve in Albany contributed to this report.