NYC official says curfew and more cops are wrong response to protests

Nicole Brown

Instead of responding to protests over police brutality with a curfew and more officers, an elected official in New York City is calling for a plan to address the "pain and anger" protesters are feeling. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who has been walking alongside demonstrators, said the response to protests has created more tension.

"It is interesting that a protest where people are saying, we have an issue with over-policing, we have an issue with so many laws that create tension between police and communities, the response to that is ... additional police once again and another law that can create tension between communities," Williams said Wednesday on CBSN.

"What if we spent half of the energy that we're spending to push down the protests to actually put forth a plan to address the justified anger and pain that we see out there?" he asked.

The protests erupted following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week. A white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for several minutes while he was handcuffed and pleading for air. It was reminiscent of the 2014 death of Eric Garner, whose dying words were "I can't breath" as a white New York City police officer held him in a banned chokehold, which also sparked protests.

While most of the city's demonstrations have been peaceful, several cases of looting prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to issue a curfew Monday. The first night of curfew was at 11 p.m., then changed to 8 p.m. and extended through the morning of June 8. The city has doubled its police presence to 8,000 cops "to help prevent violence and property damage."

Cuomo said Wednesday that the city "was much better" under the second night of the curfew.

But the NYPD has also been criticized for cases of violence toward peaceful protesters. Williams said he saw officers "wailing on" non-violent protesters.

"I saw people who were simply in the street, non-violently protesting — matter of fact, most of them were singing as they went along 9th Avenue — and police started wailing on them, and I was shocked," he said. "I was literally shocked to see people holding signs, backing up, being pounced upon."

Williams said the officers were screaming "mayor's curfew" at the protesters.

The public advocate called on de Blasio, Cuomo and other state and local officials to effect change that could prevent future police brutality.

"Right now, there are bills and policies that we can put forth like banning chokeholds, like banning excessive force," he said.

Williams also said action could be taken in the city budget: "Like showing in a budget that we will not have billions of dollars in the police budget, while cutting youth jobs and youth programs."

De Blasio and the New York City Council must agree on the budget before July 1.

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