NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday called for a national ban on excessive force by police and announced a curfew for New York City following violent protests triggered by the death in Minneapolis of an unarmed black man in police custody.
In a joint statement, Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city of 8 million people would be under curfew from 11 p.m. Monday night until 5 a.m. the next morning. They said the police would double their numbers to stem violence and property damage.
At an earlier briefing, Cuomo said he worried that demonstrations in the most populous U.S. city in response to George Floyd’s death could cause a spike in coronavirus infections.
He called on citizens to push politicians to make changes to improve society. He also urged independent investigations of police abuse.
Images from overnight showed looters ransacking a pharmacy and breaking into several luxury stores in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood after a day of protests across the city that led to hundreds of arrests.
“It’s not enough to come out and say ‘I’m angry, I’m frustrated,'” Cuomo said. “The protesters are making a point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda.”
Cuomo said some actions by New York City police officers during the protests were disturbing, citing a video widely shared online that showed a police car driving into a crowd and another showing a demonstrator getting pepper sprayed.
At the same time, Cuomo railed against those exploiting the protests to loot and vandalize. He echoed other political leaders in saying that outsiders were often the instigators of violence, which would play into the hands of people eager to block progressive change.
“They will try to make it all about criminality, which I believe was a perversion of the protests,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said the unrest could complicate the city’s plans to start reopening on June 8.
Earlier on Monday, De Blasio said demonstrations had been overwhelmingly peaceful and praised New York Police Department officers, saying he thought they had largely showed restraint.
But the mayor, who has faced criticism for his response to the protests, also condemned some of the NYPD’s actions, including an officer drawing his gun on protesters.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis. Steve Orlofsky and David Gregorio)