'Are you serious? I'm working!': Cops arrest essential workers alongside protestors as calls grow to end NYC curfew

Chris Riotta
AFP/Getty

Calls have grown in recent days for New York City officials to end a curfew amid protests against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, as reports show police arresting essential workers alongside demonstrators.

The 8pm curfew has caused confusion and further disruption in the city, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio designating on-demand food delivery workers essential — as some workers and industries have been labelled throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

In one incident captured on camera Thursday night, New York City police officers appeared to detain a food delivery worker shortly after 8pm.

The worker was filmed pleading with the cops as he was handcuffed near Central Park West and 109th Street, saying: “Are you serious? I’m working! I’m working!”

Several officers pulled the delivery man away as protestors shouted: “Let him go!

A Facebook user by the name of Mo Gelber posted the footage online, noting how the mayor previously designated delivery workers essential and excluded from the curfew.

When another user commented on the post asking why he was not detained by the officers as well, Mr Gelber responded: “I honestly never thought I would have to utter this phrase in my life. But I have white privilege.”

DoorDash, the parent company for the food delivery app whose worker was seen being detained, said in a statement to The Verge it was “alarmed” by reports of the arrest and “prepared to provide [the delivery worker] with our support.”

The mayor also tweeted about the arrest, writing: “This is NOT acceptable and must stop.”

He added: “Same goes for journalists covering protests and out doing their jobs. They are essential workers, too. We WILL protect their rights. The public depends on the information they provide. Will get NYPD to fix this immediately.”

Other reports have revealed officers arrested journalists covering the ten days of protests across the city, and even beat and kicked a hospital worker who was leaving his job in Brooklyn.

Rayne Valentine, 32, told the Daily Beast he had been working at Kings County Hospital Centre since March, when the medical facilities required additional workers to cope with flood of new Covid-19 patients.

After leaving work at about 11:45pm, Mr Valentine had his headphones on and was walking back to his residence when he noticed a “swarm” of officers sprinting after a “kid in this yellow and black hoodie”, he told the news outlet.

“I stayed out of the way,” Mr Valentine continued. “I was up against one of the closed shops just recording. I didn’t say anything to antagonize them. I was walking backwards as they shouted ‘back up.’ And then this cop pushed me, and there were other cops hitting me on my legs and stuff too, but my head is the only thing that got seriously injured.”

He added: “I don’t know if it’s because they noticed my hospital ID or if it’s because they saw the blood, but they stopped, threw my phone at me, and I walked back to the hospital … I was there for about seven hours after I got seven staples in my head and two CT scans.”

Protests were meanwhile expected to continue through the weekend, as demonstrators held peaceful vigils and nightly marches honouring Mr Floyd, the 46-year-old unarmed black man who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes, according to charging documents.

That officer has since been charged with second-degree murder, while three additional officers seen in now-viral cellphone footage of the killing were also charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.