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Widespread Looting Hits Manhattan Before Curfew Begins

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Credit...Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

New York City hit an 11 p.m. curfew on Monday after widespread looting erupted in the central business district of Manhattan, long a symbol of the city’s prominence, with shattered glass and smashed storefronts on several blocks.

Looters tried to ransack some of the city’s best-known retailers, including the Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square and luxury stores along Fifth Avenue.

Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged that the Monday night curfew, which had only been announced several hours before it was to begin, had failed to quell the criminal violence that marred the otherwise peaceful protests of previous nights.

As a result, he said, a curfew would be imposed again on Tuesday, this time starting three hours earlier, at 8 p.m.

“We’re seeing too much of this activity tonight,” the mayor said in an interview on NY1.

There were few reports of clashes between the authorities and those who had assembled to rally against police brutality and racism. The crowds had mostly dispersed by 11 p.m., although some protesters continued to walk the streets in Manhattan and near the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in violation of the curfew.

Yet even after the curfew began, the violence it was meant to stop continued in sections of the Bronx, where there were reports of fires and looting, SoHo and, to a lesser degree than earlier, in Midtown, which in normal times is clogged with tourists, shoppers and workers.

The area, already hit hard by a pandemic that closed offices and brought retail to a halt, felt under siege as looters broke store windows, including at Bergdorf Goodman, the luxury retailer that has long been a Fifth Avenue anchor. They ransacked a Microsoft store and vandalized a Barnes & Noble as helicopters whirred overhead.

The Herald Square Macy’s had been boarded up, but one entrance appeared to have been breached. Police officers roamed the store’s interior, which could be glimpsed from the outside through a narrow opening. Shortly after 11 p.m., officers seemed to be making a final arrest outside the store, as they led a young man in handcuffs to a police car.

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As New York entered a fifth night of protests, vandalism and looting broke out throughout the city.CreditCredit...Todd Heisler/The New York Times

In enacting the curfew, officials had sought to head off the kind of looting that occurred after nightfall on Sunday in SoHo, another of the city’s well-known shopping districts.

At around 8 p.m. on Monday, though, a group of people who had broken away from a large crowd of protesters at Union Square ransacked a Nike store on 20th Street. After smashing a window on the ground floor, young men stormed inside, sweeping sneakers off the shelves and grabbing clothes off the racks.

“They’re not with us!” shouted Steevo Anthony, 33, a supervisor at Whole Foods from Brooklyn, as he moved away from the looting. “Keep walking!”

Trembling with emotion, he added: “It’s giving a bad name to us people who are out here trying to do the right thing, the people who walked away.”

The looters continued uptown, finding another target between 36th and 37th Street: the New York Yankees Clubhouse Shop.

One young man laughed as he ran down Fifth Avenue with an armful of jerseys. He dropped a Gary Sanchez shirt, doubled back, picked it up and kept running. For about a dozen blocks north of the store, a trail of stray Yankees hats and T-shirts lay on the ground.

Thousands of protesters took over Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, and although they halted traffic, there were no confrontations with the police.

People marching along Bergen Street in Brooklyn were cheered along by car horns and residents waving from their front doors as officers lined the sidewalks.

And outside the 90th Precinct, on Union Avenue in Brooklyn, nearly three hours of demonstrations that included some tense moments ended with a police commander offering to have his squad put down their helmets and gun belts and hug protesters.

In Queens, a vigil at Astoria Park drew hundreds of people. The crowd reflected the area’s diversity: nurses in scrubs, Broadway performers and aspiring artists stood by families with small children, and people speaking Greek, Arabic, Italian and Spanish.

Spencer Camilien, 34, a musician and recording artist who lives in the neighborhood and is black, said he had begun the week in despair.

“I wake up every day scared, anxious, crying,” he said. “It was very difficult for me to get out of bed. I kind of lost all hope.”

He added: “Every morning I wake up, I’m scared to get outside, I don’t know what to wear, I don’t want to look threatening to anyone, should I not wear my mask all the way up so they can’t see my face?”

“You shouldn’t have to do that,” a voice shouted from the crowd.

“When I get anxious I pray, and I prayed for you guys,” Mr. Camilien said, explaining that he never expected to see so many Latino and white people at the protest. “You are the answer to my prayers. You give me hope. You don’t have to be here.”

“We definitely have to be here!” several people shouted in response. “We do!”

Credit...Todd Heisler/The New York Times

As the protests began to take shape earlier in the day, participants and observers alike said they had never witnessed expressions of grief and anger of such magnitude.

“People are not going to go home until they get what they want,” Mike Tucker, a 54-year old Bronx resident whose 21-year-old son, Stephonne Crawford, was fatally shot by the police in 2005 in Brooklyn.

