ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested that recent mass demonstrations over George Floyd‘s death may result in an uptick in coronavirus cases.

“Just don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We’re talking about reopening in one week in New York City,” the governor said. “And now we’re seeing these mass gatherings over the past several nights that could in fact exacerbate the COVID-19 spread. We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masks, socially distanced. And then you turn on the TV and you see these mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people after everything that we have done. We have to take a minute and ask ourselves what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?”

The governor said that he shares the outrage and stands with the protesters demonstrating over George Floyd’s death. He says protests, outrage and frustration are all appropriate but demonstrations need to be smart.

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Cuomo said the situation that people are protesting runs much deeper than just Floyd’s death and has to do with problems with policing and inherent injustices in society, including discrimination.

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Cuomo suggested several steps political leaders could get behind to improve the situation and lead to meaningful change:

  • A national ban on excessive force and chokeholds
  • Independent investigations into police abuse
  • Disclose disciplinary records of officers of police officers under investigation
  • Education equity across districts
  • An anti-poverty agenda
  • A national affordable housing plan

“We have to be smart in this moment. The violence in these protests obscures the righteousness of the message. The people who are exploiting the situation, the looting, that’s not protesting. That’s not righteous indignation. That’s criminality, and it plays into the hands of the people and the forces that don’t want to make the changes in the first place, because then they get to dismiss the entire effort,” Cuomo said.

The governor said some extreme elements have infiltrated the protests.

“There’s no doubt that there are outside groups that come in to disrupt. There’s no doubt that there are people who just use this moment to steal,” Cuomo said. “Is it coincidence that they broke into a Rolex watch company? That was a coincidence? High end stores? Chanel? That was a coincidence, that was random? That was not random. So can you have a legitimate protest movement hijacked? Yes you can, yes you can. And there are people and forces who will exploit that moment, and I believe that is happening.”

Cuomo said the looting and criminality is “very destructive on many levels.”

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