Implemented on June 1 by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the controversial curfew was extended through the week by de Blasio after looting and violence marred the message of activists protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota.
Following an initial start time of 11 p.m., the citywide curfew remained in place from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. for the next five days. It was scheduled to expire Monday morning.
Despite previously refusing to budge, the mayor changed his mind after a mostly peaceful night of protests beyond curfew Saturday, which led to only four arrests and 24 summonses.
“Yesterday and last night we saw the very best of our city,” read the mayor’s tweet, which came just in time for plans to initiate Phase 1 of reopening on June 8. “Tomorrow we take the first big step to restart.”
All week long, outrage at the curfew sparked acts of defiance as protesters, in one case led by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, refused to leave the streets.
At 11:01 p.m. last Monday, Williams and other elected officials stood their ground outside of the Barclays Center in opposition of the curfew and the additional 4,000 police officers enlisted to enforce it.
The next night, the public advocate, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and others took a knee in front of NYPD Time Square Station as a show of solidarity with protesting New Yorkers.
“In the black community, every time we ask for resources or assistance, they send police,” said Williams. “When will we learn that we will not arrest our way out of these problems.”
While he said destruction is not something he wants to see in the city, Williams warned that the doubling of police presence would only cause more tension than it would relieve.
Instead, he proposed for a number of police reforms to be enacted that increase transparency and accountability on the part of the NYPD, as well as decrease the role of officers in non-criminal situations, such as instances in which an individual is in mental distress.
Williams also highlighted the lack of action on a city and state level to shut down New York City early in the pandemic to fight COVID-19. In contrast, he said, leadership was quick to unleash a curfew on residents protesting systemic injustices.
“They failed when it came to the pandemic, and black and brown people are suffering for it,” Williams said. “They are failing again in dealing with the protests that are going on now. Apparently everything, everything, is more important than black lives.”
State Senator John Liu called the move a “misdirection of resources.” He questioned the logic of sending police to shadow peaceful protests, while leaving storefronts open to looters.
“There’s a massive protest against police misconduct and police brutality, and what do you do to solve the problem? You send more police in,” Liu argued. “It’s like they have a fire to put out, and they’re going to douse it with gasoline.”
As predicted, the curfew became a point of conflict between police and protesters throughout the week, leading to hundreds of arrests across the city, including those of some delivery workers, who as “essential workers” should have been exempt.
When asked at his daily press briefing later Sunday morning why peaceful post-curfew marches were not allowed to proceed, de Blasio defended his decision by stating the situation was “extraordinarily complex.”
Later at that same press conference, he touched on one of the biggest demands coming from advocates for police reform, pledging to divert an unspecified sum from the NYPD’s nearly $6 billion yearly budget toward youth initiatives and social services.
“The details will be worked out in the budget process in the weeks ahead,” explained the mayor, “but I want people to understand that we are committed to shifting resources to ensure that the focus is on our young people.”
“And I also will affirm while doing that,” he added, “we will only do it in a way that we are certain continues to ensure that this city will be safe.”