But Mr. Tucker, who spoke as he watched protesters gather on the steps of Restoration Plaza in Bedford-Stuyvesant, also denounced the violence and looting that had punctuated the protests in New York.

“We don’t want it to escalate,” he said. “We don’t want people coming out here tearing up, burning up.”

New York, like cities across the United States, has been roiled by widespread protests against police brutality and systemic racism after the killing in police custody of George Floyd, a black man, in Minneapolis.

Although the protests on Monday were again mostly orderly, they were flecked with moments of tension and confrontation.

At one standoff near Washington Square Park in Manhattan, Terence A. Monahan, the Police Department’s chief of department and the city’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, grabbed a microphone to defuse the conflict. Hundreds of officers cordoned off a large group of protesters in front of Radio City Music Hall. And at least 1,000 demonstrators walked onto the F.D.R. Drive in Lower Manhattan, blocking traffic on both sides of the highway near. the Brooklyn Bridge.

Credit...Todd Heisler/The New York Times

The imposition of a citywide curfew, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Monday afternoon, was a significantly more forceful approach to civil unrest than the city had taken in its recent history.

By enacting the clampdown, New York joined Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington and a number of other cities across the country that had taken similar steps.

Although officials had imposed curfews on the city’s parks in the past to address crime, such limits extending across New York’s five boroughs had not been adopted at any point in the past several decades, including as part of recent efforts to keep people at home to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

In 1943, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia imposed an emergency curfew after rioting in Harlem that was touched off when a white police officer shot a black soldier. Five people were killed during the ensuing protests. The city was also subject to a nationwide curfew on “places of public amusement” such as bars in 1945, as a fuel conservation measure.

As 11 p.m. approached, thousands of New Yorkers were left with a decision to make: Stay or go home?

In some places, the protests continued even after the curfew went into effect; in others, New Yorkers gradually began to disperse as the deadline neared.

Just after the curfew took effect, more than 200 people remained on Atlantic Avenue near the Barclays Center chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” and marching west. By around midnight, they had crossed the Manhattan Bridge, passing dozens of officers on the way.

With the curfew 10 minutes away in Williamsburg, all but a handful of the protesters gathered outside the 90th Precinct had scattered. Some of those who remained said they had no intention of going home.

“I do not think anybody is going to be observing this curfew,” said George Daratany, 34. “It doesn’t compute for New York City to have a closing time.”

In other areas of Brooklyn, a few warnings from the police did the trick.

At Kings Plaza, officers gave the small number of remaining protesters several reminders about the curfew as the clock ticked toward 11 p.m.; all of them ultimately left the area with several minutes to spare.

Those exempt from the curfew included health care workers, people who work in groceries, pharmacies and other essential retail stores and journalists. The city’s Department of Homeless Services confirmed that outreach workers and people living unsheltered on the streets would also be exempt.

A number of elected officials criticized the curfew on Monday, saying it was announced too abruptly and without their having been consulted.

“It’s amazing when as an elected you find out that your neighborhood is going on lockdown because of Twitter,” Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz of Queens said in a tweet.

As a long night gave way to a new morning, protesters had cleared out of Midtown, leaving small groups of looters wandering the streets, picking over what was left the gift stores, bodegas and other small businesses that had been turned upside down in a span of hours.

The police arrested several people near Eighth Avenue and 40th Street, but many others left the scene or continued walking north. Some looters stopped to take items from a bodega along the way.

When the group reached Columbus Circle, police vehicles flooded the area, officers made several more arrests and what was left of the group fled.

In the looters’ wake, a gift shop on Eighth Avenue that had been broken into earlier was in ruins. Shelves that had been filled with electronic trinkets were empty, and New York-themed hats and T-shirts were strewn on the floor.

Outside, the crowned head of a Statue of Liberty replica rested in a pile of glass. A police officer asked passers-by if they knew how to reach the store’s owners. No one did.

The scene involving Chief Monahan ended with him taking a knee and locking arms with protesters.

A photo of the chief making the show of solidarity with those rallying against police brutality was reported and published by Gothamist. A separate video posted on Twitter by a CBS reporter captured his remarks before he made the symbolic gesture.

“This has got to end. We all know Minnesota was wrong,” Chief Monahan says in the video, addressing protesters about Mr. Floyd’s death. “There is not a police officer over here that thinks Minnesota was justified. We stand with you on that.”

“But, this is our city — our city!” he continued. “Do not let people who are not from this city have you come here and screw up your city! We cannot be fighting. We have to live here. This is our home.”

After delivering his message into an amplified microphone, Chief Monahan took the hands of two protesters, one on either side, and together they each dropped to one knee.

