Young Protesters March Through Bed-Stuy Until Met by Police Phalanx

Protests in Brooklyn were peaceful Monday after a weekend of mayhem. (Josh Russell / CNS)

BROOKLYN (CN) — Activists in Brooklyn protesting police violence held a peaceful march through the borough on the first night of New York City’s  curfew after a weekend of demonstrations across the city that were marred by mayhem and an aggressive police response.

Following three days of heated anti-police protests and turbulent unrest sparked earlier in the week by the killing of a black man Minneapolis, George Floyd, by white police officers while in custody, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an overnight curfew on Monday.

The chaos of the preceding weekend resulted in dozens of torched police vehicles, rampant looting of businesses and hundreds of arrests across the city.

As part of the city’s efforts to curb protests against excessive police violence, officials announced they would be doubling the number of officers on the streets from 4,000 to 8,000.

With an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, New York joined other cities around the country in imposing such measures after days of unrest.

The limit on a city of more than 8 million people comes after nearly 100 days of restrictions already imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the curfew took effect Monday night, Mayor de Blasio tweeted that it would move up to 8 p.m. Tuesday because of mayhem earlier in the day.

Hundreds of protesters in Brooklyn continued to defy New York’s coronavirus prohibition on public gatherings on Monday evening.

Mostly young and comprised of a fairly even mix of races, the protesters marched from the Bed-Stuy neighborhood down Fulton Street through Fort Greene, where days earlier a police van was destroyed, and down to the Barclays sports arena, where hundreds of police officers stood in a line behind crowd control fencing protecting the indoor arena.

The officers held back on Monday night, in contrast with their response at the same location several days earlier, when confrontations in broad daylight resulted in pepper spray, baton beatings and arrests.

“No Justice, No Peace! Fuck These Racist Ass Police!” — the protesters rhythmically yelled, blocking lanes of car traffic on Flatbush Avenue up to Grand Army Plaza and onto Eastern Parkway, as the sun set and the 11:00 p.m. curfew approached.

The group chanted the hopeful hook of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” — “We gon’ be alright!” — as it wormed its way into oncoming one-way car traffic on Utica Avenue from the much wider boulevard of Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood.

The Crown Heights section of Brooklyn was the site of tense race riots in the summer of 1991 between the neighborhood’s black residents against Orthodox Jewish Chabad residents.

Several blocks down Utica Avenue on Monday night, the marchers found themselves in front of the NYPD’s 77th Precinct, where they paused to raise their hands in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” gesture and recited the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by police in her Louisville, Kentucky, home in March.

The chanting in front of the officers then took a sardonic turn — many refrains of “N-Y-P-D, Suck My Dick!” were followed by the more direct “Quit Your Job! Quit Your Job!”

Helicopters and surveillance drones lingered ominously in the Brooklyn sky beneath a luminous waxing gibbous moon Monday night as the protesters marched in the meridian of Atlantic Avenue below the elevated Long Island Rail Road tracks.

The family of George Floyd released the results of an independent autopsy Monday afternoon that found his cause of death was homicide by asphyxiation from sustained pressure. 

The autopsy results contradicted preliminary findings by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, which attributed Floyd’s death to a combination of other factors. Those included the manner in which former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin restrained Floyd while kneeling on his neck a week ago, but the medical examiner also cited a variety of preexisting health conditions as possible contributors.

The fact that Floyd was handcuffed, his position, and the weight on his back contributed to his death by impairing his ability to breathe, the family said.

In an attempt to deliver some kind of action resembling the radical overhaul of a broken policing system demanded by the protesters, New York City lawmakers announced on Monday the proposal of a bill that would criminalize the use of a chokehold.

An accompanying measure, which would require the NYPD to create a standardized system to discipline officers, will also be sent to the floor for a vote at the New York Council’s next meeting.

The proposed chokehold bill comes almost exactly a year to the week after New York City prosecutors closed their case against the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner in an illegal chokehold on Staten Island five years earlier in July 2014.

NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, 34, was never charged criminally for Garner’s death on July 17, 2014, but was eventually fired in August 2019 following a long-delayed administrative trial before the NYPD’s internal oversight board, the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Charged with attempted reckless assault and strangulation, Pantaleo grappled with Garner in a struggle to arrest the 43-year-old for selling loose cigarettes outside the Staten Island Ferry, a misdemeanor tax offense.

Garner’s dying words caught on cellphone video — “I Can’t Breathe” — became a battle cry for the then-nascent Black Lives Matter movement.

The oversight trial was conducted at the department’s headquarters at One Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan, where George Floyd activists had planned to demonstrate on Tuesday before moving their event to nearby Foley Square.

On Monday, the same day that police officers in Washington, D.C., deployed tear gas and flash grenades to clear out peaceful protesters so President Trump could visit the nearby St. John’s Church, President Donald Trump vowed from the Rose Garden to deploy the U.S. military to any state where local officials cannot quell the unrest.

An hour after the curfew went into effect Monday night, de Blasio tweeted: “We support peaceful protest in this city. But right now it’s time to go home.”

“Some people are out tonight not to protest but to destroy property and hurt others — and those people are being arrested. Their actions are unacceptable and we won’t allow them in our city,” he added.

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