NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police and protesters clashed near the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges after curfew went into effect Wednesday night.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said he saw officers being very aggressive toward peaceful demonstrators and yelling “mayor’s curfew!”
“People were literally nonviolently protesting in the street and they started getting whaled on. When I first came up, when they came off of the bridge, I came up and we were walking toward them and I see the aggression. I came up and I asked, ‘What happened? Just tell me what happened,'” he told CBS2. “‘You know what happened, you know what happened.'”
Social media videos showed officers using batons and confiscating bicycles.
Williams and others, like Tablet Magazine journalist Armin Rosen, are criticizing the NYPD’s tactics.
Rosen said cops randomly hit him with a baton and took his bike near Brooklyn Borough Hall just after 9 p.m.
“Obviously, my civil rights were violated in some fairly heinous way or another and it’s like what are you supposed to do with that?” Rosen told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes on Thursday.
Curfews have been lifted in some major cities, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, and some here want New York to do the same.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted, “Curfews cause more harm than good.”
“Many of us were concerned that a curfew would exacerbate the problem and tension, and we believe it has,” he said.
During his daily briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio did not speak to specific videos of police from Wednesday night, but promised investigations, if necessary.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea says he’s looking at seven videos right now, some that could lead to disciplinary action against officers.
The mayor was asked to clarify whether peaceful protesters are allowed out after curfew or not.
“We’ll be reviewing any new information that came out of last night. I will, I know the commissioner will. If there’s anything that’s a concern, a problem, anything questionable, anything inappropriate, it will be followed up on immediately,” he said. “But I want to emphasize, I don’t think there is anything but clarity. If we say there’s a curfew at 8 p.m. and that folks are being told consistently ‘there’s a curfew here and we’re showing respect for protests but you need to go home,’ and if at a certain point officers say, ‘OK, it’s time, we need to go now,’ people need to listen to that.
“It’s not an unfair action to say, in the context of crisis, in the context of a curfew, there is a point where enough is enough,” he added.
Shea says officer use discretion when making arrests after curfew.
“We have made arrests. We have made them strategically because of either violence, looting, intelligence that we have or other factors, to the use of force,” Shea said.
Authorities say curfews help sort out the few bad elements hiding in the otherwise peaceful crowd who take the opportunity to lash out violently at officers.
“Some who aim to do violence are using the peaceful protesters as shields. That’s what’s happening,” de Blasio said.
Also on Wednesday night, the NYPD’s mounted unit was out, helping to identify businesses vulnerable to looters.
Some officers and police unions have wondered why this unit, which is trained in crowd control, hasn’t been used more.
Former NYPD Chief of Department Joe Esposito told Grymes, “That’s a decision from the electeds. They don’t like the optics of that. A horse is probably worth 10 or 20 officers. The impact of a horse showing up really gets the demonstrators’ and the bad guys’ attention.”
“This strategy emanates from One Police Plaza, a strategy of care and restraint,” de Blasio said.
Others believe it’s not a time to use horses when people are protesting racism and police brutality.