Credit...Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Monday for a vigil at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, the scene of anti-police rioting in 1969 that is widely regarded as a major turning point in the modern gay rights movement.

The event, which was organized to honor the memory of Black and Hispanic victims of police brutality, came on the first day of L.G.B.T.Q. Pride month, which would normally be commemorated with parades and other events.

“We stand here today on hallowed ground,” Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat and New York’s only openly gay state senator, said at the vigil. “Our N.Y.P.D. works for us, should protect us and should protect protesters.”

As protests against police brutality and systemic racism have erupted across the country in recent days, some L.G.B.T.Q. activists have drawn parallels to the 1969 demonstrations at the Stonewall Inn.

After a violent police raid at the bar, patrons who were angry about longstanding harassment by the law enforcement authorities fought back, throwing bottles and stones at officers. The initial clash lasted about an hour, but protesters filled the Greenwich Village streets for days after.

The Police Department apologized for its actions last year, 50 years later. At the time, activists cautioned that the police needed to back up their words with actions. They also warned that transgender people, especially women of color, were vulnerable to police misconduct.

The vigil on Monday paid special attention to black transgender victims of violence, including Nina Pop, a woman who was killed in Missouri last month, and Tony McDade, a man who was killed in Florida, also last month.

In recent years, black transgender people have experienced deadly violence in the United States at rates that activists in some cities have said qualified as an epidemic.

As helicopters monitoring protests across the city flew overhead, those gathered at the Stonewall Inn read the names of police brutality victims. “Say their names!” the crowd chanted after each one was read.

The driver of an S.U.V. barreled through a line of law enforcement officers at a protest on late Monday in Buffalo, injuring two of them in a confrontation that was caught on video, the authorities said.

The injured included a Buffalo police officer and a New York State trooper, according to Captain Jeff Rinaldo, a Buffalo Police Department spokesman. Both were in stable condition.

The driver and the passengers in the S.U.V. were taken into custody, the Erie County executive, Mark Poloncarz, wrote on Twitter.

The episode took place around 9:45 p.m., as the officers, wearing riot gear, were responding to protests related to the death of Mr. Floyd, the authorities said. It was not immediately clear whether the people in the S.U.V. were part of the protest.

On Sunday, the driver of a tanker truck sped through a group of protesters on an interstate in Minneapolis. There were no serious injuries and the driver was arrested.

Among the hundreds of protesters who were arrested over the past four days, only one was highlighted by name by a police union known for its hostility toward Mr. de Blasio.

Chiara de Blasio, the mayor’s daughter.

The union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, used Twitter to post a police report documenting the arrest on Saturday night of Ms. de Blasio, 25.

The Police Department does not normally release internal police reports, and Ms. de Blasio’s contained personal details, including her height, weight, address, date of birth and driver’s license information. Twitter removed the post was removed because it violated the platform’s rules violation, and the union’s account was suspended on Monday.

Edward D. Mullins, the union’s president, said the intent of his post on Twitter was to question the mayor’s strategy toward policing the protests.

“Is that why you’re tying our hands, because your daughter is out there?” Mr. Mullins added. “This needs to be looked at.”

On Monday, Mr. de Blasio on Monday called the disclosure of his daughter’s information “unconscionable.”

Mr. de Blasio said he learned of his daughter’s arrest from the media.

Credit...Jason Goodrich

A police officer who pointed his gun at protesters should be stripped of his badge and weapon, Mr. de Blasio said on Monday.

A 12-second video of the encounter posted on social media shows the officer walking toward a crowd of protesters near The Strand book store on Broadway and East 12th Street. The officer pulls his gun from his left hip and points it at protesters gathered in front of the bookstore.

As the officer walks toward the crowd with his weapon drawn, the protesters scream and scatter.

The officer then turns and points the weapon at another group of protesters before a police supervisor approaches him and escorts him away.

“We have to always know it is not the place for an officer to pull a gun in the middle of a crowd, knowing there are peaceful protesters in that crowd,” the mayor said. “That is unacceptable, that is dangerous.”

The mayor described the scene as “chaotic,” but he also noted that the supervisor appeared to intervene.

“That officer should have his gun and badge taken away today,” Mr. de Blasio said. “There will be an investigation immediately to determine the larger consequence.”

Letitia James, the attorney general, requested on Twitter that the video be sent to her, an indication that she planned to investigate the matter.

An official at the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said on Monday that prosecutors were investigating potential incidents of police brutality that were captured on video in the past few days and circulated widely on the internet.

While the official declined to say which specific incidents the office was looking into, citing the sensitivity of the ongoing inquires, two in particular have received widespread attention recently: a police S.U.V. that surged into a crowd of protesters on Saturday on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and an officer who shoved a demonstrator violently near Barclays Center on Friday.

Credit...Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

Mr. de Blasio on Monday altered his earlier stance related to an episode in Brooklyn on Saturday in which two police vehicles rammed into a crowd of protesters.

In his earlier remarks about the matter, the mayor had implied that the protesters were to blame while calling for an investigation of the episode, which was captured on video.

At a news conference on Monday, Mr. de Blasio said that there was “no situation where a police vehicle should drive into a crowd of protesters or New Yorkers.”

“But,” he added, “I also want to emphasize that situation was created by a group of protesters blocking and surrounding a police vehicle, a tactic that we had seen before in the last few days, a tactic that can be very, very dangerous to everyone involved.”

The comment drew widespread rebuke from elected officials and some of the mayor’s closest former aides and advisers.

Journalists covering protests in cities across the country have reported being assaulted, injured or harassed by police officers.

On Monday a spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office said it was investigating an episode involving a Wall Street Journal reporter who said on Twitter that he had been assaulted by members of the Police Department.

“Our office has prosecuted dozens of uniformed officers for official misconduct and violence since 2010, and this longstanding tradition of independence and accountability will continue in the days and weeks ahead,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said in a statement on Monday.

“We are actively monitoring social media and other sources to identify investigative leads into claims of excessive force and we strongly encourage New Yorkers to share them with us.”

The reporter, Tyler Blint-Welsh, who is black, said on social media that he was covering protests in Lower Manhattan and had his Police Department-issued press badge displayed and his hands up when officers assaulted him on Broadway near East 9th Street.

“Lost my glasses and my ankle is in searing pain after the NYPD hit me in the face multiple times with riot shields and pushed me to the ground,” Mr. Blint-Welsh wrote on Twitter in a post that was shared more than 24,000 times.

“I was backing away as request, with my hands up,” he added. “My NYPD-issued press badge was clearly visible. I’m just sitting here crying. This sucks.”

In a statement, the Police Department said it was “aware of the complaints made by Mr. Blint-Welsh,” and that it was conducting an internal review.

Matt Murray, The Journal’s editor in chief, said in a memo to staff members on Monday that the newspaper’s leaders were infuriated about what had happened to Mr. Blint-Welsh and that they were taking the appropriate steps with the authorities.

“The incident, sadly, is the latest of many across the country in recent days in which we have seen journalists injured, and in some cases targeted, and a reminder of the dangers we face covering the story,” Mr. Murray wrote.

On Monday, Mr. Blint-Welsh wrote on Twitter that he was home safe, icing his ankle and trying to decompress.

Credit...Amr Alfiky for The New York Times

Both the mayor and the governor voiced strong concerns Monday that the demonstrations could set off a second wave of coronavirus infections.

“You turn on the TV, and you see mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people after everything we have done,” Mr. Cuomo said.

He noted that the state had just reached a major milestone in fighting the virus: Less than 1,000 people tested positive on Sunday, the first day with such a low number since March 16. The daily death toll was 54, down from an April peak of nearly 800.

“How many super-spreaders were in that crowd?” Mr. Cuomo asked, referring to the protests. “How many young people went home and kissed their mother hello, or shook hands with their father, or hugged their father or their grandfather or their grandmother or their brother or their sister, and spread a virus?”

The convergence of the pandemic and the national demonstrations over police brutality has forced many political leaders to try to strike a balance between expressing support for the right to protest and safeguarding public health.

“If you say ‘Don’t come out because of the pandemic,’” Mr. de Blasio said, “we don’t want people to hear about this as, ‘We are not hearing your concerns, or your concerns are not valid, or we don’t have to change things.’”

Still, he added, “for those who have made their presence felt, made their voices heard, the safest thing from this point is to stay home.”

Public health officials urged anyone who does protest to wear face coverings, use hand sanitizer and maintain social distance. The leader of New York City’s contact-tracing effort said that everyone who attended a protest should get tested for the virus.

“Protest — just be smart about it,” Mr. Cuomo said. “With this virus you can do many things now as long as you’re smart about it.”

Some infectious disease experts were reassured that the protests were outdoors. The open- air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission, they said. In addition, many demonstrators wore masks and appeared to be avoiding clustering too closely in some places.

Reporting was contributed by Anne Barnard, Emily Jo Corona, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Alan Feuer, Michael Gold, Emma Goldberg, Colin Moynihan, Nicole Hong, Jeffery C. Mays, Andy Newman, Derek M. Norman, Azi Paybarah, Jan Ransom, Dana Rubinstein, Nate Schweber, Matthew Sedacca, Ashley Southall, Liam Stack, Matt Stevens, Nikita Stewart, Alex Traub, Neil Vigdor, Ali Watkins and Michael Wilson.

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